Aircheck UK - Oxfordshire

UPDATED: 18/09/2003

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BBC RADIO OXFORD: BBC Local Radio first came to the county on 29th October 1970.  Little can be traced on the actual station history, however, the first presenter on-air was Mike Dickin, and Bill Rennells was also one of the founder members of staff, before moving on to Radio 2 in 1978.  There was a considerable re-launch of the station from Valentine's Day, February 14th 2000.  The station broadcasts on 95.2FM only.  There is also known to have been a Henley-On-Thames transmitter on 94.6, but this is not believed to be in service now.  BBC Radio Oxford broadcasts from the BBC Oxford Centre at 269 Banbury Road.  Other well known names to have worked at this BBC station include voice-over artist Mike Carson and 'Whispering' Bob 


BBC THAMES VALLEY FM / BBC THAMES VALLEY: Launched as a new service on 9th April 1996 during a series of cutbacks where some single BBC stations were merged - in this case, BBC Radio Oxford and BBC Radio Berkshire were merged.  This particular BBC station had quite a lively music policy in it's time, making it stand out in the reputation world of BBC local radio.  The 'FM' monier was dropped in September 1998.  The merger lasted until 13th February 2000 when the status quo was returned and the two BBC stations were de-merged once more.  BBC Thames Valley presenters include Martin Kelner, Phil Kennedy and Bob Harris.


FOX FM: Serving Oxfordshire and West Buckinghamshire, this is arguably not the kind of station that really fits in with Capital Radio's 'Capital Cities' portfolio of stations, but they own and operate it nevertheless.  It came to life as long ago as 15th September 1989, but it was not under Capital's tenure at this point. They purchased the station in 1996.   Famed for it's familiar logo, albeit in Capital Radio style, with the cartoon fox whose tail forms the tuning meter on the dial, it operates on two frequencies for 15-44 year olds: 97.4 for Banbury & it's original frequency of 102.6FM for Oxford from studios at Brush House, Pony Road in Oxford.  The station name stems from it's former owners 'First Oxfordshire Radio Co Ltd'.


MIX 96 is the Buckinghamshire town of Aylesbury's commercial radio station.  It started broadcasting on 96.2FM on 15th April 1994 from studios at Friars Square 11 Bourbon Street in Aylesbury.  It won the licence under the application title of Mix 96 (Bucks Broadcasting Limited) and was re-awarded it's licence under the Radio Authority's fast-track procedures in November 2000, to run from 15th April 2002.  First Oxfordshire Radio Company (Fox-FM) owned 64% of Bucks Broadcasting, and Bucks held 32% of Hastings station Arrow FM, 30% of Wolverhampton's The Wolf, 38.3% of Staffordshire's Centre-FM and 30% of Stratford's The Bear.  When Capital Radio plc purchased First Oxfordshire Radio, it took on Mix 96 which by April 2000, it fully owned.  However in March 2001, Capital disposed of the station to Radio Investments Ltd.

The station can be heard by a potential audience of 130,000 adults aged 15-55 across Buckinghamshire, and parts of Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire. The station primarily plays a general mix of music to cater for a wide audience.  RAJAR 2001 figures showed that of those 130,000 people, 45,700 or 35% of it's intended audience were listening for around 9.5 hours per week.  


OXYGEN 107.9 / FUSION 107.9 / PASSION 107.9: The tale of Oxygen, a predominantly student orientated radio station for Oxford, is indeed, a sorry one.  The first fully licenced student run station in the UK launched at 1:07:09pm February 14th 1997 with chart band Reef helping the launch from the Westgate Centre studios.  Three years of work had been put into the station by founders Philip Weiss (later Station Director) and Nick Molden after it was founded in January 1994.  It's first visit to the airwaves came under the terms of a Restricted Service Licence in November 1995, which was followed, after it's application, by a RA licence award, despite two other rival bidders being in the process.  The station was mostly owned by the local Student Radio Trading, a registered charity, with the remaining portion being held by The Local Radio Company (TLRC)

The first piece of drama to hit the station came on 8th March 1999 when the station told listeners the wrong date for the whole day, telling the audience it was infact a week earlier.  Although there were no intentions to confuse the listeners, conclusions were drawn that efforts were being made to flummox the Radio Authority - they'd received complaints that the station wasn't complying with the terms of it's licence - so they requested a tape of the station's March 1st output.  As all stations must keep recordings of output for up to 42 days after transmission, this wasn't deemed likely to cause problems - but the station, which went on to have new management after the turmoil, couldn't supply the tape.  So, they recorded the 8th March output with the wrong date.   The RA then asked for a tape of the 8th March output, but the station sent in the output from 15th March labelled incorrectly.  A 20,000 fine was imposed by the Radio Authority, who also docked two years from the licence term.    Senior management were unaware of the scheme, hence the new management who took control of the output.  

Oxygen FM ceased transmissions on October 1st 2000.  But this didn't stop the Radio Authority from imposing a 1,000 fine on the station on 5th October 2000, for over-deviation of their signal.  Checks made earlier in the year on July 26th, showed the breach of the Authority's Engineering code.  Such breaches are stated to have a strong risk of interfering with air navigation, and despite the sub-contracting of broadcast transmission equipment, such breaches remain the responsibility of the licensee.  It could've been worse - the licence could have been shortened or revoked.  On November 17th 2000, Fusion Radio Holdings acquired Oxygen FM Limited and just three days later Fusion 107.9 FM was launched.  UKRD sold their share (as previously acquired from Dawe Media) of the station to Fusion at the same time.  FUSION 107.9's licence attracted some competition following the Radio Authority's re-advertisement of their licence in October 2001.  They proposed to continue playing new and cutting edge urban, dance, alternative and credible chart music.  A new applicant, Blue FM offered competition with a plan to draw further on an archive of music from the past forty years and More FM (backed by Chrysalis Radio and local media group Newsquest) planned to target a distinctly adult audience - therefore to be seen as a widening of choice as opposed to Fox FM.  Meanwhile, Fusion fought against direct competition from Juice 107.9, who were targeting the 15-34 year old market with speech, R&B, hip-hop & dance music in line with other stations with the same name in Liverpool and Brighton. Despite the competition, Fusion 107.9's licence was renewed from Valentine's Day 2003.  All's well that ends well then!

The most recent change to this station came in from 14th April 2003 - when the Radio Authority granted permission for the station to change it's name to Passion 107.9.  This name change co-incided with the planned acquisition of Fusion Radio Holdings by the Milestone Group.  The acquisition gives Milestone control in Fusion 107.3 (Lewisham, London), 107.6 Kestrel FM (Basingstoke),  Kick FM (Newbury), Passion 107.9 (Oxford), 107.1 Rugby FM (Rugby), 106.8 Time FM (Thamesmead, London) and Reading 107 (Reading).  


100.7 HEART FM: One of the first regional radio stations, and the first for the West Midlands, appearing on air 6th September 1994, and launched by Nick Wright.  Studios are based at 1 The Square, 111 Broad Street in the centre of Birmingham.  The station is licenced to cover Warwickshire & the West Midlands which contains a potential audience of 3.4million people.  The station has over 90,000 adults listening per week and targets the 25-44 year old age group.  

One of the 'bug-bares' quoted by radio listeners is the commercials - however, Heart-FM never play more than four ads in a break and never more than 16 per hour.  As you would expect, the station takes revenue from various methods of commercial opportunities - sponsorship of features or events, tailor made promotions, and opportunities to advertise on the station's website or via SMS text messaging to mobile phones.  

Heart-FM's signal needs to be strong to cover it's intended area, however, counties lying outside the broadcast radius hoard loyal listeners who have found the station provides a better alternative to the local ILR or BBC station.  It has even featured advertising for a furniture store which, in it's commercial, credits it's branch at the Kingsway Retail Park, just off the A38 in Derby.  Since it launched, several presenters have moved over from BRMB as they 'outgrew' it to move the regional station - for example, ex-Piccadilly Radio's Carl Emms (Carlos) & Paul Bryant.  Another presenter to have appeared briefly is ex-Trent & Century 106 presenter Colin Woolley.  

It has to be said that Heart is radically different now to how it sounded back in 1994.  It launched with a strapline 'Radio across Warwickshire & the West Midlands just got 100.7 degrees cooler...' and the station was very laid back.  Nowadays it is more likely to feature more pop-dance material and numerous artists that wouldn't have been considered back in 1994.  It is owned and operated in conjunction with it's London sister station Heart 106.2 by the Chrysalis Radio Group, who also own the Galaxy regional radio brand.  

The station's 8-year initial licence was renewed by the Radio Authority in August 2001.  This was because Chrysalis Radio are set as a provider of a digital sound programme service on the West Midlands regional multiplex.  A little known fact is that it shares the building with three other Chrysalis broadcasters, Galaxy 102.2, The Arrow and Digital News Network.

There are 6 studios. Studio 1, is the Heart FM on-air studio. The Arrow broadcasts it's digital service from Studio 2. Studio 3 is a production suite. Studio 4 is mainly used for commercial production.  Studio 5 is the Galaxy on-air studio and Studio 6 is the back up studio. There are additional studios for the news team.

The Heart FM play list is formed by a panel of programming staff who listen to all the forthcoming releases. The play list combines both new artists and established acts who are of interest to the over 25s. Eminem won't be heard but other arguable bad boys Robbie Williams and Oasis will! 


SAGA 105.7FM: As with all regional licence applications, the West Midlands 2nd regional licence application process was a busy one.  By the closing date at the end of August 2000, there were 12 applicants in the running.  Having already been operating BIG AM stations, The Wireless Group applied as Big FM, Central Radio was proposed by Forward Media, Jazz FM, Radio Minar, N-Joy Radio, Score Radio / Scottish Radio Group / Lincs FM Group proposed a country station called Route 105, and there were also bids from Spice FM, The Storm (GWR), Today FM, Variety FM (GMG) and Voice FM.  However, the winning applicant was set to provide a service for the over 50s, up until then, largely uncatered for, especially from a musical perspective.  

Having departed the Border Radio East Midlands station of Radio 106 after setting it up and watching it morph into Century 106, ex-Midlands Radio plc boss Ron Coles went to take the helm of SAGA's new radio division - and it was Ron that took them to licence application success.  It launched with the expected appearance of a lot of ex-Radio Trent/GEM presenters - Tony Lyman & Andy Marriott for starters - the latter as the station's head of music  - at 6:00am, on 16th October 2001.  It was the first commercial radio station in the UK to be programmed specifically for people aged 50 and over.  Ex-Trent/GEM presenters were also joined by ex-Radio 1, Radio 2, Capital Gold, Melody Radio etc presenter David Hamilton, who presented breakfast before moving to it's sister station in the East Midlands when it launched in 2002.  SAGA 105.7FM broadcasts from studios on the 3rd Floor of Crown House, Beaufort Court, 123 Hagley Road in Edgbaston, Birmingham, playing easy, melodic music from the past six decades mixed with news and lifestyle oriented speech



ALTERED RADIO launched for the very first time on 87.7 Monday 3rd February 2003 and was put together with a strong team of 60, despite a great deal of animosity which started after the closure of the former Student Radio station Oxygen.  Oxford University supports the station and allows it to broadcast from Student Union offices.  But this wasn't the first application submitted to the Radio Authority.  'Altered Radio - Sound Education' spelt out ARSE - the application was suitably rejected.  The station's playlist is formulated to appeal to a wide audience with The Beatles likely to be heard alongside Nirvana in the daytime whilst the local DJ set appear at night with a wide range of music from different genres including R&B, electronica, funk, jazz & classical.  

The station links up with local charities, committing local students into work within the community.  Amongst the charities promoted are KEEN, RAG and the Oxford Gatehouse.  Competitions are run to raise money.  During broadcasting there are twice weekly news and sports show and documentaries presented by experienced journalists who were nominated for a Student Radio Award.  Local bands also get a look in.  

IMPACTLIVE: The first RSL for this Banbury based station ended on June 27th 2003 having been on-air for 28 days on 106.4FM.  Managed by Alex Kerr, the station, which also airs on the 'net' is located within the Colin Sanders Innovation Centre.  It was created to give members of the community the chance to work on radio, with management acknowledging the difficulties in getting the proverbial foot in the door, as well as serving the non-radio element of the community as well.  

Banbury is, despite the unlikelihood of the RA dealing with it, on the Working List for a new radio licence - to promote this fact, ImpactLIVE went out into the community, broadcasting from local events and carnivals.  As with a lot of radio groups, the station experienced not one piece of local press coverage, before, during or after the broadcast.  Local businesses offered significant levels of support for the station, both on-line and on-air with the public showing support through over 10,000 letters.  The station operates under it's off-air name Banbury Radio Group - as of the Summer of 2003, they were conducting talks with an internationally known company, based locally, with a view to obtaining funding for it's second broadcast for October or November 2003, with a further view towards the full time licence when and if available.  

When not occupying analogue frequencies, they can also be heard on line at through Real Player, although a Windows Media option is also planned. 

Banbury Radio Group made a fairly reasonable noise in Oxfordshire in September 2003, regarding their aims to broadcast a service locally.  And when they say locally, they really do mean it.  Having operated a trial service ImpactLive in June 2003, from studios in Banbury's Innovation Centre, BRG made it clear that all presenters and producers were from Banbury, and no person was from outside the North of the county - in other words - they were 100% LOCAL!   (Can't think who they might be taking a swipe at!  Ed)

By February 2004, the area will have it's own local radio station, and, in emphasising it's localness, BRG say they will remain in Banbury, and will not be travelling around the country setting up what they call 'so called 'local stations'.  They will provide a station just for the Banbury area, supplying training for any member of the community on working in radio, and there will also be more ethnic minority programmes, community-orientated shows, and the usual mix of news, weather and live traffic reports, as well as outside broadcasts.

BRG are looking for financial backing, owing to the nature of their community group status, but this they feel, will ensure that the station is run and presented by local people, i.e. those who live and work locally, and not by people who offer it to a chosen section of people.


OXYGEN 107.9: See above.  



THE FUTURE: On 30th January 2003, the Radio Authority advertised a new 8-year regional independent local radio licence on the FM band for the West Midlands, to serve around 2.3 million adults in the main conurbations of Birmingham, Wolverhampton and surrounding areas, and parts of Warwickshire & Staffordshire.  This will be the third regional station after 100.7 Heart FM & SAGA 105.7FM.  (See above)  The RA is looking to broaden listener choice in the area, further than has already been done, and are looking to applicants to prove why their services should most suitably do that.  Each applicant was required to pay a non-refundable fee of 12,000 in order to apply by the closing date of Tuesday 13th May 2003.  The RA expect to announce a decision in the Autumn and will then expect the winner to begin operating as quickly as possible.  By the closing date, a total of 11 groups had applied for this licence, some competing, others offering a distinctive and original service.  A decision is expected from the Radio Authority later this year (2003)

MEAN COUNTRY 105.2 (Mean Fiddler), operators of Mean Country 1035 in London were previously tabled as a bidder, although the final declaration refers to the 3C brand as detailed above.  No explanation is known for any possible drop out, takeover or change of decision to apply.  

Public interest tests apply.  The 1996 Broadcasting Act stipulates that a company can only own two radio services on the same waveband in an overlapping area if the RA determines that the proposed arrangement could not be expected to operate against the public interest.  Capital Radio plc already operate two other services, 96.4FM BRMB and Capital Gold Birmingham 1152AM, and GWR Group plc already operate Beacon FM for Wolverhampton, Shrewsbury and Telford.  Additionally, GMG own interests in the area and are applying with their Jazz FM format.  

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