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Sunday Referee

The Sunday Referee was an important link in the history of  the 1930s commercial  radio broadcasts to Britain from the European continent.

The Sunday Referee had The Referee mastheadits origins in 1877 when the Weekly Dispatch  produced a companion paper primarily covering sports news -  named The Referee.  The paper became the Sunday Referee in 1912.

In April 1931 the Sunday Referee was put up for sale by its owner, Sir Oswald Stoll, and was acquired by Isidore Ostrer of the Gaumont British Picture CorporaAdvert for sale of Sunday Refereetion. The publisher of the paper was identified as  the Sunday Referee Publishing Company of 17 Tudor Street, London EC4.

The front page masthead  of the Sunday Referee carried the the slogan "The national newspaper for all thinking men and women". The majority of its pages showed the paper's interest in sport, but there was also a range of general news, features and show business gossip typical of the Sunday press.Sunday Referee masthead

When Ostrer first bought the paper, its circulation was around  20,000 copies per week. The new ownership, change of management and injection of capital  should have boosted the circulation figures, but its sales  remained stubbornly low for a viable  national Sunday newspaper.

In a bid to increase iAdvert for Sunday Refereets circulation the Sunday Referee sponsored an hour (4-5pm) every

Sunday on Radio Paris  and this helped increased sales to about 160,000 copies  in just  over a year.

As well as purchasing airtime to publicise itself the paper was  actively supportive of commercial radio and the IBC in particular. This was due mainly to the presence on its staff of Valentine Smith, as its Circulation and Distribution Manager. In 1928, Smith, while working for the Daily Mail, had chartered a yacht Ceto to advertise the paper and its  insurance scheme through speakers as it cruised round the British coast.

The 'presenter' of this output from the Ceto was Stephen Williams, who had also worked for the Daily Mail, and who had also now moved to the Sunday Referee with Smith.  Both men were highly enthusiastic about the possibilities of commercial radio, and the Sunday Referee introduced a weekly page of publicity for Radio Normandy and later the IBC network.

This  publicity and editorial support from the Sunday Referee ensured that a considerable audience became aware of Radio Normandy and the IBC.

The Sunday Referee launched "The International Broadcasting Club" and within three weeks nearly 50,000 applications had been received at the paper's  office and in less than three months the Club had more than a quarter of a million members.

However the Sunday Referee’s support of commercial radio came at a price - instigated by rival publications who feared loss of advertising revenue from the growth of the commercial stations beaming programmes to Britain. In February 1933 the Sunday Referee was expelled from the Newspaper Proprietors' Association (NPA) and was subject to a boycott of its nationwide distribution by the rail network.

Almost 18 months later, in November 1934  the Sunday Referee was able to rejoin the NPA but from that point its involvement with  - and support for - the commercial  radio stations ceased.

The need to publicise the continental commercial stations was met by the creation of Radio Pictorial in January 1934 and this magazine subsequently became the only major source of information for British listeners on the content of the the stations' broadcasts.

The Sunday Referee ceased publication in 1939  when it merged with the Sunday Chronicle.

Challenging  the  State Monopolies


Back Story

Advert for the sale of the Sunday Referee, 16th February 1931

Press advert for the Sunday Referee, 6th May 1935

Daily Mail yacht Ceto

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Early Offshore Days