Until September 1984, the patients in the Winchester Hospitals received programmes from Southampton HBA.
During the early 1980s two events occurred, which were to lead to the setting up of WHR. The first was Carol Line, a Southampton HBA member who lived in Winchester, was approached by the Royal Hampshire County Hospital administration with a view of improving the patient contact between Southampton HBA and the wards.
The other was that Southampton HBA was facing a cash-flow problem, and they realised that the costs for the land lines from Southampton to Winchester were substantial.
As a result, a small group of Southampton HBA members, all of who lived in Winchester, put together a proposal that a new Hospital Radio station should be set up in Winchester. The idea was presented to the Executive Committee at Southampton HBA, who gave the project their blessing. The group of now ex-Southampton HBA members became WHR's first executive committee.
Then it was a "mere matter" of getting a site for the new studios, and raising a lot of money to actually build the studios. The hospital management were able to help us by providing a couple of rooms (located on the 2nd floor of a building at the rear of one of the smaller hospitals in Winchester). Sadly, they were unable to help with the money, so it was up to our new committee to raise the money we needed.
WHR took over broadcasting to the RHCH from Southampton HBA on 24th September 1984. However, it was very quickly apparent that the space we had was very cramped. We only had one studio, which meant that any new presenters had to be trained at times, when we were not actually broadcasting. It also meant that if anything major failed, we would be off-air! As for any studio maintenance / improvements...this often happened at 11pm or later, when broadcasting had finished for the day!
We also suffered from the fact that we were actually about a mile from the main hospital site, making it difficult to "nip up to the wards". After many meetings with the hospital management, we finally received the good news that some new, on site, accommodation had been found for us - it was in an old pre-fabricated building, which had previously been the nurses' changing rooms for the adjacent, and recently demolished, pre-fabricated operating theatres.
Paul Blitz still remembers his first visit to the building, in 1990, it was large, but was filled with hospital junk...old lockers, chairs etc. He was shown one of the rooms...20ft wide, 25ft deep (enormous compared to the size of everything we had in the old studios!) and was asked to design a studio suite (with the luxury of two studios) in there.
After 2 years of fund-raising (it cost approx £30,000) and building, we moved into our new studios in May 1992, and had our official opening on 6th June 1992.
Now that we have 2 studios, (plus a talk studio), presenters are able to train when we are broadcasting. It also means that the engineering team are able to work at more sensible times!
In 1996, we installed our own network of land-lines from our studios to most of the wards in the hospital. This enables us to broadcast live from the wards, involving the patients in our programmes. Utilising equipment built into a flight-case that is easily plugged-in to the socket in the ward with radio mics and radio headphones to avoid trailing cables all around the ward.
In our record library, we have over 15,000 music tracks (and still growing) on CD, all catalogued on a computer database. In addition we have an extensive collection of vinyl which, unfortuntely, is only catalogued on an old-fashioned card index system.
During 1999, to compliment our DAT recording equipment, we installed a computerised editing system using the Sound Forge software package.
Still more progress was made in 2000 when we purchased a 48MHz radio link for our outside broadcasts. But an even bigger decision that year was to broadcast a dedicated 24-hour service to our patients using P Squared's "Myriad" system. This will not mean a reduction in live broadcasts but an increase with more patient participation. We're still in the process of setting this system up. We hope to "go live" with our 24-hours-a-day service in the first half of 2002.
If your reading this it's obvious we have our own website. Thanks to our engineers' IT skills, and their ability to scrounge old PCs, we have a small computer network in the studio complex, with the desktop machines running Microsoft Windows 98 and the servers (e-mail, internal website, etc) running RedHat Linux.
When we moved in to our current studios, our engineers installed an Amstrad SRX100 analogue Sky TV satellite receiver, donated by BSkyB, which we used to receive news bulletins from IRN via Sunrise Radio and the Astra satellite. With the advent of digital TV and the subsequent demise of the analogue service, this equipment was replaced with a Humax F1-Fox digital satellite receiver. In mid 2001, we installed a bigger dish pointed at the Intelsat 707 satellite, from where we receive the full IRN news service, just like the majority of commercial radio stations in the UK. This gives us full access to their news and sports feeds in addition to the hourly bulletins.
In September 2001, the hospital's PatientLine bedside entertainment system was commissioned, and WHR is now available in hi-fi stereo quality to virtually all the beds in the hospital. In addition, patients can now call our studios free of charge to request a song or participate in a quiz or discussion, simply by pressing a single button on the telephone keypad.
Hospedia has now taken over running the bedside units from Patientline, but as WHR is on site at the RHCH, patients are still able to make a free phonecall to our team via the Hospedia system to take part in our programmes.
During 2011, WHR vacated the studios we have occupied for the last 20 years because the land on the part of the hospital site we situated was being sold off. We currently reside in a small temporary studio on level C of the new Burrell Wing of the hospital, where we are even closer to the wards, and still able to provide patients with the personal and unique broadcasting service that hospital radio offers.
WHR will move to new studio accommodation within RHCH in 2014.