Aircheck UK - Essex

UPDATED: 19/09/2003

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BBC RADIO ESSEX / BBC ESSEX RADIO / BBC ESSEX was launched to serve over 1.5 million people, amongst a brightly lit night sky on Bonfire Night, November 5th 1986, and was officially launched by Marchess Marconi six days later.  It serves Southend, one of Britain's oldest towns - Colchester, the coastal North Sea port of Harwich and the ever growing airport at Stansted, plus the rest of the county, from studios in Chelmsford.  It runs a community helpline which started in 1993 and provides over 20 hours of local programming a day, consisting of the usual BBC local radio standards.  Of the 1.5 million listeners possible, around one third actually listen according to 2002 research.  It reached the age of 10 in 1996 with a tour of ten Essex towns and continued the theme in 2001 as it reached 15 with an outside broadcast tour of fifteen Essex towns.  The station broadcasts on two FM frequencies, 103.5 & 95.3.   To avoid confusion with the new commercial station (see below), the station became known as BBC Essex 

BBC RADIO SOUTHEND - This service was designed to be a four-week promotional campaign across the Southend area - and operated from 10th April 1989 as an opt-out to BBC Radio Essex.


ACTIVE FM / SOUL CITY 107.5: Test transmissions commencing on April 27th 1998, and launched on 18th May 1998, Active FM was awarded it's licence to serve the East London area of Havering back on 7th December 1997 with the assistance of application management specialists Infinity Media, a subsidiary arm of UKRDUKRD was, initially a minority shareholder but by November 1998 had gained a controlling interest of the station.  The station's history goes as far back as a operations as a RSL (Restricted Service Licence) broadcaster (106.8) and some local appearances as 'roadshows' at local venues.  The pace of the full-time station was distinctly rapid with a '30 years' music policy with the use of the rather tired line 'The Best Mix'.  On the Breakfast Show was Craig Sturgess who was known for playing samples of Radio Caroline and Radio London jingles during the show.  There were two news journalists who were responsible for the production and presentation of a daily half-hour news show at 6:30pm each weekday night called 'News Express'.  

Serving the Havering area of Essex and East London, from studios at Lambourne House in Western Road Romford, Soul City 107.5, a new brand, was launched by parent company UKRD on Monday 18th March 2002 at 6:00am, to an audience of around 500,000 adults.   The relaunch of what was formerly Active FM was led by ex-Capital Radio & Radio Investments man Mark Briggs.  Prior research had shown that Soul music was a popular genre of music in and around the broadcast area.  At the time, UKRD had a set of 14 radio stations, so the change in direction for Active FM to the new brand was seen as essential in a busy London market.  The playlist features contemporary Soul based artists such as Gabrielle, Lisa Stansfield, Diana Ross, George Benson & Marvin Gaye. 


THE BREEZE / BREEZE 1359/1431 / CLASSIC GOLD BREEZE: See Essex Radio below - Breeze was created by it's mothher station Essex FM and began broadcasting as a standalone AM service on 16th July 1989 - the Southend service being transmitted on 1359, the Chelmsford service on 1431AM.  Transmissions come from Radio House, Clifftown Road, in Southend, along with sister station Essex FM.  In October 2000, GWR acquired parent group Essex Radio plc when it took on DMGT's radio interests.  Despite huge resistance from locals, Breeze became part of the Classic Gold network and local programming bit the bullet in the main, exactly the point the locals were complaining about.  It was the purchase of Essex Radio & Marcher Radio (Wales) that pushed GWR over the points ownership precipice and this led to the 'sale' of the Classic Gold network, Breeze included, or in proper terms, the control of, to UBC   


107.7 CHELMER FM / DREAM 107.7: (SALLIE): On the 5th March 1998, the Radio Authority awarded a small-scale alternative local licence for Chelmsford, Essex to Mid Essex Radio Ltd, based at Duke House, Victoria Road South, Chelmsford - who had previously proposed a community led service with local input prominent and a wide range of popular music to cover the Chelmsford area under the name 107.7 Chelmer FM.  It began it's licence with transmissions from 18th October 1998.  With the award, came the end of the local community station Mayflower FM which covered Basildon, Billericay & Brentwood, who were also an applicant for the licence and whom had campaigned strenuously for it's cause previously.  

At around 11:15 on the evening of Friday 1st June 2001, for the second time in just a year, broadcast equipment was stolen from a shared site, resulting in the station going off-air.  Transmission providers, ntl: were notified in the early hours and worked overnight to build new kit.  Station management figured the theft was the work of a pirate radio outfit, as the transmission kit would have been of no use to anybody else.  By midday on the Saturday, a loan transmitter was switched on and normal service was resumed.  

In September of the same year, Tindle Radio acquired Mid Essex Radio Ltd taking on it's 200,000+ audience.  Being in close location to a nearby Tindle station, Dream 100, it was not long before the station was rebranded as Dream 107.7.  It currently broadcasts from studios at Cater House, in Chelmsford High Street.


ESSEX RADIO / ESSEX FM: A station that is actually older than most people thought, Essex Radio commenced broadcasting to Southend as far back as 12th September 1981.  Broadcasts to Chelmsford started later on 10th December of the same year.  It started by simulcasting on FM 95.3 & AM 1431 (210meters) for Chelmsford and FM 96.4 & AM 1359 (220meters) for Southend.  By the mid 1980s, a national decision was made to divide the band into different sectors, BBC & Commercial - as a result, Chelmsford's 95.3 became 96.3 and Southend's 96.4FM became 102.6 where the FM services remain to this day.  Southend itself now has a transmitter for Essex FM on 97.5FM.  

Along with other commercial radio stations, a split in broadcasting came and the AM service became Breeze 1359/1431.  Essex FM became the flagship and mothership of the Essex Radio Group based at Radio House, Clifftown Road, Southend-on-Sea, the group which included Breeze 1359/1431, Ten17, Vibe FM & 96.6 Oasis FM.  In the early part of 1998, DMGT (Daily Mail & General Trust) took a controlling share of Essex Radio plc - Essex FM became the first radio purchase for DMG Radio and it's offer valued the station at 21million.  It had previously held shares since 1994, but DMG had been investing in the industry since it's inception in 1973 - with the purchase of Essex Radio, DMG collected a potential audience of over 3 million listeners across the group's stations.  At the time, DMG had interests in Australian commercial radio, radio in Sweden and was a shareholder in Radio Danubius in Hungary.  It had shares in GWR and London News Radio.  

In October 2000, GWR acquired Essex FM and the parent group Essex Radio plc when it took on DMGT's radio interests. It was the purchase of Essex Radio & Marcher Radio (Wales) that pushed GWR over the points ownership precipice and this led to the 'sale' of the Classic Gold network, or in proper terms, the control of, to UBC.  The Radio Authority renewed Essex FM's licence for a further eight years from 12th September 2001 due to it's involvement with providing a feed of it's service on the local digital network.  Another fact about the station is that it's output and the activities of a former Controller Paul Chantler, were featured on a BBC television documentary about a major Shopping Centre in the county. 

WARNING: Clicking on the '' or '' links from these web addresses, will lead to defaulting of your browser to the station you choose next time you visit, unless you clear your web cache, i.e. the content of 'HISTORY' and 'COOKIES' folders on your PC.  You have been warned!

Fans of Essex Radio are recommended to visit Pete Sipple's page for images at where you can see a picture gallery and a list of presenters who have appeared on the station.  There are also some sound-files for your entertainment also.  Alternatively, why not try or for more sound files.  Tell them AIRCHECK sent you!


SGR (Colchester): On 17th October 1993, Suffolk Group Radio, owned by East Anglian Radio, having already been operating a station called SGR in Suffolk, won a licence to provide a service to the Essex town and suburbs of Colchester.  The station broadcasts on 96.1FM from studios at Abbeygate Two,  9 Whitewell Road in Colchester.  In 1997, GWR were well into their acquisitions, and, after a shareholder (& other interested parties ) battle, East Anglian Radio's four stations (SGR Colchester included) fell into GWR control, taking the company close to the maximum ownership levels then of 35 stations.   The usual re-branding and changing of staff followed.  Unfortunately, little can be traced about the early days of SGR Colchester, so why not let us know more if you know?   E-mail us for a credit and an update! 

WARNING: Clicking on the '' or '' links from these web addresses, will lead to defaulting of your browser to the station you choose next time you visit, unless you clear your web cache, i.e. the content of 'HISTORY' and 'COOKIES' folders on your PC.  You have been warned!


Ten 17 / 101.7 Mercury FM (Harlow) / Ten 17: On 1st May 1993, Ten 17 launched for the Harlow area of Essex with the management title of Harlow FM Ltd..  A simple and fairly obvious name was taken from the station's on-air frequency, contrived albeit, 101.7FM.  Five years into it's first licence, (1988) the station was acquired, along with other Essex Radio Group stations, Essex FM, Breeze 1359/1431, Ten17, Vibe FM & 96.6 Oasis FM, by DMGT (Daily Mail & General Trust), who, for the cost of 21million, took a controlling interest (they'd previously held shares since 1994), and put the stations together under the DMG Radio banner.  At the time, DMG was the largest shareholder in GWR Group plc, and the growth continued in 1999 when it received the approval of to acquire Radio Mercury in all it's various guises (Crawley, Tonbridge & St Albans) and the AM service Fame 1521.   DMG also had interests in Australian radio, radio in Sweden and had a part-share of Hungary's Radio Danubius and London News Radio, and had actually been involved in commercial radio since it's inception in 1973.  

April 2000 saw the re-award of Ten17's licence under the Radio Authority's 'special application procedure' as part of the 1996 Broadcasting Act.  No competing applicants entered the running upon the RA inviting declarations of interest, and as the station didn't change it's format, and it passed the RA's other re-award criteria, the re-award took place.  The station was subsequently re-licenced from 1st May 2001 for another eight years.  

In June 2000, GWR Group made a takeover bid for the very group who owned such a large proportion of themselves, to the tune of 146million.  At the time GWR was right up against the restrictions on ownership - infact, the acquisition of what was then the sizeable DMG Radio portfolio took GWR over the ownership limit, and so to compensate, GWR immediately began looking at disposing of some of it's UK assets - namely it's AM Classic Gold stations.  Whilst DMGT were passing over their radio assets, they actually increased their shareholding in GWR from 18.8% to 29.9%.  The acquisition of DMG Radio by GWR was completed by October of the same year.

December 2000 saw, on agreement from the Radio Authority, a name change for Ten 17 to Mercury FM (Harlow).  GWR had by now acquired the Mercury stations, which, under DMG's tenure, had created somewhat of a brand rather than standalone stations.  However, by Monday 4th March 2002, the status quo was returned and the so familiar Ten17 name returned.  The change was influenced by a survey, in which most listeners said they preferred the name Ten17 to Mercury.  'Men In Suits' meddling in the first place you may cry!  Either way, this was considered as a major U-turn for the GWR Group.  The re-launch co-incided with the start of new breakfast show presenter Lee Stone.  

Working to a format consisting of at least 12 hours of locally produced programming per day, Ten 17 includes hourly news at least seven times during weekday daytime programming, with national news at all other times - and has been known to have volunteers assisting with programming in the past.  Speech content does not fall below 10% of weekday daytime output.  Musically, the station includes hits from across the years, with currents and re-currents making up no more than 70% of the music output.  Specialist programming has included music designed to complement the mainstream output, with specialist shows aired in non-daytime.  

Programmes now continue under the GWR format from studios at the Latton Bush Centre on Southern Way in Harlow. 

WARNING: Clicking on the '' or '' links from these web addresses, will lead to defaulting of your browser to the station you choose next time you visit, unless you clear your web cache, i.e. the content of 'HISTORY' and 'COOKIES' folders on your PC.  You have been warned!


TENDRING RADIO / MELLOW 1557 / DREAM 100: Another of only a handful of stations who have opted for a switch from AM to FM, having formerly been under the guise of Tendring Radio, it launched as Mellow 1557 on 7th October 1990 - the MD of the station then was Des Sheepherd, who has also worked for Wey Valley Radio and Slough's Star FMIn the early part of 1993, later owners Southern Radio sold the station to the former boss of SGR (Suffolk Group Radio) David Cocks and a consortium of colleagues who went under the title of 'Audio Management Limited' or 'AMLRadio First plc, which was established in October of 1995, purchased AML and went onto improve the station's performance and initiated the application to the RA for a move from AM to FM.  Later that year, two groups went for the re-advertised licence, Mellow Media Group and Mellow 1557.

On 1st September 1998, Radio First sold the station to Tindle Radio Limited for just over 1million and a transfer of debts - the transfer of management enabled Radio First to concentrate on their 'Fans Radio Network' of football club based radio stations.  

Having been re-awarded the licence it continued but later closed down as an AM station, Mellow 1557 under Tindle's tenure, on 19th November 1998, having broadcast from studios at The Media Centre, 2 St. John's Wynd, Culver Square in Colchester and via it's transmitter at Cook's Green, Little Clacton.  Amongst presenters to have worked for Mellow, there's Adrian John, Keith Skues & Eamonn Kelly.  Interestingly, a ghostly figure of a man has been known to haunt Studio B at the Frinton studios, stemming from the late 20th century and is believed to be the ghost of someone murdered in a house that used to stand on the site where the studios were based.  The ghost has been seen by several staff members.

And so, Mellow 1557 moved to FM as Dream 100FM, broadcasting on 100.2 from studios which are now at Northgate House, St. Peter`s Street in Colchester.  It targets over 150,000 adults aged 25-55 across North Essex and South Suffolk with the offshore heartlands of Clacton, Walton-On-The-Naze & Frinton.  It airs live programming from 5:00am - Midnight, (6:00am weekends) except when it takes the Smash Hits chart with Mark Goodier - formerly, Pat Sharp's syndicated 'Totally 80s' show featured from 4:00pm-6:00pm. 



JAZZ FM London / JFM / JAZZ FM 102.2: Broadcasting from 26-27 Castlereagh Street in London, this specialist station began broadcasting on 4th March 1990 as Jazz FM (London).   It's sister station in the North West started four years later.  This particular station's format is one of jazz, soul, blues and r `n` b, with regional, national and world 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  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),  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, we're talking outwards from the Capital, as far as Stevenage & Luton in Bedfordshire in the North, Chelmsford and Essex, Maidstone & Kent in the East, Camberley & Woking, Guildford, Reigate & Crawley in Surrey to the South, High Wycombe & Hemel Hempstead in Buckinghamshire, and all points inbetween, to approximately 10million people.  Although it was known as JFM for a short time, it has now reverted back to it's original branding, albeit with an additional frequency tag. 




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