Aircheck UK - Berkshire

UPDATED: 17/10/2003

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ENGLAND

BBC LOCAL RADIO:

BBC RADIO BERKSHIRE started broadcasting on 26th January 1991 serving Reading and the royal county of Berkshire.  It was firstly an opt-out service for BBC Radio Oxford, but soon got it's independence.  It can be found across four FM frequencies 104.1, 104.4, 95.4 and 94.6, offering the services of some considerably well known names such as ex-Swap Shop presenter Maggie Philbin, ex-Radio 2 presenter Bill Rennells, ex-BBC1 continuity announcer David Allen, and 60s music legend Joe Brown.  We have no information regarding the actual creation or launch of the station, but please e-mail us with information for a site update and a credit for you!  

BBC THAMES VALLEY FM / BBC THAMES VALLEY: Launched as a new service on 9th April 1996 during a series of cutbacks where some single BBC stations were merged - in this case, BBC Radio Oxford and BBC Radio Berkshire were merged.  This particular BBC station had quite a lively music policy in it's time, making it stand out in the reputation world of BBC local radio.  The 'FM' monier was dropped in September 1998.  The merger lasted until 13th February 2000 when the status quo was returned and the two BBC stations were de-merged once more.  BBC Thames Valley presenters include Martin Kelner, Phil Kennedy and Bob Harris.

COMMERCIAL:  LOCAL (ILR)

(RADIO KENNET / THAMES VALLEY BROADCASTING) RADIO 210 / 2-TEN FM: Pre-launch, and we're talking pre-1976 here, the origins of the radio station started as Radio Kennet, taking it's title from a local District Council in Wiltshire.  However, Thames Valley Broadcasting Ltd is. still today, the working, and not on-air title of what firstly became Radio 210, the name referring to the AM frequency on which it broadcast.  Originally both FM & AM hence the name Radio 210 originally - the station dates back to pre-FM times - 210kHz being it's old frequency or 1431kHz in old money.  Here we playfully glance back at the station's launch 8th March 1976, now licenced until 31st December 2004.  Three frequencies spread the station across county boundaries: 103.4, 97.0 & 102.9 across Reading, Basingstoke, (the station serves North Hampshire), Newbury & Andover.  Radio 210 began broadcasting in the UK to the Thames Valley and North Hampshire on the 8th March 1976. It was originally heard on 210 metres MW (1431 kHz) and 97.0 FM. In those days the radio tuning scale on MW was marked in metres so it seemed like a good idea to call the station Radio 210.  'Closer to you'.

January 1st 1987 saw the switch on of a new transmitter for a clearer reception in North Hampshire. Based at Hannington, the station transmits to Newbury and Andover on 102.9 FM.  During the 90's a third FM transmitter was set up to serve Henley on Thames on 103.4.

Radio 210 and Bournemouth's 2CR were part of a group called "Consolidated Radio Holdings". To start, 1431 AM was used solely as a split service during Saturday afternoons for the Sports slot.  1990 saw both stations, the former known then as 210FM become part of the GWR group.  At that time, TM Century jingles were used and the AM service was named Classic Gold, a name which GWR had already used on it's other AM services.

Major changes were made to the FM service with the revolving door spinning outwards for Dave Nelson and Brian Pithers. Jeff Brown took on both shows and in came  a "better music mix" on Saturday and Sunday evenings.  A torrent of abusive phone calls from irate listeners followed - they were not at all happy with the programme changes!   Eddie Shaw was another presenter to go at around this time - but off he went to Lincs-FM!  

A little known fact is that Radio 210 was once the home of David Hamilton, Steve Wright, Mike Read & Bob Harris!   (Why on earth don't many people know that I wonder...Ed)

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(RADIO KENNET / THAMES VALLEY BROADCASTING) RADIO 210 / 210 CLASSIC GOLD RADIO / CLASSIC GOLD 1431 / 1485: Pre-launch, and we're talking pre-1976 here, the origins of the radio station started as Radio Kennet, taking it's title from a local District Council in Wiltshire.  However, Thames Valley Broadcasting Ltd is still today, the working, and not on-air title of what firstly became Radio 210, the name referring to the AM frequency on which it broadcast.  Originally both FM & AM, the station dates back to pre-FM times - 210kHz being it's old frequency or 1431kHz in old money.  Here we playfully glance back at the station's launch 8th March 1976.  

Radio 210 began broadcasting in the UK to the Thames Valley and North Hampshire on the 8th March 1976. It was originally heard on 210 metres MW (1431 kHz) and 97.0 FM. In those days the radio tuning scale on MW was marked in metres so it seemed like a good idea to call the station Radio 210.  'Closer to you'.

January 1st 1987 saw the switch on of a new transmitter for a clearer reception in North Hampshire. Based at Hannington, the station transmits to Newbury and Andover on 102.9 FM.  During the 90's a third FM transmitter was set up to serve Henley on Thames on 103.4.

Radio 210 and Bournemouth's 2CR were part of a group called "Consolidated Radio Holdings". To start, 1431 AM was used solely as a split service during Saturday afternoons for the Sports slot.  1990 saw both stations, the former known then as 210FM become part of the GWR group.  At that time, TM Century jingles were used and the AM service was named 210 Classic Gold, a name which GWR had already used on it's other AM services.

Today, it's just another outlet for the Classic Gold brand, owned in the majority by UBC, but partially by GWR, who when being forced to sell it due to ownership restrictions, put a clause in the sale allowing them to 'buy it back when ownership rules are relaxed'.  There is minimal localised programming from studios at The Chase, Calcot, in Reading, but the rest is all networked along with other UK outlets.  Today, 1431 operates for Reading and 1485 for Newbury.  www.classicgolddigital.com.  

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KICK FM: This station came on-air following the award of a 'Small-Scale Alternative Local Licence' or 'SALLIE' by the Radio Authority on 4th November 1999 to it's then holding company 'West Berkshire Radio Limited'.  It launched for the West Berkshire town of Newbury, and suburbs covering around 200 square miles, on 29th May 2000 with a format of soft adult contemporary music with local news and information.  It uses two frequencies to cover it's target audience - it's official SALLIE frequency of 107.4FM (Hungerford) and a second transmitter broadcasting on 105.6FM (Newbury & Thatcham).  Programmes originate from studios at 42 Bone Lane in Newbury.  Kick FM's chairman is established Midlands television broadcaster Andy Craig.  As of April 2002, the station was run by the Milestone Group, which also ran Kestrel FM in Basingtoke, Hampshire - both station's majority shareholder being Tindle Radio.  

Until it launched, locals had no alternative service, and had to rely on regional and national stations.  Talking of locals, it targets the 25-54 year old sector of a population of around 100,000 people, with particular emphasis on the 35-44 bracket.  It focuses on using members of the commmunity in programme production, which includes the usual broadcast standards plus arts and specialist music programming.  The station came to air after six years of campaigning by a local consortium.  Having reached just over 18 months of broadcasting, the applicable RAJAR audience figures showed an average listening time increase of 17%.  Over the course of 2001, 21,000 people listened for almost nine hours per week - around 30% of it's target audience.

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READING 107: ...and this one is a controversial one.  To make things perfectly clear, we'll call the stations by their RSL names - then the story will become clearer.  Reading 107 operated regular short term broadcasts on 107.2 from 27th November 1997, 4th July 1998 - Reading 107 The Oracle aired from 27th November 1998, Oracle FM aired from 4th July 1999, the name Reading 107 returned from 27th November 1999 and finally 4th July 2000, the station's last.  So, with such a dominant series of trial broadcasts, the station had obviously made a credible impact and quite a public awareness.  Whilst Reading can boast other RSLs by Punch FM, HRR FM, Kiddz FM, Festival FM, the Rugby referrees Ref!Link, Killerwatts FM, these stations were in no way planning a bid for a full time licence.  Apart from Reading 107, other trials operated with intent to apply for the full-time licence were: Crown FM, New City FM & RFM. 

On 7th July 2001, the Radio Authority invited applications for a new local radio licence for Reading by the closing date of 11th September 2001.  There were five applications received by this date from 106.9 Crown FM (Reading Broadcast Ltd) (2 RSLs locally), Juice Reading (Reading FM Ltd - backed by Forever Broadcasting, operators of the same brands in Liverpool and Brighton) (No local RSLs), New City FM (Reading Broadcasting Co. Ltd) (1 local RSL), Reading 107 (Oracle Broadcasting Ltd) (7 local RSLs) and RFM (Reading Community Radio Ltd) (1 local RSL). Both New City and RFM were the last RSLs licenced prior to the advertising of the licence with the latter created from a split from Reading 107 in 1997.  

On 18th April 2002, the Radio Authority announced it had decided to award an 8-year licence to New City FM and did so on 14th March 2002.  The licence was designed to service Reading and the immediate surrounding area.  New City FM is a group made up of Surrey & Berkshire Newspapers, part of Guardian Media Group (GMG), local company The Goodhead Group plc, owned by businessman and chairman of Reading Football Club John Madejski, and the Milestone Group which ran Newbury's Kick FM and Basingstoke's Kestrel FM.  The RA concluded that the business plan put forward by New City FM was a strong one, acknowledging the links between local media and other radio stations.  New City offered a music based service for the 25-54 age group - therefore a mix of music from the 70s to today.  Speech is set at no less than 20% of weekday programming.  A special community based show 'Network Neighbourhood' was to be included along with a show requested by the listeners of the area - a ethic orientated show called 'New City World'.  

News bulletins of local origin run for two to four minutes from 6am to 9pm including a longer 15 minute weekday bulletin.  The local press work with news and sports bulletins.  The bid received support from local business, listeners and pillars of the community during it's December 2000 broadcast.  

But the Radio Authority then asked what the station's name would be upon launch.  This being declared as 107 City FM, the Authority referred to the possible confusion and other difficulties that may be experienced between them and the long established Liverpool commercial radio station Radio City, which in it's time has also been called City FM.  In the past, the governors of power in Reading applied for the City status, but this bid was not successful.  However, this is not thought to be a reason why the RA turned down the name.  After a rethink - New City FM management decided on a name change - to Reading 107 - unfortunately, the name of another of the applicants, who had carried out the most amount of local trial broadcasts, and had arguably achieved the largest amount of awareness in the area.  Somewhere, 

Reading 107 (New City FM)'s final RSL before it won it's full time licence, ran from 26th November 2000.  Today, housed in the home of Reading FC, The Madjeski Stadium, the station came on air on 22nd October 2002 at 8:00am.  It's outer broadcast radius includes the suburbs of Marlow and Wallingford in the North, Maidenhead and Camberley (Surrey) and internally, Henley, Twyford, Wokingham, Crowthorpe and Tadley.  Reading 107 (New City FM) is situated to the right of and overlapping the broadcast area of the other recent new station, Newbury's Kick FM.  The M4 crosses straight through Reading 107's (New City FM) broadcast area and directly to the south of Reading itself.  The M3 meanwhile passes just outside the southern reaches of it's outer radius, to the south of Tadley & Camberley.  Classing itself as being exclusively for Reading, it's music selection ranges from Wet Wet Wet to Oasis, Texas to Chicago and The Beatles to The Bangles.  And in a dig towards London stations, it's Oxford Road before Oxford Street, and more Kings Road than Kings Cross.  As you might expect, there's regular commentary on Reading's matches home & away.   www.reading107.com 

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STAR FM 101.6, STAR FM 106.6, 106.6 STAR FM, STAR 106.6: Serving Slough, Maidenhead and Windsor in Berkshire, this is part of what has now become a network of Star branded stations, this one being the first on-air on 21st May 1993.  Broadcasting from studios at The Observatory Shopping Centre, Slough, it is run by UKRD.  Cornwall's Pirate FM was set up by Infinity Radio and UK Radio Developments was set up on 22nd August 1990 to invest in it.  Pirate FM Ltd and what was then UK Radio Holdings Ltd, subsequently merged to form UKRD and this led to acquiring shares in STAR FM in Slough as well as Wey Valley Radio.  They later took full control of the station and entered the bidding for a station of the same name for Guildford (The Eagle) - and won the licence previously held by Allied Radio.  They negotiated to buy out the remainder of the licence from Allied and the Guildford franchise launched in September 1995.  

See the other entries shown below for details on the other STAR stations.  This particular STAR station went through a patch of calling itself 'Wonderful Star FM' in it's jingle package.  It ran an automated overnight service featuring the supposed android DJ 'Twinkle' said to have been produced by the Orlando, Florida based Cyberstar Corporation.  Also later created for sister station 96.4 The Eagle was 'Talon' who went into service on 4th January 1996.  Twinkle and Talon were merely a pre-recorded linking voice, the work of Dallas based Pamela Steele.  You will note from this profile's introductory text that a frequency change is shown. It was in May 1995 that Star FM moved from 101.6 to the more secure 106.6 due to complaints of interference - problems which were alleviated following the move.   Star FM was the first station in the UK to fully use the RCS Master Control computer playout system. Amongst it's programming, there's Asian STAR which airs weekdays from 7pm-1am, Saturdays from 6pm-10pm and Sundays from 7pm-1am.   www.starfm.co.uk 

(Other STAR stations are: Star 107 (Stroud in Gloucestershire - previously Easy FM & 107 The Falcon), Star 107.3 (Bristol in Avon/Somerset - previously Kute FM & 107.3 The Eagle), Star 107.5 (Cheltenham in Gloucestershire - previously The CAT/CAT FM), Star 107.7 (Weston-Super-Mare in Avon/Somerset - previously 107.7 WFM), Star 107.9 in Cambridgeshire formerly a Dawe Media owned station - previously known as 107.9 The Eagle, Red Radio 107.9FM, Cambridge Red 107.9FM, Cambridge Cafe Radio 107.9FM and  Cambridge Community Radio (RSL)) and The Fens Star 107 in the Fenland area of Cambridgeshire - formerly X-CEL FM)

HOSPITAL RADIO:  

RSL: READING: 

DIGITAL: A twelve year digital licence for Reading & Basingstoke and surrounding areas, was advertised by the Radio Authority in 2003.  The licence has a potential audience of 600,000 people aged over 15 and is required to carry the local BBC radio service but commercial stations are required to enter into discussions with the licence holder for carriage.  Interested parties had until Tuesday 20th May 2003 to supply a fee of 5,000 and an application document for the service which will be provided on a band 3 VHF 12D frequency of 229.072MHz.  By the closing date, just one applicant had applied.  The bid came from NOW Digital Ltd, a subsidiary of GWR Group plc.  Seven services are proposed: 2-TEN FM (GWR), Classic Gold 1431/1485 (UBC), BBC Radio Berkshire, The Storm (GWR), SAGA (Saga Radio), KISS and an access channel with several services including Student Broadcasting from 7pm to midnight courtesy of SBN Ltd.  

In July 2003, the Radio Authority announced it had awarded the licence to the sole applicant. NOW Digital plan to add two further services in the first 12 months of operation with more services being fed into the Access channel.  the service will commence by June 2004 using four transmitters at Basingstoke, Bracknell, Hannington & Hemdean which will reach just over 96% of the area's adult population.  

STUDENT RADIO: 

BLAST 1386: Launched by students at the Reading College Kings Road campus, Blast 1386 is a music and news station produced by students for students.  Having been awarded a Radio Authority licence, the station can be heard both inside and outside the campus, available on any AM radio within range.   Indie and rock music is the norm with a lot of college and university based stations, but Blast 1386 plays a wide variety of the latest tunes and oldies in a service that runs from 7am to 7pm each days.  Bob Goertz, Station Manager said:  "Reading College believes in the importance of providing a practical means of developing all aspects of its student media curriculum. We intend therefore to broadcast an exciting and varied mix of today's contemporary music, plus yesterday's favourites, together with the best of the ethnic music scene. Our research shows that existing commercial radio stations do not provide focused local student news or local student information, both of which are greatly in demand in this youthfully vibrant area. Reading is fast becoming a major UK clubbing destination, welcoming over 20,000 partygoers every weekend." 

With pro-radio facilities, this is a valuable training ground for future broadcasters, but the service is designed to appeal to all students with it's information on the education services offered by the College.  Media students can use the studio facilities to aid with their education on the various aspects of broadcasting.  

The station's programming kicks off with 'Morning Mayhem', with the lunchtime 'Request Fest' and the oddly applicable 'Drive Time' which takes programming up to 7:00pm.  At this point, and until 7:00am, Blast 1386 is the only UK station to take a US R&B station, Washington's Potion produced and provided by the US WorldSpace Corporation.  Bob continues: "This is an exclusive in the UK.  We chose Potion as the service people will hear when Blast 1386's own live programming finishes for the day.  Potion is a true alternative choice, specialising in soul, urban and black music, which majors on the music content with very little DJ interruption.  Potion can be heard around the globe via digital radio satellites and now exclusively in the UK via Blast 1386 in Reading."

Broadcasting on 1386 kHz AM (216 metres Medium Wave) it is close to the nearby Classic Gold 1431/1485 service.  Educational authorities use AM because FM frequencies are in short supply in the UK.  Engineers from Blast advise listeners to twist their radios to achieve the best reception after dark.  

Fred McCrindle is the Principal and Chief Executive of Reading College, and said:"We are extremely pleased to develop our brand new student radio station Blast 1386. This new station provides the College with another wonderful facility to enhance the training and education of students in our media, music and music production areas. The station, which will be for most of the time operated by students, will provide an ideal forum for student voice, music and news items to be conveyed across the College locations and campuses."

Blast 1386 is now available on Channel 7 to patients at the Royal Berkshire Hospital on the Patientline network.  It's the idea of Station Manager Bob Goertz who has overseen the station's move from training facility to full time commercially licenced station.  

In June 2003, it signed a deal with SKY NEWS RADIO for National and International News provision - the station becomes the first Student radio station to make a contract with the news service which already operates on Virgin and talkSPORT, LBC, Heart and Galaxy stations, TWG stations and the Digital News Network.  

For further information about the station you can e-mail: blast1386@reading-college.ac.uk

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