Radio news pioneer Thornton dies

Peter Thornton, the broadcasting journalist who revolutionised commercial radio news, has died aged 57.

Thornton was editorial and managing director of London-based LBC and Independent Radio News, the first rival to BBC rival news, in the 1970s and 1980s.

During this time, he played a pivotal role in shaping commercial news and speech-based programming, helping a fledgling industry find a distinctive voice.

Thornton started his journalistic career as a reporter in Dartford before joining the Daily Telegraph in 1968, where he covered the beginning of the crisis in Northern Ireland and held the position of aviation correspondent.

In 1973 he moved to LBC, the country’s first commercial radio station, where he worked with a string of names that still dominate journalism, including Jon Snow and Julian Manyon who covered the fall of Saigon in 1975 for ITN.

In 1977 Thornton was promoted to the post of editor of IRN which won accolades for its calibre of journalism and its ability to provide the BBC a run for its money.

In September 1983 he became editorial director of both LBC and IRN and he later added on the responsibility of managing director.

IRN journalists were characterised by their speed, accuracy and flair, all factors encouraged by Thornton’s editorial leadership – reporter Dave Loyn won a Sony award in 1985 for the coverage of Indira Ghandi’s assassination, while the same accolade went to Lindsay Taylor’s reporting on the King’s Cross fire disaster in 1988.

He resigned from LBC in 1990 after falling out with the station’s new Australian owners, Crown Communications, who eventually went bust handing control of the station into Dame Shirley Porter’s hands.

Thornton succeeded in winning the London news franchise in 1993 after Dame Porter controversially lost the licence.

But in the event, he couldn’t afford to run the stations and sold the licence to Reuters.

The now twin stations on the AM and FM frequencies were relaunched in October 1994 as London News Radio and London Talkback Radio.

However, ill health forced Thornton’s resignation just one month later and he moved to work on film screenplays in France, where he lived until his death.

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