Aircheck UK - Cheshire

UPDATED: 18/09/2003

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ENGLAND

BBC LOCAL RADIO: 

BBC RADIO MANCHESTER first broadcast a service to the population of Greater Manchester in 1970.  Names from the Radio Manchester era include Sandra Chalmers, Christopher Walmsley, Martin Henfield, Roy Cross and BBC newsman Martin Sixsmith.  Around 1972, News Editor Alec Greenhalgh described Radio Manchester as 'providing a local service to local people', still a station motto today.  It became BBC GMR (Greater Manchester Radio) on  30th October 1988 to cover a wider geographical area.  It currently broadcasts from studios in Oxford Road, Manchester with a team of over 30 full time staff and 40 other contributors.  The station broadcasts on 95.1 & 104.6FM.  

It's intended service area covers over three and a half million people, (this makes BBC GMR one of the largest of the BBC Local Radio stations), from the inner cities and urban populations of Salford and Manchester to the rural, more secluded areas of Cheshire and the Peak District. 

The local population consists of a wide variety of people including various ethic groups - BBC GMR offers programming input for the Afro-Caribbean, Asian, Irish and Chinese communities in specially dedicated programmes.

The BBC GMR news team has covered some locally momentous stories in the station's history, notably the Woolworth'sí fire, the IRA Warrington bomb and the Manchester air disaster.  In particular, the coverage of the 1996 Manchester bomb won a Sony award for the quality of reporting and a round-the-clock information service.

One of the busiest teams on the station is the sports team with 9 football and 10 rugby clubs under their umbrella.  BBC GMR Sport also cover golf, basketball, ice hockey and horse racing to provide a full sporting calendar for the listeners. A prime example of the workload was demonstrated in 1996/97 - a particularly stressful season.  Manchester United were at the top of the Premiership, with Bolton Wanderers, Bury, Wigan and Macclesfield all winning their respective leagues - while Sale Rugby Union Club reached the Pilkington Cup Final.

During 1999, listeners were invited to visit a BBC GMR mobile studio which extensively toured the area visiting seven local shopping centres.

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6LV: History shows a radio station on Merseyside as long ago as 1924.  The BBC were setting up a relay of stations, and Liverpool was chosen to have the fourth station in the 'crystal set' period.  And so 6LV began on Wednesday 11th June of that year from studios above a cafe in Liverpool's Lord Street.  The transmitter and engineers 'roughed it' on the first floor of an old paint shop near Smithdown Road.  6LV didn't last long and it's broadcasts ended in 1931 when a wavelength shortage led to the beginning of a framework of regional radio stations.  

BBC Radio Merseyside: In 1967 the possibility of more local broadcasting was once more addressed, initially as a two year experiment. At 12.30pm on 22nd November 1967 a specially composed jingle by Gerry Marsden (Gerry & The Pacemakers) introduced BBC Radio Merseyside, the country's third and largest local radio station. BBC Radio Merseyside was one of eight local stations set up around England to provide an intimate localised service which started at the top two floors of Commerce House, a rather non-discript local authority building in Sir Thomas Street.  

However, after conditions proved more and more difficult to work in, during the winter of 1981/1982, the station moved to purpose built premises in Paradise Street, where it remains to date, broadcasting on 95.8FM.  Other satellite studios in Chester, St. Helens & Warrington provide input too.

As with many BBC local station, BBC Radio Merseyside has reported on triumphs and tragedies, ranging from Liverpool's European Cup victory to the disasters of Heysel and Hillsborough, the Pope's 1982 tour, the visits of the Tall ships and the International Garden Festival which took place locally back in 1984.  There were nationally dominant stories too: the Toxteth riots, Jamie Bulger's abduction, the trial of Louise Woodward and the occasion when the 1998 Grand National at Aintree was disrupted by a bomb hoax.  Amongst all the confusion, the station assisted by providing an information service which included helping visitors find somewhere to stay overnight.  

Star names to have cut their cloth at BBC Radio Merseyside include BBC sports presenter Ray Stubbs, newsreader Sian Williams, DJ Janice Long, and 'Top Gear's' Michele Moran.

The station covers the people who live around Merseyside (Liverpool, Bootle, Birkenhead, Southport, St.Helens etc.), much of North Cheshire (Chester, Warrington, Runcorn, Widnes, Ellesmere Port) and West Lancashire (Skelmersdale, Orrell, Burscough, Ormskirk).  The station can be heard by the people of North Wales, across in the Isle Of Man to the west and in Ireland.  Unusual weather conditions have even sent radio signals to Scandinavia and Canada too!  

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BBC RADIO STOKE is the local radio service for Stoke, Staffordshire and South Cheshire. It came to air on 14th March 1968 as BBC Radio Stoke-On-Trent.  In June 2002, the BBC moved its county HQ into a brand spanking-new building in the centre of Stoke-on-Trent's Cultural Quarter at Cheapside, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent.  Formerly, this was the Hanley Economic Building Society, and before that, the building is believed to have been a school.  The new building was opened by HRH Princess Anne & the Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke on Tuesday 23rd July 2002, just a short walk from their old premises - the BBC Property division ranks the new premises as their most prestigious site outside of London.  Inside reception, there are four internet-linked computers available for free public use, with trained staff available to help those not quite so computer literate members of society. BBC Radio Stoke broadcasts on 94.6 & 104.1FM and on 1503AM. www.bbc.co.uk/england/radiostoke 

COMMERCIAL:  LOCAL (ILR) 

KFM Radio / KFM / SIGNAL Cheshire / SIGNAL 105 / SIGNAL FM / IMAGINE FM (Stockport): The name KFM has been associated with the Stockport area for quite some time.  KFM came on-air on 17th January 1990.  In January 1995, broadcasting as Signal Cheshire, it was re-awarded it's licence.  The Wireless Group acquired the licence for Stockport as part of it's purchase of The Radio Partnership.  It was at this point that it was re-branded as Imagine FM but to a much reduced target audience for marketing and production reasons - this then provided a more focused service.   Newer songs were fed in to the playlist at times where younger people were listening and more 60s and 70s tracks were fed in to the overall output.  

On 7th March 2001, the Radio Authority re-advertised the local radio licence for the service on 104.9, held by KFM Radio Ltd and broadcasting as Imagine FM.  By 12th June, there had been three applicants enter the fray: Imagine FM, Stock FM Ltd & RAKA Asian Radio Ltd - however the latter's application was disallowed for failing to comply with RA procedures. On 8th November, Imagine FM was re-awarded it's licence for another eight years from January 1st 2003.  

Imagine FM is also broadcast on a relay transmitter on 96.4, part of the Stoke on Trent ILR licence.  Imagine FM provides coverage of an area with an adult (aged 15+) population of around 290,000.  The station is still owned by The Wireless Group and broadcasts it's full adult contemporary service from Regent House on Heaton Lane in Stockport.

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MARCHER SOUND 95.4 / MFM 103.4: Originally the mothership for what became Marcher Radio Group, Marcher Sound, or, in Welsh Sain-Y-Gororau, licenced by the Radio Authority's predecessor, the IBA (Independent Broadcasting Authority), launched Monday 5th September 1983 at 6:30am for North East Wales, Cheshire & parts of Shropshire, broadcasting on 95.4FM and 238metres 1260kHz MW.   It was launched by Lord Evans, the Chairman of Marcher Sound.  The launch was transmitted using both English and Welsh to 660,000 people - with the strapline '..your station, your sound' - the first track was Cliff Richard's 'Wired For Sound' and a £50 shopping voucher was put up for grabs in the early moments.  

It's present licence as MFM commenced 31st March 1989 serving Wrexham and Chester on 103.4FM.  Frequency changes came about as part of a spectrum audit.  Marcher Radio Group later expanded taking in other Welsh stations Marcher Coast FM, Marcher Gold & Champion 103.  Expansion ceased back in October 2000 when GWR fully acquired the group.  Previously, GWR had been approached by Marcher management asking them to sell air time - OPUS, GWR's sales house, said they didn't sell airtime for non-GWR stations, but would do so as long as they could take a 20% stake in Marcher Radio.  It was not long before the creeping death arrived and all stations in the group have been GWR'd or are in the process of being done.  MFM as it became known prior to GWR's takeover, broadcasts from Mold Road, Gwersyllt, just outside Wrexham.  

MARCHER SOUND / MARCHER GOLD / CLASSIC GOLD MARCHER: The split of AM & FM came in the early 1990s, with the AM 1260 service taking on the classic hits format which became the norm for AM commercial radio across the UK.  With the arrival of GWR in 2000, further changes saw the encroaching of Classic Gold.  As with GOLD stations GEM AM (East Midlands) & AMBER (Norfolk), the name has been retained along with the new name, at least for now - whilst local programming as gradually slipped to only a short segment of the day - whilst the national Classic Gold format has been rolled out.  As with all Classic Gold stations, it's now 'owned' by UBC who purchased all of the AM stations from GWRGWR own shares in UBC and have an agreement to buy back the stations within a wide timespan, by which time it hopes that station ownership laws will have been relaxed.  

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MARCHER SOUND / MFM 97.1 / THE BUZZ 97.1 (WIRRAL) / WIRRAL'S BUZZ 97.1: Marcher Sound, or, in Welsh Sain-Y-Gororau, launched as a result of the activities of what was then the ever expanding Marcher Radio Group (based in Wrexham & Chester - see our Flintshire page for more details) on 31st March 1989, along with the it's Wrexham/Chester based sister station.  

Marcher Radio Group later expanded taking in other Welsh stations Marcher Coast FM, Marcher Gold & Champion 103 - a relaunch took place from Noon on 14th February 1999 with a dinstinctly 'City FM' sound to it.  In July 2000, GWR took a 20% stake in the Marcher Group.  Expansion ceased back in October 2000 when GWR fully acquired the group.  Previously, GWR had been approached by Marcher management asking them to sell air time - OPUS, GWR's sales house, said they didn't sell airtime for non-GWR stations, but would do so as long as they could take a 20% stake in Marcher Radio.  It was not long before the creeping death arrived and all stations in the group have been GWR'd or are in the process of being done.  The continued expansion of GWR was not without drama for them, and the acquisition (along with the takeover of DMG Radio stations around the same time) took them a little to close for comfort towards the points limit for ownership of radio stations, as set by the Radio Authority.  The RA immediately began looking at proposals put to them by GWR to deal with this.  Nevertheless, the Marcher stations stayed under the control of GWR who were collected under the same Marcher Radio Group holding subsidiary.  

Buzz broadcasts on 97.1FM from studios at Media House on the Claughton Road in Birkenhead.  The transmitter site, formerly at Moyl-Y-Park in Flintshire, is now in the Wirral itself at Storeton Hill.  

MARCHER SOUND / MARCHER GOLD / CLASSIC GOLD MARCHER: The split of AM & FM came in the early 1990s, with the AM 1260 service taking on the classic hits format which became the norm for AM commercial radio across the UK.  With the arrival of GWR in 2000, further changes saw the encroaching of Classic Gold.  As with GOLD stations GEM AM (East Midlands) & AMBER (Norfolk), the name has been retained along with the new name, at least for now - whilst local programming as gradually slipped to only a short segment of the day - whilst the national Classic Gold format has been rolled out.  As with all Classic Gold stations, it's now 'owned' by UBC who purchased all of the AM stations from GWRGWR own shares in UBC and have an agreement to buy back the stations within a wide timespan, by which time it hopes that station ownership laws will have been relaxed.

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PICCADILLY RADIO 261 / PICCADILLY RADIO / PICCADILLY KEY 103 / KEY 103: Piccadilly Radio 261 began it's commercial radio service back in the early pioneering days of the media - April 2nd 1974, based in the Piccadilly Plaza, part of a huge hotel and retail complex in Central Manchester, hence the name of the station.  It was the fifth commercial station on-air after LBC, Capital, Clyde & BRMB.  

Having established it's radio group in 1990 by operating KISS FM in London, and acquiring Liverpool's Radio City in 1999, TWC & then Metro Radio Group, this station now comes under the EMAP Performance umbrella, although it's former owners were Transworld CommunicationsEMAP took a stake in Transworld in 1991 taking over 2million shares and took full control in 1994.  Transworld owned Red Dragon in Cardiff, Red Rose in Preston, Piccadilly in Manchester and Aire in Leeds and were based at 130 Broadway, Piccadilly House, Salford, Manchester.  Of these, Red Dragon & sister station Touch AM were sold on to Capital Radio plc

The station has been the home and sometimes, starting base, for many of today's big names: Gary Davies, Timmy Mallett, Mark Radcliffe, Steve Penk, Steve England, Chris Evans (started at Piccadilly), Pete Mitchell & Geoff Lloyd (now both at Virgin), Noddy Holder, Brendan Kearney, Mike Sweeney, and Mike Toolan, to name but a few,  have either worked or are still working at the station, howsoever named.  

KEY 103 was launched 3rd September 1988 - previous to this, split trailers were aired after news bulletins for the first few weeks post split, to divert listeners to where they wanted to be, ready for the changes.  It was 10am on the Saturday when Neil Sedaka's 'This Will Be Our Last Song Together' was played - this despite that fact that overnight shows had been formerly simulcast for some time.  The split took place after a break - Steve Penk then launched Key 103 with Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'Welcome To The Pleasuredome'.   It's relocation from the Plaza to the current base at Castle Quay,  Castlefield in Manchester  It's relocation was made without any disruption to airtime and was said to be the first relocation of a major commercial radio station in the UK.

PICCADILLY RADIO 1152 / PICCADILLY GOLD 1152 / MAGIC 1152: As you will read on many station profiles, 1988 saw a broadcasting requirement to split frequencies - i.e. do something different with them, or lose then.  On 3rd September 1988, as the FM service of Piccadilly Key 103 was launched, on AM 1152, another GOLD station was launching - Piccadilly Gold 1152.  Later, owners EMAP rolled out the MAGIC brand across it's AM network, thus mostly rendering local orientated programming non-existent.

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106.9 SILK FM provides a soft adult contemporary music, news and information service for Macclesfield from studios based at Radio House, Bridge Street in Macclesfield.  It came to air 25th May 1998.   The station serves a population of around 250,000 people, who, according to 2002 research, are one of the largest concentrations of high spending listeners anywhere.  The target audience is 25-54 year old adults with it's broad family appeal.  

The station is part of the Radio Investments Group, distinguished by the blue background headed by an arch of circles, decreasing in size above the station name in lower case.  RIG have roots in commercial radio which date back to the format's inception in 1973 with all stations in the group reported to have a long standing history of success in their respective area.  

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107.2 WIRE FM offers 'the best variety of hits for Warrington, Widnes and Runcorn'. A mix of adult appeal music plus local news and sport information.' from studios in Warrington Business Park, Long Lane Warrington.  Air date for this station was just after 106.9 SILK FM, on 1st September 1998.  This station is part of The Wireless GroupIn November 1999, the company which owns Stockport's Signal FM, stated it's intentions to purchase this station and 1458 Lite AM (Manchester) from The Independent Radio Group.  Sport input for this station focuses on Superleague coverage of Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings.

COMMERCIAL: REGIONAL:

BOSS FM / CENTURY FM / CENTURY 105 / 105.4 CENTURY FM: Originally part of the Border Radio Holdings stable, it came to air 8th September 1998 from studios at Laser House, Waterfront Quay, Salford Quays in Manchester.  Previously, the Radio Authority announced on 5th February that from a list of 21 applicants, the North West England regional licence was to be awarded to Boss FM which would be providing a listener friendly talk and melodic adult contemporary music service for 25-54 year olds.  The licence was to cover Greater Manchester, Merseyside and south central Lancashire.  Upon Border's roll out of the Century brand, the renaming took place.

It became part of the Capital Radio Group upon acquisition in May 2000.  Under the Border banner, the station was (and still is) the home of MP Derek Hatton who, in his broad northern accent presented a regular talk in - the fact he had no radio experience prior to taking the post and the sheet fact he was a former MP contributed to the content of a television documentary which focused on the work of former top brass member John Myers (now with Guardian Media Group).  The second station for the Century brand, Capital beat off the other interested party in the fight for ownership, Scottish Radio Holdings, with Capital stumping up £146 million for Border Television which included the radio interests.  It then sold Border Television to Granada Television.  Border previously rejected the Scottish bid despite an increased offer of £141million and subsequent behind-the-scenes moves by other radio industry groups.  Scottish Radio withdrew from the bidding battle.  Richard Findlay, Chief Executive, said: "Capital's increased offer is a very high one and more than we are prepared to pay." adding that SRH would be looking to accept cash from Capital for 351,000 Border shares it had acquired - "which more than covers our expenses," he said.  Capital had also acquired shares as part of the fight for the Border group. 

Other Century stations acquired in the deal were Century Radio (North East Regional) and East Midlands' based Century 106.  After the purchase, all stations including the North West franchise we're featuring here were re-branded with the standard Capital tradition of putting the frequency at the beginning of the station's title rather than at the end - hence 105.4 Century FM.  It has more recently been explained as 'music radio for adults' - the Capital format certainly obvious in sound - and a long way from it's original format under Border's tenure.  Amongst current presenters are Derek Hatton, Everton footballer Graeme Sharp, former ITV Sport presenter Elton Welsby, ex-Radio Derby (Barbed Wireless) and Channel 4 'The Word', Terry Christian and ex-sidekick of Chris Evans, Holly Samos.   Networked shows on all Century brands include the obvious - Noddy Holder, Mike Sweeney & Terry Christian.  

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JAZZ FM 100.4: Broadcasting from the Exchange Quay in Manchester, this specialist regional station began broadcasting on 1st September 1994, and is therefore one of the oldest of the IRR stations.  It's London sister station started four years previously.  This particular station's format is one of jazz, soul, blues and r&b, with regional, national and international news in with the speech content.  The Jazz FM brand belongs to the Guardian Media Group - the 100.4 North West IRR MD is the ex-Border Radio/Century boss John Myers.  The service is also available to DTT Freeview customers, on SKY Digital channel 917, via cable TV operators, DAB Digital Radio and on line at www.jazzfm.co.uk.  Daytime output includes a general mix of popular jazz and soul music - with evening programming taking on an increasingly more laid back feel as the night progresses.  Specialist shows also feature.  Among well known presenters to appear, there's Tony Blackburn, Paul Jones (Manfred Mann & Radio 2), Andy Crane (Piccadilly, Capital & Children's BBCTV) and Jim Colvin (Chiltern Radio & Choice FM).  There are also experienced Jazz musicians in the presenter line-up.  As far as regional coverage is concerned, it is designed to reach as far north as Carnforth, just outside the Lake District, through the coastal towns of Morecambe, Blackpool and Southport, across Merseyside and across the North Wales areas of Denbighshire & Flintshire to approximately 5.4million people.

HOSPITAL RADIO:  

RSL: 

HALTON FM: Mark Blackman from Halton FM 105.9 provides an overview of the community radio station, which broadcasts to Halton on RSL licence from the Radio Authority. The station's most recent broadcast aired from 8th March to 4th April 2003.  

Halton FM 105.9 is the community radio station for Runcorn, Widnes, Hale and Frodsham. We broadcast from studios in Runcorn Old Town 24 hours a day, and aim to provide the community of Halton with a local and community based service. We run an RSL on 105.9FM, we also broadcast online and the website also contains information on the station and the schedule itself.

This years broadcast is a momentous one for us as it celebrates 10 years of community radio in Halton.
  Halton FM started its life on medium wave - 1413AM.  We chose that frequency because we felt it would reach further - plus FM was a dearer option.  This was run by Halton College and started as an RSL in March 1993.  Later in that year, Halton Borough Council decided to run their own RSL on FM, which lead to the launch of Halton FM - broadcasting from a shop front in Widnes.  In 1994, Halton FM was also introduced to a college project, which taught broadcasting skills as part of their course and this went on as an RSL between 1994 and 1995.

After then, there were no RSLs until 2000, when The Bigger Picture, a community based project for Halton, ran HCR again on 1413AM.  This was to gain awareness of volunteers for The Bigger Picture and also to serve the community.  Halton FM then made a comeback run by The Bigger Picture in 2002, first on 87.9FM in March and finally settling for 105.9FM in October 2002.

Which leads us to now, The Bigger Picture project now has finished, and Halton FM is now run by Halton Access to Media.  A team of core presenters from the past 10 years of broadcasting has been taking peoples requests as well as presenting their own show on a daily basis.  We also have a group of volunteers who work on News, Sport and Production giving us the latest community news, issues and contacting groups for the weeknight news show, 'Halton Tonight'.

We are hoping to do another RSL in October 2003, and hopefully after then are working up to the new Access Radio licence to get a full time station serving and involving the community of Halton.   www.haltonfm.org.uk

Copyright 2003 Mark Blackman - Halton FM

DIGITAL: 

Digital One Ltd operate the national digital radio multiplex licence, therefore, it's services can be heard in the Manchester area.  

On 3rd June 1999, the Radio Authority awarded a 12-year digital radio licence for Manchester to the only applicant: CE Digital Ltd - operated by Capital Radio plc and EMAP Radio Ltd.  The service reaches almost 2.5million adults aged over 15 - this was the second local digital licence awarded, the first being awarded for Birmingham and also awarded to the same bidder.  Eight services were proposed: CHR: Key 103, GOLD: Magic,  Dance: KISS (EMAP)Easy: Lite, (IRG), Classic Rock/Sport: Talk Radio (GMG), Modern Rock: Xfm (Capital Radio plc), Asian: Asian Sound.  BBC: GMR, Country: 3c (SRH).  The service commenced from May 2000 using three broadcast sites: the Sunley Building, Winter Hill and Sutton Common using VHF band III frequency block 11c (centre-freq 220.352MHz).  

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