Aircheck UK - Northumberland

UPDATED: 15/09/2003

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ENGLAND

BBC LOCAL RADIO

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)

RADIO BORDERS: This station has resisted the FM trend of ditching the word radio, and putting the term 'FM' on the end of it's name - i.e. it hasn't become 'Borders FM'.  Surprising, because it came to air in the heartland of the time when most FM stations were making the change - on this occasion, Radio Borders came on-air on 22nd January 1990.  It was the first commercial radio station of the decade and broadcasts chart and contemporary music, local news and information across the Hadrian's Wall barrier that divides England and Scotland, on four frequencies - 96.8 (Selkirk), 97.5 (Berwick), 103.1 (Peebles) & 103.4FM (Eyemouth) from studios at Tweedside Park in Galashiels.  Whilst appealing to all age groups, it particularly focuses on the 25-54 year olds of the broadcast area.  

The station launched after a frantic bit of engineering work to make sure everything was fully functional - with a 6am start compered by Danny Gallagher - at the time there was some considerable concern for the station's future, as it actually serves a smaller population that any other ILR commercial radio station in the country.  However, careful planning and structuring took control of this concern.  The first reward came in the year after launch when Radio Borders was declared 'Sony Local Station of the Year', it also received another Sony award in 1994.

Also in the station's second year on-air it launched what has turned out to be the station's most popular and longest running on-air quiz - 'The Name Game' began back in 1991 and airs from 2 until 3 each day.  Despite it's twee sounding name, it is infact a station that serves one of, if not the largest mass of land in the British Isles reaching the English coastal town of Berwick Upon Tweed across the border to Peebles-shire.  Amongst on-air features, there's regular coverage of local rugby, regular on-air appearances from the station's Veterinary Surgeon, Solicitor and Tax Advisor - there's also youth programming and the appearance of a station pet!  This being a beaver called Bobby who appears when the station goes out and about.  As you may perhaps expect, being in the North, the weather can get extremely fierce - the station has frequently provided essential travel and weather information when many areas are cut off by heavy snow - whatsmore, it comes across as an integral part of local life - and it's sound has been deeply influenced by it's listeners.  Radio Borders is owned by Scottish Radio Holdings.                                  www.radioborders.co.uk

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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 when it was one of the first ILR Commercial stations to start in the UK.  Originally, it started on 97VHF & 261metres MW 1152khz, 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.  

On April 8th 1989, along with many dual FM/AM broadcasters across the country, Metro relinquished it's AM frequency as Metro Radio Group management rolled out the GOLD station, Great North Radio - which appeared on 1152 on Tyne & Wearside and also on 1170, Radio Tees / TFM's AM frequency for Teeside.  See our other entry on this page for more on Great North Radio.  

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. 

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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!

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COMMERCIAL: REGIONAL

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.

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