Aircheck UK - Durham
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BBC LOCAL RADIO:
BBC RADIO DURHAM: It is no more! It's the only BBC Local Radio station to have gone completely. Radio Durham launched on July 31st 1968 - but just as it had got settled, Edward Heath's Government had other plans, and restricted Auntie to being able to operate just a paltry twenty local stations. The BBC were not going to take this lying down, and showed their utter discontent by moving BBC Radio Durham in it's entirety to Carlisle in 1973. County Durham's local BBC services come from BBC Radio Newcastle and BBC Radio Cleveland. See below for profiles!
BBC RADIO TEESIDE / BBC RADIO CLEVELAND: It was in 1971 that the station was first known as Radio Teeside, when it was launched with award-winning presenter George Lambell, broadcasting from it's studios in Middlesbrough's Linthorpe Road, with a large department store, Tower House, as a neighbour. But there was no prominent glass frontage with glitzy reception at ground level for all to see. Access to upstairs premises was via a large black door with a simple name badge to denote what lay behind it. However, those who got through the door were led to two upper floors of facilities. These facilities included a production area, two studios, the obligatory offices and an engineering workshop. At launch, the service was only carried on a VHF (FM) frequency, but eventually, a AM (MW) frequency was allocated to begin wider covering across Teeside, Durham and North Yorkshire. Programming was provided by both paid and volunteer broadcasters, the latter behind specialist programmes they fronted for the purely for the love of radio.
Radio Teeside became Radio Cleveland in 1974 and moved to new premises near Middlesbrough's Bus Station, on the banks of the River Tees. The station is part of the regional broadcasting house serving Whitby in North Yorkshire to Seaham in County Durham and inland around the dales of Wear, Swale and Wensley. It also serves the old railway town of Darlington, South Durham and Richmond in North Yorkshire, the home of the garrison.
As you would expect with a BBC local station, there's a lot of speech - BBC Radio Cleveland is 70% speech. The station name has some considerable history - the actual county of Cleveland was created in 1974 but 14 years on, it was split into four authorities, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Redcar and Stockton - a region renowned for heavy industriees that have been the heart of the region for generations. Radio Cleveland broadcasts on 95.0FM from Bilsdale Moor, and 95.8FM from the Whitby transmitter.
BBC RADIO NEWCASTLE: It was 7am on the morning of Saturday 2nd January 1971, when BBC Radio Newcastle burst into life. Today, it provides over 90 hours a week of local programming over an area reaching from the City of Durham, over the Scottish border, and in land from the East Coast to Hexham and surrounding areas. Programmes emanate from the local BBC Broadcasting Centre in Newcastle's Fenham district, affectionately called 'The Pink Palace' due to it's exterior colour. Field studios are located in Durham City, Sunderland and Alnwick, backed up by a set of radio cars, and journalists across the broadcast area.
Recent successes include the station's traffic service 'Jambusters', an interactive service which runs during peak time - listeners can ring 0191 233 2299 if encountering a delay on travels, to give other listeners the chance to avoid the trouble spot. Amongst the music programming, the specialist shows include rock, country, oldies and folk. You can listen to the station via five transmitters - 95.4FM from Pontop Pike, the station's main transmitter, another high power provider on 96.0 from Chatton for the North of Northumberland, two low power transmitters at Fenham (104.4) for Gateshead & West Newcastle and Newton (103.7FM) for the Tyne Valley. Finally, there's one AM high power transmitter at Wrekenton on 1458. www.bbc.co.uk/england/radionewcastle/index.shtml
COMMERCIAL: LOCAL (ILR)
ALPHA 103.2 provides Darlington and surrounding areas with classic hits, adult contemporary music, local news and information from studios at Radio House, 11 Woodland Road in Darlington in the County of Durham. It's broadcasting radius covers Sedgefield & Aycliffe to the north, Gainford to the West and Scotch Corner in the South. Outer points include Stockton-On-Tees, Eaglescliffe, Bishop Auckland, Greta Bridge & Great Smeaton. It came on-air 30th November 1995 and is currently under the Radio Investments Ltd umbrella. A 14.6 share and 36% reach in RAJAR's third quarter results put them ahead of TFM, Galaxy 105/106, Century FM & Magic 1170.
METRO RADIO / METRO FM / METRO RADIO: A station that has seen a return to it's name as of it's launch on 15th July 1974. Originally, it started on 97VHF & 261metres MW serving Northumberland, Tyne & Wearside and the County of Durham as Metro Radio. It has received many accolades including Station Of The Year and a Sony Gold Award for it's sports coverage. It has a potential audience of 1.4million listeners. From it's humble beginnings, it became the Metro Radio Group, first acquiring Radio Tees in 1986. Four years later, Metro acquired Yorkshire Radio for £16m in what turned out to be the radio sector's first takeover with any high scale level of hostility. Yorkshire Radio also consisted of Sheffield's Hallam FM, Bradford's The Pulse & Viking FM in Hull. Up to this stage, Capital Radio and Chrysalis Radio disposed of their shares in Metro Radio - 18.1 & 19.5% respectively. In 1995, EMAP, a dominant northern newspaper & magazine publishing business, paid a whopping £98.7m for Metro Radio Group - who kept control of The Pulse & Great Yorkshire Gold until November of the same year when they sold the two stations to The Radio Partnership for £4.6m. It was evident then, that these two stations didn't fit in with EMAP's ambitious plans. However, May 2002 saw EMAP report that they too had suffered from a visible downturn in the radio advertising market - their stations - Metro included, were continuing to struggle, but were surviving. Metro has become part of EMAP's 'Big City' FM radio network - this has a core demographic (or target audience) of the 18-25 age bracket in the Newcastle area. Somewhere along the way, it's name changed to the more 1990's friendly hip Metro FM, before it reverted back under the 'Big City' banner.
An notable story from Metro's past revolves around one of the presentation staff, Wayne Tunnicliffe, who lost a bet that the winner of 2000's Channel 4 show Big Brother, Craig Phillips, would be Christmas Number 1. As a consequence of losing the bet, he performed a striptease by the side of the A1 at the Angel of The North Statue, just outside Newcastle. This led to a pile up of three cars and a stay in hospital for most of the occupants as passers-by slowed down to take a look at. Whilst Wayne hoped everyone was all right, there was a backlash from one of the owners of the crashed cars who felt the station were irresponsible to perform such a stunt at rush hour - nothing to do with them slowing down then? The station insisted they weren't to blame.
The station broadcasts from Longrigg in Swallwell, Newcastle and broadcasts to it's official format of chart & adult contemporary music, news and exclusive sports coverage on four frequencies across five transmitters: Alnwick 102.6, Hexham 103.2, Tyne & Wear 97.1 & 103.0 & the Tyne Tunnel 97.1.
METRO RADIO / GREAT NORTH RADIO / MAGIC 1152: Having launched as Metro Radio on 15th July 1974, as one of the first ILR commercial radio stations in the UK, by 1989, broadcast regulators, the IBA had concluded it was no longer viable to allow simulcasting, i.e. broadcasting the same service on both AM & FM. It was a case of use it differently or lose it to someone else. Before the IBA could bring in a new law, most radio stations changed tack. Management at Metro Radio Group launched an AM station, Great North Radio on April 8th 1989 for Teeside and Tyneside - Metro's AM frequency of 261metres, 1152kHz and Radio Tees' AM frequency of 1170kHz. Great North Radio had a potential audience of 2,140,000 people. In 1995, EMAP, a dominant northern newspaper & magazine publishing business, paid a whopping £98.7m for Metro Radio Group - who, in February 1998, dropped the Great North Radio name and format, instead rolling out their easy listening GOLD radio brand MAGIC, so prevalently heard on EMAP's northern AM radio frequencies, and in London on FM. The change of name was probably of great relief to station management and staff who probably quite frequently received telephone calls from people asking for train times, when they actually should have called GNER rather than GNR!
WEAR FM / SUN CITY 103.4 / SUN CITY FM / SUN FM: WEAR FM (Sunderland Community Radio Association) was led by it's then director Brian Lister. Covering Durham and Sunderland, the station faced competition for its licence when it reapplied for it in February of 1994. Competition came from the Wearside Broadcasting Company. Times were not good at the station - tension between management and staff reached boiling point, and this led to a walkout at the North East community station Wear FM in early March of that year, as protests raged about how the station was being run. They felt that, due to their base being at the University of Sunderland, a takeover by the same was imminent. Wear FM ceased transmissions in 1995.
SUN CITY 103.4 took over when Wear FM ceased broadcasting in 1995. But the bad run of form continued when Sun City 103.4's operator was financially penalised by the Radio Authority for not coming up with elements of their Promise Of Performance, an agreement which formed part of their licence remit. This is a dark and rarely mentioned moment in the history of GWR Group plc. A sale to Border Radio, owners of the Century brand, followed with a new name of Sun City FM. In January 1999 Brian Lister joined what was then Sun FM in Sunderland as Managing Director. Sun FM was wholly owned by Border Radio and later became part of the Capital Radio Group when they acquired Border Radio in April 2000. Granada TV acquired the Border TV business for £50m, with the total deal of £146m to allow Capital Radio to hold on to the radio business. It was Scottish Radio Holdings that proved strong competition in the process, with SRH bidding £141m, but failing with an increased offer from the London based business.
Later, with Capital streamlining their businesses, and focusing on large area based stations, part of their 'Capital Cities' portfolio, Radio Investments Limited purchased Sun FM and it's handling company 'Bucks Broadcasting' in March 2001. This sale also included the other group station, MIX 96 in Aylesbury. (Capital, along with sales of it's 30% share in Wolverhampton's The Wolf to Forever Broadcasting, netted around £9.5 cash in the deals.) Brian Lister continued his work with RIL and was appointed Group Development Director in July of 2001, responsible for licence applications and development work around the UK. One of the most prominent moments for Sun FM irrespective of it's owners, was the sacking of presenter Phil Holmes who allegedly fell asleep during his Breakfast Show. Phil had been carrying out some station business quite late the previous night, hence perhaps a perfectly justifiable reason for falling asleep on the job. Apparently not for the management - Phil did some work away from the radio scene, before reappearing at Metro Radio and Alpha FM in Darlington.
Today, Sun FM plays chart hits and oldies, and provides local news, sport and information on 103.4FM from it's Sunderland based studios, reaching southwards through it's designated broadcast area to Washington, Ryhope, Houghton-Le-Spring and Murton, and outwards to Newcastle, South Shields, Chester-Le-Street and Durham itself. It operates in the RIL corporate image, of blue, yellow and white. www.sun-fm.com
RADIO TEES / GREAT NORTH RADIO / MAGIC 1170
GALAXY 105/106 is not to be confused with it's near neighbour GALAXY 105 in Yorkshire. This 'North East England' service didn't join it's nearby sister network until 1st June 1999, almost two years later, to cover the North East from studios at Kingfisher Way, Silverlink Business Park, Tyne & Wear. Four transmitters provide output of the dance / r&b format that has proved so popular in various regions of the UK. There is a transmitter on 106.4 for 'North East England' situated to the North East of Yorkshire. 105.3, 105.6 & Hexham's 105.8 are the other three covering Durham and Northumberland. It could've been very different - there were thirteen other applicants for the licence. By 10th March 1998, the Radio Authority had received applications from:
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