Aircheck UK - Lancashire/Merseyside/North West

UPDATED: 19/09/2003

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ENGLAND

BBC LOCAL RADIO

BBC RADIO BLACKBURN / BBC RADIO LANCASHIRE: BBC Radio Blackburn '..the Lancashire Sound' was the first BBC Local Radio station for the area of North East Lancashire, launching at 12:00, 26th January 1971 on 96.4 vhf(!) with the voice of Tom Naseby (23 years worth of senior announcer service in Manchester previously) and John Musgrave, then the Station Manager.  BBC Radio Blackburn became BBC Radio Lancashire '...the heart of the County" on 26th January 1981 at just gone 8:00, with the new name reflecting a need to cover a wider audience.   Five transmitters provide the service; in the extreme east is the Hameldon Hill transmitter on 95.5FM, the central and south, basically the main chunk of the county, is covered by Winter Hill's 103.9FM transmitter, the extreme north is covered by the 104.5 Lancaster transmitter, with AM 855 and 1557 transmitters providing an alternative method of listening.  All in all, there are 70 hours of news, talk, music and entertainment for 750,000 people each week, living inland from the Pennines outwards to the Fylde Coast and from the Forest of Bowland to Ormskirk and Skelmersdale.  It reaches around a third of this as shown by audience figures and as explained via the station's website.  Studios are based at 20 - 26 Darwen Street, Blackburn.  There are 55 full time members of staff, and a set of freelance presenters plus volunteers.  The studios offer listeners a chance to visit the 'cyber-cafe' to surf the internet totally free of charge, and there are staff on hand to teach computer amateurs.  There's a television studio at the site too regular used for national and local broadcasts.  Reception also includes an activity and museum/display area for local crafts people.  1,200 people use the station's 'Action Desk' every week.  

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BBC RADIO BURY - Operating on 1296khZ AM, this was one of four trial opt-out services operated during the broadcast history of BBC Radio Manchester in the early 1980s.  Other services were Radio Oldham, Radio Rochdale and Radio Trafford.  

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RADIO MANCHESTER/ BBC GMR: Greater Manchester got a BBC local radio station as we know it back on 10th September 1970.  A well known presenter from the Radio Manchester era is BBC news reporter Martin Sixsmith.   Greater Manchester is a huge metropolitan area, and to reflect this, the station name changed to the more punchy BBC GMR in 1988.  The station provides a service to over 3.5m people across the Greater Manchester area, reaching outwards through Salford and into the more rural areas of the Peak District and Cheshire.   It employs over 30 full-time staff, and 40 groups who contribute to the output.  Unsurprisingly, with the sheer size of it's geographical coverage, it is one of the UK's largest BBC Local Radio stations.  In it's time, as with a lot of BBC Local Radio stations, there have been some very prominent news stories covered, some of which have won awards; coverage of the IRA bombing at Warrington led to a Sony Award, plus the station was also there to cover the Manchester air-crash and the Woolworths fire.  

Programming reflects the diverse mix of the population, with output especially for Chinese, Asian, Irish and Afro-Caribbean communities.  BBC GMR broadcasts on 95.1from Holme Moss & 104.6FM from Saddleworth.  www.bbc.co.uk/england/gmr/ 

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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 OLDHAM / ROCHDALE / TRAFFORD - Operating on 1296khZ AM, this was one of four trial opt-out services operated during the broadcast history of BBC Radio Manchester in the early 1980s.  The other service was BBC Radio Bury.

COMMERCIAL: LOCAL / SALLIE

2BR (2 Boroughs Radio Ltd) provides classic and current hits, local news and information for Burnley and Pendle from studios at Imex Lomeshaye Business Village, Nelson, Lancashire and broadcasts on 99.8FM.  It came on-air on 25 July 2000.  For a number of years, the areas of Burnley, Hyndburn and Pendle were neglected by other radio stations.  The launch of 2BR has provided a dedicated service for Burnley, Nelson, Accrington, Padiham, Colne, Barrowford, Oswaldtwistle, Brierfield and Great Harwood.  This is a major channel down the M65 Motorway.  Delightfully, 2BR is independently owned and beat off just one other applicant for the licence Burnley FM Ltd.  

It's potential audience of 206,000 receive a 24 hour service of the best music of today and the last three decades using it's strapline of 'The Best Music and More..'  The station is a loyal supporter of Nationwide League football club Burnley and this has helped the station to rapidly build a large and loyal audience.  It also encourages the listener to be involved in station phone-ins, competitions and other station features.  Weekday programming starts with a one-hour early breakfast show from 5:00am, then a main breakfast show from 6:00am, with further programming up until midnight where the sustaining service takes over.  Saturday sees a live start from 6:00am, and a programme for Asian listeners from 8:00pm-11:00pm where the sustainer kicks in once more.  Sunday live programming kicks off at 6:00am and concludes again at midnight.  The obligatory national commercial chart and a rock show preceed the late show up to midnight.  

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ASIAN SOUND RADIO: Offering a service of music, news and information for the Asian Community, this station commenced transmissions on 3rd June 1996.  In 1997, a new regional ILR (Independent Local Radio) licence was advertised to cover the North West of England, to cover most of Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and south-central parts of Lancashire.  By the closing date of 19th August, twenty-one applications had been submitted for an FM licence - to serve 4.3m people.  Asian Sound Radio put in an application for Asian Sound FM, offering 'a colourful and professional service of music, entertainment, news, information and sport for the Asian population of the North West.  By the turn of the year, the Radio Authority announced the winners as Boss FM (see below in our regional section.).  And so the station continued with it's AM service, on 1377khz for Manchester and 963khz for Blackburn.  

In October 1997, the Radio Authority issued a formal warning to Asian Sound Radio after failing to broadcast elements of it's licence remit.  The next time the station would enter into indepth communications with the Radio Authority, was in October and November of 2000 when the RA fined them 1000 after breaching the licence format.  The radio watchdog deemed that the station had failed to broadcast it's Gujerati output over a two week period in September of 2000.  It's licence requires the station to provide such a service.  

Having entered into the bidding for such a large scale licence as the North West regional, in March 2002, the Radio Authority readvertised Liberty Radio's licence to cover the Greater London area - which was then serving around 6.7million people aged 15+.  The new licence would be offered from 3rd July 2002 - the day after the expiry of the existing London licence.  Having submitted an application and a non-refundable application fee of 14,500 due, they awaited the November 2002 announcement from the Radio Authority.  There were seven applicants for the Liberty Radio licence.  There were two bids from groups offering a children's radio format - Takeover Radio (operators of a trial Access radio station in Leicester) and Abracadabra! (the latter led by former Magpie presenter Susan Stranks and backed by GWR), with the others being from Asian Talk Radio (backed by Sunrise Radio), Club Asia, Planet AM (another Asian broadcaster), Tap Radio (another Asian broadcaster offering a mix of Asian and Western dance and led by Manchester station Asian Sound Radio boss Shujat Ali - he would have rebranded all ASR stations if he'd been successful) Saga Radio (music for the over 50s, led by SAGA plc) and the existing licence holder Liberty Radio (led by Portuguese operator, Universal Difusao).  In November, Asian Sound Radio found out that they'd been unsuccessful again, when the winner for the London licence was announced as Club Asia.  

Disappointment was followed by recompense in the April of 2003 when the Radio Authority renewed Asian Sound Radio's licence from 3rd June 2003 to 2nd June 2011.  This renewal was because the station is the provider of a digital sound programme service on the Manchester local multiplex.  However, having been experiencing the joy, things turned sour again in the June of 2003 when the station was again fined, this time, a stronger 3,000 for what it called 'a serious breach of the rules on undue prominence and for broadcasting an advertisement of a political nature'.  In April of that year, around the time they were re-awarded their licence, the station aired an advertisement that identified the Liberal Democrat candidate as "the first Asian from the North West in the MEP election" and added a message of goodwill which said "...we congratulate him from North West and pray for his success".  By doing this, the station breached section 92(2)(a) of the 1990 Broadcasting Act as well as the Authority's Advertising and Sponsorship Code) which prohibits the airing of such an advertisement directed towards a political end, and also section 90(3)(b) of the same act (as well as the Authority's News and Current Affairs Code) which requires that undue prominence is not given by a local licensee in it's programmes to the views and opinions of particular persons or bodies on political matters.  These failures were clearly acknowledged by the station - who also immediately withdrew the advertisement, and offered to review training and procedures which relate to broadcast compliance.  The RA acknowledged these measures whilst still asking the station to prove it had laid down a structure to avoid such breaches in future.  

Asian Sound Radio broadcasts from studios at Globe House on Southall Street in Manchester.  All four posts of Chief Exec, Programme Director, Marketing Director and Sales Director are held by Shujat Ali - he must be a busy man!        www.asiansoundradio.co.uk 

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THE BAY: On 1st March 1993, having won the licence under the business title of Bay Radio Ltd, 96.9 The Bay took to the airwaves around Morecambe - offering a classic hits format with local news and community information.  Since it launched, it has expanded to three transmitters, 96.9 for Morecambe, 103.2 for Kendal and 102.3 for Windermere.  

Two thirds of the way into their first licence, in the August of 1999, the locally well known media company CN Group notified the Radio Authority that it intended to acquire Bay Radio Limited.  The group publishes a plethora of newspapers across the North West region.  Under the 1996 Broadcasting Act, a company which owns a local newspaper cannot own a local radio station in the same area unless the Authority concludes a public interest test and is satisfied that the arrangement would not operate against the public interest.  The RA has a duty to see if such acquisitions would lead to a reduction in the plurality of ownership in both media sectors and whether this would be against the public interest, whether there would be less diversity in the sources of information available, whether there would be less diversity in the sources of local opinions, whether there would be any particular economic benefits and how the arrangements would affect any local newspaper or radio markets.  

The closing date for such opinions to reach the RA was 1st September 1999.  No adverse effects were forseen, so CN Group took control as part of a 6million package which also included CN taking control of Belfast station CityBeat.  However, there was still work to be done.  On the 29th October 1999, the RA re-advertised the local radio licence as held by The Bay.  By the closing date of the 8th February 2000, five applications had landed on the Radio Authority's doormat for consideration.  These came from existing licence holder The Bay (Bay Radio Ltd), BFM (Morecambe Bay Broadcasting Co. Ltd), Easy 96.9FM (Hallco Ltd), Mountain FM (Northern Radio Ltd), and Radioworld (Soundeasy Ltd).

After the usual levels of consideration, the licence was re-awarded to The Bay from 1st March 2001, announcing it's decision on 8th June.  Commenting later on the application, RA members were satisfied that the station catered well for the tastes and interests of the community, which was backed up by reference to the considerably good audience figures from the time. These RAJAR figures showed the station's weekly reach increasing to 44%, listening hours increasing to 10.7, giving an overall increase in total hours of 15%.   They'd also noticed the audience research presented with the application and the acknowledgement by the station to enhance it's local news output.  Levels of support for the station by the public and local business were considerable with 175 letters backing up the application by local councillors, charities and community based organisations and businesses and the public too.    The RA did acknowledge that BFM's application was the strongest competition but that the winning applicant's proposals were more convincing and would better cater for local tastes and interests.  BFM was led by the former Border Radio boss John Myers and backed by Guardian Media Group.  

The Mountain FM bid was led by Julian Allit - they proposed a service of news, community info and 'the music of your life'.  Kenni James and his wife were the heading team behind Easy FM, Kenni being the group MD, who aimed to bring a 'brand new radio service to the area, featuring a mixture of 'Great Songs' and quality local news, community information and speech'.  Easy 96 was part of Forward Media, which had only just acquired one of it's few stations, Southport's Dune FM 107.9.  Soundeasy felt they'd put together a 'group of experienced, highly talented radio and broadcasting professionals, together with Internet technology specialists' and were confident that they'd submitted a strong application.  The group also aimed to train young radio professionals and to allow personality presentation styles.  The group would also support local charity groups and community events as well as council initiatives and local information.    

Considering this level of competition, CN Group can feel justly proud to have retained the licence, so soon after they acquired the station.  Perhaps the RA considered the timing of their acquisition somewhere in the throws of deliberation.  

Working from a PO Box (969) address in St. George's Quay, Lancaster, The Bay serves a population of almost 320,000 from Windermere and Kendal in the Lake District, and southwards through Barrow-In-Furness, Lancaster, Morecambe and Fleetwood, and including Blackpool and Preston.  The station plays classic hits from the sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and today, with local news, national news, sport, community information, giveaways of prizes including concerts and holidays. 

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For BIG AM and Capital Gold (Manchester) see FORTUNE 1458 profile below.

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Paul Faulker reports: 194 RADIO CITY / CITYTALK 1548 / RADIO CITY GOLD / RADIO CITY 1548AM / CITY FM / 96.7 RADIO CITY / MAGIC 1548 (Merseyside, North West and North Wales)

194 Radio City was the ninth Independent Local Radio station to hit the airwaves, launching at 6.00a.m. on 21st October, 1974.  It was the first station on the ILR network to broadcast local programmes twenty-four hours a day.  Throughout the 1970's and early-mid 1980's, Radio City embraced the full service format which characterised heritage ILR output at the time, with an emphasis on news, sport, general interest features and wide-ranging music.  During its formative years, the station built up a loyal following and, by the start of the 1980's, was the envy of the ILR network, boasting a weekly reach of almost fifty percent.

The station's early success was due, in no small part, to a consistent line-up of presenters who became quickly established - Mark Jones, Norman Thomas ("Shake a leg with Uncle Norm"), Phil Easton, Paul Jordan, Kevin Keetings, Brian Ford and Johnny Kennedy ("JK-JD") were names synonymous with local radio in the North West and North Wales. In addition to general music-led programmes, there was also much specialist music output - Phil Easton's rock extavaganza, "The Great Easton Express", Joe Butler's country show and even jazz, soul, blues and classical music shows.

Radio City also invested heavily in news. A team of fifteen (15!) journalists, headed up throughout the 1980's by Ian Mann, provided a comprehensive news service. The day's coverage included extended bulletins at breakfast and lunchtime and culminated in two early evening news programmes - Evening Report at 5.00p.m. and City At Six an hour later.  City's news department also produced a variety of documentaries and arts programmes (imagine that, nowadays!), some of which went on to win prestigious industry awards.

A station covering Merseyside is almost duty bound to provide in-depth sports coverage and Radio City's sports output blossomed during the 1980's, progressing from regular match updates, via second half commentaries to full ninety minute commentaries by the end of the decade.  The station is also notable for launching the careers of Clive Tyldesley, Elton Welsby and Richard Keys

The wide appeal of the full service offered by Radio City was clearly a consideration when the station introduced split broadcasting on its FM and AM frequencies. Rather than opt for the Gold music format which had been tried and tested in other parts of the country, Radio City's then Programme Director, Tony Ingham, sought to preserve and extend the popular speech element of the station's output by creating City Talk on 1548AM.  As of 23rd October, 1989, the station broadcast between 7.00a.m. and 7.00p.m on weekdays and incorporated extended news coverage, phone-ins and other speech based features, with the likes of Johnny Kennedy, Richard Jardine and Roger Phillips.  Meanwhile, 96.7 became the home of City FM, with a round the clock, music driven Hot AC schedule, featuring a new generation of names for the 1990's, including Tony Snell, Tony McKenzie, John O'Hara and Terry Lennaine (visit www.back.to/cityfm for full details of the City FM era).

Sadly, City Talk failed to last as long as it should have done and was re-launched as Radio City Gold in 1991.  However, the station did maintain several of it's  predecessors speech features, most notably extended peak time news bulletins. City Gold also became home to some exiles from its sister station, like Mark Jones and Terry Lennaine.

The early-mid 1990's was, for me, the pinnacle of City's output - Hot AC at its best on FM, with a complementary speech/gold format on medium wave, both of which were overseen by Tony McKenzie, who became the Programme Director during this period.  The situation remained relatively unchanged during the mid-1990's, save, of course, for changes in presenter line-ups, with the arrival of new names like Neal Atkinson, Rick Houghton and Brian Moore.  The only notable change during this era was the re-naming of City Gold - it became Radio City 1548AM in 1995 and witnessed the return of the boomerang-esque Billy Butler and Wally Scott, who bounced back once again from BBC Radio Merseyside. (see top of page)

1997 was a year of great change at Radio City - that's great as in 'momentous', not 'good'.  For a start, Radio City 1548AM was re-launched as Magic 1548
on 17th March, in keeping with the EMAP policy of converting all their AM licences to this new brand.  The frequency switched to test transmissions at midnight and was re-started at twelve minutes to four by former FM favourite, Snelly.  Of course, this change wasn't for networking purposes (hell no!) - well, not initially, in any case. City stalwart Tony McKenzie was still at the helm at the time of the re-launch and he had the good sense to ensure that the change was largely a cosmetic process, maintaining an AC music format, incorporating specialist shows and an in-depth news service.

Unfortunately, over on FM, the late 1990's brought changes which were not so subtle.  From 1997, the station adopted a CHR format, as dictated by the brand obsessed bosses of EMAP's new Big City network.  This process culminated in the station being re-named Radio City 96.7 on 25th August, 1997 (without test transmissions), and officially witnessed the start of the high rotation, pitched up top 40 playlist which continues to this day.  Since Tony McKenzie's departure in 1997, the station has been overseen by Dave Shearer, Paul Jordan, Sean Marley and, currently, Shaun Maddox.

Magic 1548 was left untouched until 1999, when the inevitable happened - EMAP assumed central control for the Magic brand, which had now been rolled out across the country.  This initially manifested itself in the abolition of the station's extended news eervice, which bit the dust after twenty-five years in February 1999 and saw the departure of all senior news staff.  Then, in October, came the imposition of the format which had proved successful in London (but that's two hundred miles away from Liverpool, isn't it, EMAP bosses?) - namely, minimal speech and a Soft AC playlist.  The station went on an unnecessarily protracted five day test transmission from 15th-20th October to mark the occasion.  In spite of protestations from listeners (but who cares about them?), favourites like Billy Butler and Pete Price were promptly shown the door, because their personality driven shows did not fit the new format.  Evening and overnight programming was automated from now on.

Yet worse was to come in December 2001, when all Magic programmes, save for breakfast and drivetime, became networked from London.  This resulted in a service void of personality and local relevance and placed Magic 1548 in the curious position of being neither live nor local from 7.00p.m.

By the end of 2002, it had become apparent that the networked, automated service was doing neither the London station nor its Northern counterparts any favours.  So did they abandon it?  Er, no, no  quite.  Instead, as of 6th January, 2003, mid mornings are networked across the North from Liverpool itself, with the veteran Mark Jones, evenings gained a live networked show from Newcastle and a late night phone-in was introduced on clusters of Magic stations, with Pete Price back at the helm in Liverpool and Preston.

Today, the FM service continues to achieve highly respectable RAJAR figures, although the state of the Magic service in recent years has witnessed a sharp decline in listeners.  Ultimately, for the true golden age of Radio City, you need look no further than the early days of the split output during the late 1980's/early 1990's.  Sadly, this era was all too short lived.

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CRASH FM / JUICE 107.6: Broadcasting from 27 Fleet Street in Liverpool, this station came on air as Crash FM 27th March 1998, operating in Liverpool and some surrounding parts of Knowsley, Sefton and Wirral which fall within the catchment area of the city.  The station concept was devised by Radio 1's first daily female presenter, Janice Long who moved there from BBC Radio Merseyside.  She moved to BBC GLR to the breakfast show, later working on XFM's early RSLs and BBC Radio 4 & 5.  She then moved back to Liverpool and started work on the creation of Crash-FM - definitely not to be Merseybeat or Chart in it's musical orientation.   An RSL then followed to trial Janice's format.  She was supported by Sir Bob Geldof, Boy George and Primal Scream.  

In it's application for a full time licence, Crash FM said it would provide an alternative rock and dance station, aimed at the 15-34-year-old market in Liverpool and would get an audience of over 80,000 tuning in for 8 hours per week in the first year.  The station behind Radio Luxembourg, CLT UK were set to take just over a quarter of shares but when they withdrew from UK Radio interests, the shares were taken by Channel Radio which was involved in CTFM (Canterbury) successful application in East Kent.  Janice presented a show with Pete Wylie, (The Mighty Wah & also had a solo hit called 'Sinful' in the 80s') called 'The Long and Wylie Road'.  Oddly, it is reported that Janice was sacked from the station she helped to create.  Apparently, management felt that her ideas were too alternative and instead wanted to aim for a more commercial audience.

The station was acquired by Forever Broadcasting in late 1999 and relaunched as Juice 107.6 on 26th March 2000.  This station was one of the first two stations purchased by Forever - the other being Bolton's/Bury's Towwer FM.  By September of the same year, listenership had increased significantly. 

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DUNE FM: Southport's commercial radio station was launched by Jonathan Dean on 107.9 (Gaw Hill, Aughton) at 1:07pm Sunday 12th October 1997 and currently operates from The Power Station on Victoria Way.  As well as Southport, it also serves the northern areas of Longton & Tarleton, Walton & Bootle in the South, Ainsdale, Formby & Crosby in the West and the Eastern areas of Maghull, Eccleston & Ormskirk - all in all, about a quarter of a million listeners across it's broadcast area.  It is owned by Forward Media Group which acquired the station for 1.8million in 1999.  It also controls stations in Peterborough (Lite FM) and Kettering (Connect FM).  Former Superstation/Radio Radio presenter Erica Hughes worked on Dune FM, but she is now at the East Midlands Regional station SAGA 106.6FM.  

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FORTUNE 1458 / LITE AM / BIG 1548AM / CAPITAL GOLD (Manchester): On launch, June 20th, 1994, Fortune 1458 promised something fresh and original - and announced the north west's newest and most exciting station, bringing together radio's biggest stars and brightest sounds.  Using some of the best known names, in between a mix of music from the best of the charts, quality hits from the past thirty years, and 'hip, happening and refreshing shows, free from prattle, fun radio for people with something between their ears.'   'At last...' it announced in launch material, '...a new kind of independent radio station in the North West.  A station that caters for a more mature, discriminating audience - tired at constant pop and prattle.  Manchester's fresh new radio station Fortune 1458 brings a carefully balanced mix of quality popular music from the biggest stars of the last 40 years, along with informative news, conversation and features'.  The station broadcast from studios at Quay Street, in Trafford Park, Manchester.

In late October 1999, the Radio Authority was notified by The Wireless Group Ltd, which held the licence for Signal FM in Stockport, that it intended to acquire Independent Radio Group plc, which then held the licence for 1458 Lite AM as well as Warrington's 107.2 Wire FM - all in all, a total audience in all of IRG's six stations of 807,000 listeners.  Under the terms of the 1990 Broadcasting Act, a company can only own three overlapping local licences if the Authority conducts a public interest test and is satisfied that the arrangement would not operate against the public interest.  The RA subsequently sought comments as to whether there would be a reduction in plurality of ownership in the local radio sector, would there be an effect on the range of programmes available, would there be less diversity in the sources of information available, and less diversity in the sources of opinions expressed locally.  Comments were invited by 3rd December 1999.  

On 14th December, the Radio Authority announced, as is usually the case, that the acquisition could be not expected to operate against the public interest.  The positive reaction from the RA was dependent on TWG agreeing to adhere to the requirements for local focus in the programme formats of the stations it was taking control of, and, in particular, to ensure that Lite AM was a "quality listening service".  TWG accepted these and other requirements regarding the acquisition and took control for 21.5m in cash through it's subsidiary The Radio Partnership Ltd, itself acquired by TWG earlier in 1999.  

In it's time, Dave Cash was responsible for a considerable relaunch of the station.  

January 2000 saw TWG rename Signal FM (Stockport) as Imagine FM, Bradford's Classic Gold as West Yorkshire's BIG AM - and shortly afterwards, TWG, rolling out their 'oldies' brand, re-named Lite AM as 1458 BIG AM on 2nd May 2000.  The Big brand also operated in Cheshire, Staffordshire and West Yorkshire at the time of Lite's relaunch.  In November 2000's RAJAR audience figures, things didn't go well for the BIG stations, with, for relevance here, Big 1458 AM Manchester dropping 43% in reach.  By May 2001, the station's licence was renewed by the Radio Authority under 1996 Legislation inserted into the 1990 Broadcasting Act which states that a local licence holder is entitled to apply for an automatic renewal of it's licence, in the event that it is providing (or is committed to provide) a programme service on a 'relevant' digital radio multiplex.

The BIG AM licence indicates a 24 hours a day service, of which at least four hours must be locally produced and presented.  The character of the service showed as 'an adult orientated rock and quality easy listening station aimed primarily at over 35s in the Manchester area.'  Very much a music led station, it's licence also referred to a base of information, sport, what's on and leisure features of interest to the target audience.  Musically, tracks from the last 15 years were no more than 50% of the output.  During non-locally produced & presented programming, the licence stipulated that there must be a thorough service of local info, features, entertainment, what's on and similar strands.  News content throughout airtime was required to be local during peaktime, national news at other times.  The licence also allows for clearly defined theme days, focusing on a particular genre or era, and the inclusion of specialist programming in off-peak hours.   

In February 2002, Big AM, in both it's analogue and digital form, was bought from owners The Wireless Group by Capital Radio for just 250,000 in cash  - on announcing the acquisition, Capital, unsurprisingly announced that the station would be renamed Capital Gold.  The acquisition took Capital Gold's potential audience from 15.8m to 18.1m adults across the UK.    TWG transferred the ownership of Big AM's licence from 1458 Big AM Ltd,  to a new company which had no other assets or liabilities. In the financial year ending 31st December 2001, 1458 Big AM Ltd reported losses of 460,000.  Could it be that the roll-out of the BIG brand was an bold but unsuccessful attempt to compete against Capital Gold and Classic Gold?  We may never know!

In the RAJAR-Ipsos RSL Wave 1 for 2003, audience figures showed how the Capital Gold network had maintained it's reach and share overall for the previous two years.  The station was repositioned to lose the 1950s tracks and elements of the 60s too, to include a broader mix of music from the likes of The Beatles to REM and Oasis, with the aim of appealing to a 35-54 year old target.  David Jensen rejoined the group after a short period away at Heart 106.2 in London, Greg Edwards was also brought in, and the London breakfast show was revamped.  The total reach of the network grew to 1.595m with average listening hours steady at 6.7%.  It was quite a turn around for what was, by then, 1458 Capital Gold Manchester.  The RAJAR figures showed that the station had added 11,000 new listeners, and increased the overall audience to 104,000, breaking through the 100,000 barrier for the first time since the acquisition from TWG in February 2002, when the station's audience figures showed that less than 25,000 listeners were tuning in per week.      www.capitalgold.com 

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GALAXY 102: See SUNSET RADIO / KISS FM below

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KCR FM: Broadcasting on 106.7 from it's Huyton transmitter, the initials stand for Knowsley Community Radio, therefore this is the radio station for Knowsley & East Liverpool, in total an estimated audience of over 150,000 people.  It launched on June 16th 2001 with comedian Ken Dodd as a guest.  The station is independently owned.  It was one of three applicants for the licence - which was put up for grabs on 10th December 1999 and for which applications closed on 28th March 2000.  The other unsuccessful applicants were Radio KFM (The Keylink Trust) and Knowsley FM Ltd.  KCR was declared the winner by the Radio Authority on 8th June 2000 - it had previously campaigned for such a local station for some time and had also carried out eight RSLs to assess and prove it's feasibility.  KCR FM was formed from a group called Radio Briars Hey which first formed in 1992.  The board received the backing of Chrysalis Radio (which added considerable weight to the station's application), local newspaper publisher Regional Independent Media, local MPs and other high profile members of the local community.

On launch, it set out aims to move away from repeating songs over and over during the course of a day.  It referred to stations who worked on a play list of just a few hundred and emphasised that KCR had in excess of 6,000 tracks to play.  

Experienced on a recent trip to the region, KCR was first noticed on the back of local buses run by local company GTL.  KCR stands for Knowsley Community Radio, and KCR is what Community Radio should be.  To the trained ear, this is definitely a station of this format with presenters that talk to you in a friendly, but still radio based voice.  There were definitely some cheesy jingles in there with the presenter I heard playing them in to react to as a 'funny' but this wasn't unpleasant to listen to and rather restored your faith in real local radio run by real people.  Music variety is diverse with the evident versatility to play a wide range of stuff on demand.  Interesting and challenging competitions were heard, and there was an interesting use of IRN.  The local newsreader used the IRN newsreader as a co-host with one story from one and then the other giving a mix of local, national and international news in the usual 2-3 minutes.   Very good signal for what must be a community station.   Heard as far away as the M62 junction with the M6.

With local news, sport, traffic & travel and weather, KCR 106.7 FM is the only FM station in the Northwest playing a wide mix of music from the 1960's right through to the current chart hits. KCR broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from it's purpose built studio complex on the Cables Retail Park in Prescot

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KFM / ECHO 96 / SIGNAL 1 / SIGNAL CHESHIRE / IMAGINE FM: Paul Faulker reports: Stockport was granted its own ILR licence as part of a wave of second generation stations created by the Independent Broadcasting Authority in the late 1980's.  Launching as KFM on 17th February, 1990, the station broadcast to South Manchester on 104.9FM and offered an AC service with an emphasis on local news.  At the same time as KFM gained its licence, Stoke-based Signal Radio acquired two new frequencies - 96.9 for Stafford and 96.4 for North Cheshire. In spite of the geographical disparity between the two coverage areas, they were coupled together to form a new service, Echo 96

In 1992, it was deemed more practical for the the 96.9 frequency to be incorporated into the Signal 1 service, whilst 96.4 was given over to KFM. The extension of KFM's TSA resulted in a name change - 96.4 and 104.9FM became Signal Cheshire. The station still broadcast from Stockport, but now simulcasted Signal 1's overnight programme under the banner of the Signal Night time Network.

Throughout the mid-1990's, the station and format continued unchanged. Then, in 1997, "Cheshire" was dropped from the station name and, although it was offficially named Signal FM (as borne out in the new logo), it was never branded as such on air, where it was simply identified as Signal 104.9/96.4. There was no overt change of format at this time, but an increase in currents and recurrents saw the station inching towards CHR.

Signal FM was acquired by The Wireless Group in late 1999, as a part of a buyout of former parent company, The Radio Partnership. At the start of 2000, the station was re-branded (again!) as Imagine FM and now fell under the overall supervision of John Evington who became Group Programme Director for Imagine and the other North West services newly acquired by TWG, Wire FM and Wish FM.

In 2001, as part of its licence renewal, Imagine opted to focus on a slightly older demographic, reverting to a Hot AC format.  Moreover, the playlist became not only varied, with 1970's/1980's/1990's/currents, but also unpredictable - chart success was not a consideration in the scheduling of songs and this resulted in an exciting selection of new and old material. In addition, there was increased investment in news, with the introduction of extended breakfast, lunchtime, early evening and late night bulletins, containing in-depth local/regional reports coupled with IRN packages.  Meanwhile, the station continued to boast full match commenatry for all Stockport County games. 

Unfortunately for Cheshire listeners, they were only able to enjoy this rejuvenated service for a short time. The 96.4 frequency was inexplicably handed back to fellow TWG station, Signal 1, as of 7th January, 2002.  However, 104.9FM continued to broadcast an outstanding service which blossomed under the supervision of Programme Controller Graham Hall, who brought an overall cohesion to the station sound.  In addition, Imagine was broadcasting live output for an impressive eighteen hours per day.

Sadly, at the end of 2002, TWG seized upon supposedly disappointing RAJAR figures (conveniently discounting the self-inflicted loss of listeners to Signal 1 and the general competitiveness of the Manchester market) to justify massive cutbacks.  Several well-established and talented presenters (including PC, Graham Hall and Martin Emery) exited the station and automation invaded the evening output.  As of December 2002, there are only two mainstay presenters covering daytime during the week, with five hour breakfast and drivetime shows. Also, local weekend news was abolished, but, fortunately, the extended weekday bulletins remain. 

In spite of the presentation cutbacks, Imagine remains a fantastic listen and, in my opinion, is the best caterer for the tastes of the 21-44 demographic in the North West. News Editor Ashley Byrne is now also Programme Manager and has the unenviable job of trying to run the station on a limited budget. It's just a shame that TWG have systematically failed to acknowledge the quality of Imagine FM's output and its potential for the future.

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For LITE AM, see FORTUNE 1458 / LITE AM / BIG AM / Capital Gold (Manchester) profile above.

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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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RED ROSE RADIO / RED ROSE GOLD / RED ROSE ROCK FM / 97.4 ROCK FM, part of EMAP Performance Group, this station started as Red Rose Radio 301, (999khz) on 5th October 1982.  It covers Preston, Blackpool, Blackburn, Wigan and Southport, and launched again as Rock-FM in June 1990 under EMAP's tenure when the Red Rose Gold name was lost and MAGIC 999 was rolled out locally.   Previously, as with most stations, it simulcast on AM and FM and was part of Owen Oyston's empire before personal difficulties forced him into abandoning it.  It was nevertheless Mr. Oyston that launched the station from studios in a converted church in Preston.  The dropping of the Red Rose moniker didn't go down too well with the members of the public, but as with many other stations up and down the country, the listeners don't have a say in it and are just the ears not the mouth of the station.  

Notable shows from the Red Rose era include Dave Lincoln's Morning Market, Sally Moon on afternoons, Allan Beswick's phone in (he once received an IBA suspension for being overly abusive to a caller and left shortly after returning!) and an evening shift including the likes of Derek Webster, Jerry Rowlands, Ian Calvert and Andy Brittain.  A great deal of praise was bestowed on Red Rose Radio by the Radio Authority's predecessor, the IBA regarding their coverage of the local Abbeystead disaster, which read 'A tragedy of this nature stretches a radio station`s resources. It would seem that through this tragedy that Red Rose Radio has been drawn even closer to the community which it serves so well.'

Amongst it's accolades, it's won the CRCA/NTL Awards 2001, the internal EMAP Brilliant Programming Award at EMAPS 2000 and it was a finalist in the New York Festivals for Best Station Produced Radio Commercials.  

Red Rose Radio fans may be interested in this nostalgia site: www.coppullcollectables.com which features classic station jingles and presenter profiles.  

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96.2 THE REVOLUTION offers a full service of a variety of adult contemporary music for Oldham, Rochdale & Tameside.  It commenced broadcasting 30th August 1999.  It is part of the UKRD Group which is based at Dolphin House in North Street, Guildford, Surrey.  In September 1998 Oldham FM was awarded a licence to cover Oldham and the area to the north east of Greater Manchester. UKRD is the joint largest shareholder (45%) alongside the Oldham Evening Chronicle. The radio station's on air name is 96.2 The Revolution.  Local news is broadcast hourly from 6:00am to 7:00pm throughout the week.  Peak time programming also includes a 20:20 format and there's also a fifteen minute news programme 'Live At Six' also.  

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SUNSET RADIO: Manchester's first dance music station went into liquidation in October 1993.   In May of that year, the Radio Authority took the decision to terminate Sunset's licence early, accusing the station of providing inaccurate information about its financial and management affairs.   It is also reported that NTL withdrew transmission facilities in 1993, thus silencing the station, because Sunset hadn't paid them.  Whilst the station did later return to the air, the liquidators were called in and Sunset's frequency later finally fell silent.   The liquidator then unsuccessfully reapplied on behalf of Sunset Radio for its re-advertised licence. 

KISS 102: (Thanks go to former Head of Music and Mid-morning presenter (94-97) David Dunne for giving further and corrective information on Kiss FM).  Faze FM won the re-advertised licence for the City of Manchester.   Again, a dance music format was transmitted, under the name of KISS FM, having licenced the name from the London station, Kiss 100FM.  The station launched as Kiss 102 on October 16th 1994 and stayed on-air through until late 1997.  Here, it was acquired by Chrysalis Radio, who went on to win the West Yorkshire regional licence as Kiss 105 from February 14th 1997.   Both Kiss stations were sold for 17m in the September.  Chrysalis re-launched it as part of the successful Galaxy network.  In it's time, Kiss 102 attained a 14% reach with very small marketing budgets and effectively proved to the radio industry that dance music formats could work outside of London - it's influence was considerable.  

GALAXY 102 continues to provide the now familiar dance service as rolled out under similar branding elsewhere.  This North-West station broadcasts from studios on the 5th Floor of The Triangle in the Hanging Ditch area of Manchester.  www.galaxy102.co.uk 

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TOWER FM: On 16th January 1998, the Radio Authority invited applications for a series of radio licences across the North West.  One of them for was a new station to cover Bolton and Bury.  By the closing date of 12 May 1998, three applications were submitted for this area.  BFM, Tower FM & Variety FM.  Variety FM is the application name used by Guardian Media Group - successful applications by GMG have usually resulted in the name Real Radio upon launch.  The Radio Authority considered that the Tower FM bid included a solid, dedicated team combining considerable local RSL experience with the professional backing of an existing radio operator, The Radio Partnership.  The board included a combination of both members of the local business community and individuals with relevant radio backgrounds. Overall, the RA said, the applicant presented a sound business proposition involving investors who brought a high level of experience gained within similar markets, thereby providing credibility to the group's financial assumptions.  The licence application proposed a target audience of 25-54 year olds and a mix of music from (then) the 60s to the 90s along with local speech elements.  Amongst speech content proposed, there was the usual elements of news, weather, travel and what's on information along with competitions, financial news, a crime feature, jobs information and studio guests - features the RA felt would meet the needs of listeners.  
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In addition, the application team had carried out significant research which showed a clear demand for a music service covering the decades proposed - there was considerable support for the Tower bid, and the station had also carried out high levels of publicity for the bid and trial broadcasting periods.  These were staged from 6th August to 2nd September 1995 and 1st-28th December 1996.

After having had the licence offered to them in September 1998 by The Radio Authority, Bolton & Bury got their own radio station on 20th March 1999 - Tower FM.  Sbs, broadcast transmission specialists, commissioned the broadcast facility just eight days prior to launch, having been awarded the contract in the previous January.  The team behind the winning licence application were The Radio Partnership - John Josephs, Eric Lawrence and Maurice Dobson.  The Radio Partnership was formed by the ex-Metro Radio Group men after EMAP took control of Metro for 99m in 1995.  They sold The Radio Partnership to The Wireless Group for 47m in July 1999.  It was these three individuals that went on to form Forever Broadcasting.  In July 2000, after just 15 months on-air, Forever acquired Tower FM for a figure around 3.5m.  At the time of purchase, Tower FM was reaching 13% of a possible 311,000 listeners.  TWG exchanged it's 42% stake in the station for almost 18% of shares in Forever, which then went on to prepare for floating on the Alternative Investment Market to raise additional funds.  As part of the deal, TWG's sales arm, 'Impact' sell airtime for Forever stations.  

Forever Broadcasting was formed in September 1999 and made its first acquisition in November of that year when it bought Crash 107.6 FM in Liverpool for 2 million. The station was subsequently re-launched as Juice 107.6 FM in March 2000

Tower FM broadcasts on 107.4 from studios at The Mill, Brownlow Way in Bolton with Forever's familiar tag line of 'The Fifty / Fifty Music Mix of Yesterday and Today'.  The station has been quoted by one person on the 'net as 'Not your usual tired out Radio 1 clone, this station plays a genuine mix of hits from the 70's to today's chart.'

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RADIO WAVE / THE WAVE 96.5: When it launched in 25th May 1992, it was known as 'Blackpool's Tower of Power' as Radio Wave.  2003 audience figures put listenership at 110, 000 people a week, with each person tuning in for an average of 11.2 hours a week - this, the station says, makes Radio Wave the area's most listened to Radio Station.  It's broadcast area in essence, spans the entire coastline which juts out of Lancashire into the Irish sea from Fleetwood in the North to Lytham & St. Annes in the South.  It can also be heard in land as far as Garstang and Preston.  To celebrate it's 10th birthday in 2002, the station presented a cheque to the MacMillan Cancer Windmill Appeal in Blackpool for 96,500.  The station is now owned by The Wireless Group and follows their own Wave station branding, broadcasting from studios at 965 Mowbray Drive in Blackpool with a service of contemporary and classic hits and local news & information.    www.wave965.com 

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Paul Faulker reports: 107.2 WIRE FM launched in September 1998 as one of the Radio Authority's Small-Scale Alternative Location Licences (Sallies).  The station's parent company, the Independent Radio Group, opted to be based in Warrington and also serve the neighbouring towns of Widnes and Runcorn.  RSL's run by some of Wire's launch team had been operational in Warrington since the start of the decade.

Wire FM began broadcasting at 8.00a.m. on 1st September, 1998; the first song played was Lisa Stansfield's, "The Real Thing". The initial format was Hot AC, with a good balance of 1980's and 1990's material, plus specialist soul and country shows. In addition, the station provided a fifteen minute weekday news programme, "The Wire Tonight", at 6.00p.m..

During 1999, Wire FM followed a path well worn by similar sallies both before and since - in an attempt to compete with other FM services in neighbouring big cities, the station moved closer to a CHR format, with an increase in the number of currents and recurrents on the playlist. Also, evening and overnight broadcasts became automated.

Wire FM was acquired by The Wireless Group (appropriate!) in late 1999, after the Independent Radio Group was bought out.  This brought little on-air change, but did result in the departure of Programme Director and presenter, Jeff Graham, and the introduction of John Evington as Group PD for IRG's two former North West sallies (Wire FM and Wish FM), plus Imagine FM. In early 2000, "The Wire Tonight" dispappeared, but the station reaffirmed its commitment to coverage of the local rugby league teams.

Today, Wire boasts a healthy set of RAJAR figures and, with a decent playlist and some consistency in the line-up, and is a very listenable station. The only remaining member of the launch team is Pete Pinnington, who has presented almost every show during the station's short history.  The current Programme Controller is Gary Burgess.

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102.4 WISH FM provides a mix of adult appeal music plus local news and information to Wigan and St. Helens and surrounding area from it's studios at Orrell Lodge, Orrell Road, Orrell in Wigan.  It came to air quite recently on 1st April 1997. It is owned and operated by The Wireless Group.  The owning company have headquarters at 18 Hatfields, London.

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COMMERCIAL: REGIONAL:

BOSS FM / CENTURY FM / CENTURY 105 / 105.4 CENTURY FM: In 1997, the Radio Authority advertised a new regional Independent Local Radio (ILR) licence for the North West of England to cover most parts of Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and south-central Lancashire.  By the closing date of 19th August 1997, a staggering 21 applications had been received for the FM licence to serve around 4.3m adults.  Due to the nature of some of the applications, i.e. from groups including backing from a newspaper or a group which already owned other local station, the RA would be required to carry out public interest tests.  The bidders were:

105.4 ACE FM (CAPITAL RADIO NORTH WEST LTD.) - Capital Radio plc; an entirely new programming format, 'rock contemporary' ('RC'), which is rock music designed for a core audience of 30-39 year-old adults, offering a unique mix of rock styles and contemporary music with stylish presentation.

ACTION 105 (RADIO ACTION LTD); classic and adult oriented rock music, with sports news and features, health and leisure;

ARENA 105.4 LTD; a full service adult music and speech radio station broadcasting primarily to the 25-44 year-old market with a blend of adult contemporary music hits from 1970 to date, with a quality speech content reflecting the interests and tastes of North Westerners.

ASIAN SOUND FM LTD. - Asian Sound Radio; a colourful and professional service of music, entertainment, news, information and sport for the Asian population of the North-West;

BOSS FM LTD. - Border Television; 24-hour regional news, listener-friendly talk and melodic adult contemporary music for a 25-54 audience;

THE BRIDGE (MISSIONRANGE LTD.); a 24-hour service of contemporary Christian music and other types of music, with testimonies, interviews, etc. to Christians and non-Christians in the North West, backed by legendary broadcaster Mike Shaft;

105.4 EASY FM LTD; a high quality mix of easy listening and soft adult contemporary music coupled with North West specific speech items offering a much-needed service to the region's 40-64 year-olds;

HEART 105.4 (CHRYSALIS RADIO NORTH WEST LTD.); an entertaining music-based station, playing a mix of melodic songs from the 80s and 90s, together with the news and information that matters to its target audience of 25-39 year-olds across the North-West;

KLCX LTD; a music format of classic album rock, unique to the North-West and the UK, playing rock album music which has not been released in a 'single' format. KLCX will also broadcast contemporary album rock. Speech content will include a dedicated regional news and sport service, and regular rock music information, lifestyle features and social action advice. The target audience range will be broad, from ages 16 to 54;

LIVE 105 (REGIONAL RADIO NORTH WEST LTD.); a music and personality led adult contemporary station aimed at the 25-44 adult audience and designed to provide a cohesive and relevant service reflecting the tastes and interests of North West residents as a whole;

MORE 105.4 FM LTD; a modern adult contemporary music service with information, entertainment, lifestyle and community oriented features, designed to appeal to 25-44 year-old listeners in the North-West;

NEW ROCK RADIO LTD. (FM 105); an alternative station for young adults mixing classic and modern rock with news, information, humour, and concise features;

NOMAD 105.4 LTD; a new music format targeted at the 15-29 year-old market in the North West, incorporating a quantity of innovative speech elements alongside carefully selected music tracks taken from both established and developing artists;

NORTH WEST NEWS RADIO LTD; the first commercial 24-hour news and newstalk station for the North West, providing a mix of regional, national and international news, travel, finance, sports, entertainment and weather;

NORTH WEST ONE (NORTH WEST 105.4 FM LTD.) Granada Television; a carefully produced service of high quality music appealing to a mature audience, offering substantial news and information content, features and lively phone-ins, all presented with pace and flair and designed to fill a substantial gap in ILR provision in the region;

NRJ NORTH WEST (STORM MEDIA LTD.); a specialist radio station which will be a focus for alternative rock music culture in the North-West, targeting the socially active 15-24 year-old listener and attracting significant interest from a like-minded 25-34 age range;

NWBC (NORTH WEST BROADCASTING CO. LTD.); a station with a social conscience that will provide a mixed music and speech based programme format to generate pace and excitement into a bright, lively and informative service, aimed mainly, but not exclusively, at the 35+ age group in the North West region;

ROUTE 105 LTD; a 24-hour radio station playing today's country music complemented by a robust regional news service, unique pro-active weather and travel information and live music performance;

SAGA RADIO LTD; a high quality service of music and speech, planned to meet the needs of and respond to the interests of people of the North West, with particular emphasis on interests of listeners aged 45 and over;

VIRUS RADIO LTD; a totally new and format-breaking radio service mainly appealing to young people, and featuring the best of new music well before it becomes available to the rest of the world, led by pop-producer Pete Waterman;

XL RADIO LTD; a sport and music format with a comprehensive view of all sporting activity in the region and music from established artists and new talent, with particular reference to the melody and lyrical content selected from the wide range of music currently not played on existing services.

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  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.

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:  

Paul Faulker reports: RADIO BROADGREEN (Hospital radio, South Liverpool).  Radio Broadgreen is a self-contained service for the patients of Broadgreen Hospital in South Liverpool and the North West Cardiothoracic Centre, located on the same site.  The station began broadcasting in its current guise in 1983, rising from the ashes of the service for the now defunct Newsham Hospital, which had been on-air since 1975.

In the mid-1990's, the Radio Broadgreen moved to a converted caretaking building, Warmington Lodge, at the Broadgreen complex.  Its programming is made up of standard hospital radio fayre, with gold and specialist music shows accounting for much of the output.  Patient involvement is encouraged via ward visitors taking requests and the staff-nominated Patient Of The Week award.

From 2000, the station began broadcasting round the clock, thanks to the introduction of a basic automated playout system.  However, a lack of functioning headsets on the wards is amongst a number of technical problems which have dogged Radio Broadgreen over recent years.

Like most hospital stations, Radio Broadgreen is self-financing. Its funds are generated by advertisements placed by local businesses (recorded in the station's second studio), the annual Christmas Raffle and roadshow held at nearby Belle Vale Shopping Centre and, to a lesser extent, the fundraising activities of Hospital Radio Week. 

Over recent years, it has been mooted that Radio Broadgreen may apply for a low-powered AM licence, but this has yet to come to fruition. 

RSL:

BLACKBURN: THE BEE is a trial service to test the viability of a commercial radio station serving the Blackburn area.  As well as programme and transmission tests, the station management monitor the demand for a new advertising medium for the area.  Broadcasts stem from Glenfield Park Business Centre in Blackburn using 106FM and a separate transmitter site with Blackburn and Darwen.  Music format is from the sixties to today's chart hits.  The station promotes itself through leaflets, posters, banners, it's website and roadshows around the area.  The station uses a Ford KA done up in yellow & black, known as the Bee-Ka.  The last trial broadcast started 10th June and ended 7th July 2002.  

ROCHDALE: BIRCH RADIO: Birch Radio is a hospital radio broadcaster, and started broadcasting in 1978.  It now broadcasts 24 hours a day to the Birch Hill Hospital, Rochdale Infimary and Springhill Hospice.  The station first appeared on the outer airwaves in 1992 when it operated on a seven day licence using 1602AM.  The rest of the broadcasts to date have been on FM.  The 2003 broadcast celebrated the 25th anniversary of the station.  No major radio group takes any part in the station, although they can claim the involvement of some pro-radio broadcasters namely 2BR's Tony Nixon, ex-8-Towns Hospital Radio and 96.2 The Revolution's Andy Hoyle, and GMR's Richard Chadwick.  The station provides a mix of news, sport, local chat and music from the 60s to the present day.  The output also includes Dance, Country, Soul and Jazz specialist programming with other programmes featuring input from community groups, local politicians and celebrities and voluntary groups who all promote their work around the region.  Local hotelier have been providing support for the RSL broadcasts.  The station is managed by Bob Chadwick and makes only occasional appearances on the external airwaves.  Birch Radio was last on the air back in 1999.  It's 2003 broadcast was intended to celebrate the station's birthday and also to form the basis to lobby the broadcast authorities to advertise a full-time licence for Rochdale and the surrounding areas.  It operates on 106.4FM and via the station's website at www.birchradio.co.uk.  As long as sponsorship is available, they plan to continue to internet feed of the hospital based service.  

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