Aircheck UK - Shropshire

UPDATED: 03/05/2003

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ENGLAND

BBC LOCAL RADIO: BBC Radio Shropshire began broadcasting on St. George's Day, 23rd April 1985, and is based in studios to the north of Shrewsbury at 2-4 Boscobel Drive.  It launched with a slogan 'Live In '85' aiming to be a lively part of county life, and to unite the people of the county.  It's main transmitter is sited at the top of the Wrekin broadcasting on 96FM with second, low power transmitter on 95FM at Ludlow, which services the town. 

Broadcasting hours run from 6:00am to 1:00am each day - the other five hours are filled with a simulcast of BBC Radio 5 Live.  The station is designed to cover the major centres of Shrewsbury and modern Telford, historic market towns such as Oswestry, Ludlow, Whitchurch and Bridgnorth and along the countryside towards the foothills of the Welsh Mountains.   Shropshire is a rural county with a large amount of farmland, therefore, BBC Radio Shropshire prides itself on it's weather service, particularly forecasting often too regular flooding.  The station weatherman, Paul Damari has built up a large following with regular forecasts on the half hour each day.

Broadcasters of note on this BBC station are Chris Ashley (Mid-mornings 9:00am-Noon) & Krissi Carpenter who appears as part of Networked programming at weekends.  Click the links shown to visit the AIRCHECK Tracker pages about these two presenters.  

BBC Radio Shropshire has had an upgrade in broadcast facilities.  Two new FM transmitters have been put in place to cover the South of the county and the Ludlow area.  Such improvements have enabled nearby sister station BBC Hereford & Worcester to improve their AM service for listeners in the North of the county and the Tenbury area.  Listeners to the station on both FM and AM (738) have had difficulty in tuning in a satisfactory signal in order to listen to important news such as flood information and other emergency news.  From 31st March 2003, 1584 AM now provides an alternative to BBC H&W listeners.  Station engineers advise first listening attempts to be made on 104FM, 104.6FM and 94.6FM, then 738 or 1584 as further options.  

COMMERCIAL:  LOCAL (ILR) 

BEACON 303/BEACON RADIO/BEACON FM: The last station to be awarded a licence to broadcast in the 1970s, this station came on air 12th April 1976 on 303meters Medium Wave 989kHz and 97.2vhf serving Wolverhampton and the Black Country.  The licence was an experiment by the IBA to see how two stations in overlapping transmission areas would operate, BRMB being the neighbouring station in Worcestershire.  Whilst BRMB played UK hits, Beacon took a rather different sound with loads of American tunes.  This is probably due to the fact that the first manager at Beacon was an American, Jay Oliver, along with a Scot, Allen McKenzie.  This sounds odd, until you discover he spent 12 years in Canada.  

The station was renowned for pushing IBA rules - for example, during a heavy fall of snow, summer hits were played with a strapline of '...it may be snowing, but here on Beacon, we're cruising.'  Also, commercial breaks had to be dinstinctly obvious, therefore a second of silence was required before the break went out.  Beacon DJs were heard playing jingles over song intros.  The whole heap of trouble peaked in 1978 - and Beacon's licence was ready to be taken away - when prostitutes and outbursts of swearing went out on-air.  Condoms were given away freely and someone even called a Labour minister recommending that the next party conference be held on Brighton's nudist beach.  Presenters from this time include Mick Wright, George Ferguson, Gavin McCoy, Chris Harper & Munro Jack.

Station managers McKenzie & Oliver left and Clem Jones came into hold the fort.  1979 saw the arrival of Peter Tomlinson as the new MD.  He saved the station's licence by normalising the output and bringing in specialist music programming.  However, the American sound continued.  In 1980, Bob Pierson became Programme Controller, and in 1985 as MD, he oversaw the arrival of Jim Duncan, Gordon Astley, Pete Wagstaff (now at Telford FM) and Tony Paul.  Pete later became PC himself.  

Times were hard in the 1980s and money was short.  The IBA gave permission for stations to take on a separate frequency for a neighbouring area.  Beacon took on 103.1 for Shrewsbury and Telford.  And so the Beacon service for Shropshire started on 14th July 1987.  For ten years, the station took on the strapline 'Latest Hits, Greatest Memories'.   Evening specialist shows were dropped at the end of the 80s with request and chart shows coming in - a format replicated across the country in following years.  The AM frequency carried some specialist shows on the order of the IBA along the 'use it or lose it' policy that affected other stations.  

Presenters included Dale Winton, Will Tudor, Bill Young, Chris Ashley, Tony Paul, Graham Hall, Stephen Rhodes and 'Midnight Line' phone-in with this site's editors namesake, Ian Perry (now news editor at Telford FM)

The 'use it or lose it' rules led to the creation of WABC on the medium wave services.  See below for more details.  Beacon, was sold to GWR in 1993, however, a cunning bit of work at the negotiating table, meant that GWR couldn't take full control for three years - a stay of execution of you like.  Programming ideas were actioned by GWR, but Beacon retained it's jingles and music selection during that intermediate time.  

The end of Beacon 'as it was'  took place when the agreement period expired.  Alan Mullett and Pete Wagstaff left when the men in suits arrived from Bristol.  In 1997, Beacon was relaunched in true GWR clone style, as Beacon FM, 'the better music mix'.  As with other GWR stations, jingles went out, liner cards and voiced IDs came in and a lot of presenters moved to the AM service WABC, possibly to escape the purge. The late night, highly popular phone in was axed and the music mix that GWR are now so well known for, came in.

The revamp was met with a huge protest, in the press, out in public and even vandalism to the building, the latter of which cannot be condoned.  Beacon FM is now just another mark on the GWR chalk board of acquisitions.  Audience figures have fallen for both stations, arguably due to the revamp, but also the increase in competition in the local radio market with smaller scale stations and regionals opening up too.

Beacon FM currently broadcasts from studios at 267 Tettenhall Road in Wolverhampton.

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MARCHER SOUND 95.4 / MFM 103.4: Originally the mothership for what became Marcher Radio Group, Marcher Sound, or, in Welsh Sain-Y-Gororau, licenced by the Radio Authority's predecessor, the IBA (Independent Broadcasting Authority), launched Monday 5th September 1983 at 6:30am for North East Wales, Cheshire & parts of Shropshire, broadcasting on 95.4FM and 238metres 1260kHz MW.   It was launched by Lord Evans, the Chairman of Marcher Sound.  The launch was transmitted using both English and Welsh to 660,000 people - with the strapline '..your station, your sound' - the first track was Cliff Richard's 'Wired For Sound' and a 50 shopping voucher was put up for grabs in the early moments.  

It's present licence as MFM commenced 31st March 1989 serving Wrexham and Chester on 103.4FM.  Frequency changes came about as part of a spectrum audit.  Marcher Radio Group later expanded taking in other Welsh stations Marcher Coast FM, Marcher Gold & Champion 103.  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.  MFM as it became known prior to GWR's takeover, broadcasts from Mold Road, Gwersyllt, just outside Wrexham.  

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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WABC / CLASSIC GOLD WABC: The 'use it or lose it' rules led to the creation of WABC in 1988, Beacon Radio's old AM service.  Radio WABC (Wolverhampton and Black Country) started on 303 MW/990 AM.  If Beacon's American management had their way in the early years, Beacon would have been called WABC, but the IBA said it was too American - but the intentions found their way eventually.   In former years, AM had been used in split programming to transmit football coverage or Asian programming.  WABC was a new radio station broadcasting for as much as 18 hours a day with separate programming.  

And so, on January 15th 1989, Mark Edwards presented the very first WABC Breakfast Show and the new strapline 'Nice and Easy''.  Frank Sinatra's Nice and Easy, therefore a natural first choice.  Where other AM stations focused on the 50's to 70's, Radio WABC took on the sort of format now associated with SAGA - a mix of easy listening tracks and bigg band classics.  A distinctly American style was adopted with presenters often referred to as 'the good guys' who read the temperature out during the weather forecast in 'WABC degrees'.  Syndicated shows aired with Jimmy Savile and David Hamilton - but in complete contrast, even the Network Chart show was aired!   Other local names included ex-Beacon presenters such as Mark Edwards, Dick Fisher, Jim Duncan, Mike Wyer, and the Jazz Show from Tony Richards.  WABC & Beacon came together at night with the local phone-in show with Ian Perry

Radio WABC first transmitted on 303/990 only, but in December 1990, the Shropshire service launched on 295 metres MW, 1017kHz, again with Frank Sinatra's 'Nice & Easy'.  News, travel and commercial programming content was the only differing element.  Two years later, the music policy had evolved to a standard 'GOLD' format, with less big band stuff - the strapline was ditched to be replaced by '..the best mix of golden oldies' to appeal to a more younger audience.  This still included the sort of songs other stations have now forgotten.  Presenters from this era include Dave Myatt, Jim Duncan, Jason King, Mike Wyer and Stephen Rhodes.  

Eighties tunes began to filter in to the playlist and more contemporary current chart hits as time passed by.  And so, to the present day era of Radio WABC.  GWR moved in in 1993, but due to the same agreement negotiated with the Beacon sale, no real harm could be done, nor changes made, for three years from purchase.  

July 1996 saw the 3 years expire and in came the GWR boys - the agreement was not renewed and off went Alan Mullett & Pete Wagstaff.  A restricted playlist of 800 songs was put in place, although the on-air line up stayed in place until 1997 when a quiet relaunch took place as WABC Classic Gold.  The presenter line up evolved to include 

In February 1997 Radio WABC was quietly re-launched as "WABC Classic Gold" with the line "good times, great oldies".  The on air line up was changed to include Stuart Hickman, Mike Baker, Alan Nicklin, Dickie Dodd and Mark Mason, Howard Bentham, Pete Clements and Dave Parkes at weekends.  The station was live and local all day with no networked content.  Some presenters lost their jobs - leading to huge protests outside the studios - one of these was the long serving Jim Duncan, the specialist shows ending with him, and the cancellation of Ian Perry's late night phone-in.  

On April 1st 1998 WABC finally ended when networking took hold for 20 hours a day.  Locally based presenters went out and in came DLT and Paul Burnett - the only local content being for four hours a day.  It does however remain as Classic Gold WABC by name.  

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107.4 TELFORD FM offers local news and information plus adult contemporary hits.  Chrysalis Radio (Heart/Galaxy/LBC) own 25%, Shropshire Newspapers Ltd own 30% with the rest owned by a group of local businessmen in the broadcast area.  It is the only commercial radio station broadcasting from the area throughout the week and it does not carry any networked programming.  

It is individually owned, and came on air 3rd May 1999.  The MD & PD of the station is Mr. Pete Wagstaff, the brother of ex-Radio Trent, RAM-FM & Trent FM presenter/manager Rob Wagstaff.  Pete was also the Programme Controller for Beacon Radio (pre-GWR) for 10 years and was also previously at CENTURY, THE WOLF, CHILTERN & 2KA Sydney Australia.  

Telford FM is Shropshire's 'triple play station'  serving the people and businesses in and around
Telford, Bridgnorth, Newport, Shifnal, Much Wenlock, Albrighton, Broseley, Ironbridge & Wellington - an estimated potential audience of 150,000.  It can also be heard in Shrewsbury, North Shropshire and even as far as Stafford.  Pete Wagstaff presents the mid-morning show 10am-1pm and the station is also the current home to ex-Beacon Radio late night talk show host and namesake of AIRCHECK's editor and other radio presenter, Ian Perry.  Telford FM's Ian is the news editor!  He is also called Pez!

COMMERCIAL:  REGIONAL

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! 

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SAGA 105.7FM: The history of how this station came to air can be traced back to the heady days of the Midlands Radio Group - home of stations such as Radio Trent, GEM-AM, BRMB, XTRA AM, Mercia Sound & Leicester Sound.  At the helm of the Radio Trent stations was a man called Ron Coles.  In 1994, GWR, as part of their mass acquisition of any radio station that moved, took control of Midlands Radio Group.  Through the revolving doors went Ron along with a whole host of other staff, to all points of the radio compass.  Ron wasn't out of things yet.  

On 23rd September 1997, Ron, with the backing of Border Radio Holdings, launched East Midlands regional station Radio 106FM.  This, in time, became Century 106FM, a Border brand, and out went Ron again - to take up the helm of SAGA plc's radio division.  It had already launched Primetime, a digital radio service for the over 50s, but SAGA, owned by the De Haan family,  had other ideas too, and Ron's radio division, set about applying for analogue radio licences across the UK.

In 2000, the Radio Authority advertised a 2nd regional licence for the West Midlands.  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. 

From a total of 12 applications, they awarded the new regional radio licence to Saga Radio.   For years, SAGA had previously tried to get a terrestrial / analogue licence to offer their 'over 50's' service - now, they'd finally done it.  On making the award, the Chair of the RA, Richard Hooper, said that Members of the Authority found deciding on which applicant should be awarded the licence was a challenging decision.

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.  Also on board for the launch, was Peter Tomlinson, Mike Baker, Tony Brandon, Jane Markham, David Yarnall, Mike Hollis, and Jeff Harris.  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.  Les Ross took over from David having left BRMB.  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, and with the now familiar catchphrases of '...your life, your music' and 'From Frank to Hank & Bing to Sting', the station broadcasts on 105.7FM from studios on the 3rd floor of Crown House, Beaufort Court, on the busy Hagley Road in Edgbaston, Birmingham.  The station reached it's first-year audience target in quick time, just nine months - this isn't surprising - as 40% of the area's population is reported to be aged over 50.

HOSPITAL RADIO:  

RSL:

RADIO WHITCHURCH / WHITCHURCH FM / CLOCK FM: It was back in April 1996 that a RSL was operated by Radio Whitchurch to cover a local arts event.  This was the beginning of Community Radio For North Shropshire, which has broadcast regularly every year as Whitchurch FM 106.4.  In 2000, a change of name was made.  Amongst the country's well known clock makers is the Shropshire based firm - Joyce's - established for over two centuries and well known in the Shropshire area - they've supplied the faces and timepieces of clocks around the world.  And so the name Clock FM was established.  The station provides a service for the benefit of local business and the local community.  The area includes a production line for Gingerbread men and Muller yoghurts.  Because of the more suburban nature of the local geographics, the station is able to apply for 25 watts from the Radio Authority.  Having previously used 87.7 & 106.4 for August '01 & March '02 broadcasts respectively, the station has now moved to 105.1.  Twenty people, all volunteers, work for the station, some members of whom have moved onto gain employment in the Radio Industry, including Radio 1 and BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.  Keep tabs on the broadcast dates of this local group via their website at www.clockfm.co.uk

DIGITAL: No details held.

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 will look to applicants to prove why their services should most suitably do that.  Each applicant is required to pay a non-refundable fee of 12,000 in order to apply and must do so by 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.

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