Aircheck UK - Suffolk 

UPDATED: 03/08/2003

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ENGLAND

BBC LOCAL RADIO: BBC Radio Suffolk started transmissions on 12th April 1990. Studios are based at Broadcasting House, St. Matthew's Street, Ipswich.  The station claims to be the most popular local radio service in the county, and can be heard on 103.9, 104.6, 95.9 and it's new transmitter on 95.5 to serve the county's Heritage Coast after a wait of 12 years.  The transmitter is positioned near Aldeburgh to serve Leiston, Halesworth, Walberswick, Southwold, Saxmundham, Snape & Framlingham plus other nearby geographical locations.  

The installation of the new transmission facility was not without problems.  The Netherlands Government objected to the plans on the basis they feared that it would interfere with Dutch stations - there were also some technical difficulties surrounding the new frequency.  However, the all-clear was given after a month's worth of testing.  The new transmitter has helped greatly to expand the potential audience with one Leiston resident previously having to put her radio on top of a wardrobe to pick up the station.  Not anymore!

COMMERCIAL:  LOCAL (ILR) 

AMBER RADIO / CLASSIC GOLD AMBER: On 24th September 1995, at 9:00am, many years later than a lot of other FM/AM simulcasters, East Anglian Radio launched Amber Radio on all local AM licenced networks where SGR (Suffolk) and Radio Broadland (Norfolk), had previously operated dually.  These were 1170kHz in Ipswich, 1251kHz for Bury St Edmunds & 1152kHz for Norwich.   A reference from Steve Whitt at www2.hard-core-dx.com/archive/1995/msg00130.html (Medium Wave News - 25th September 1995) refers to an interesting moment in the early days.  It reports: ....'an interesting programme split was observed around mid-day 24/9/95. Then 1170 and 1251 were in parallel but 1152 was carrying a separate programme. Nothing unusual about that you might say, apart from the fact that it was using exactly the same play list of records presented by a different DJ. Advert breaks and programmes were not synchronised but at times the programming got so close that one could easily think 1152 was in parallel with the other outlets.'

On it's launch, Amber Radio targeted the over 35s with a diet of familiar hits from the 60s and 70s along with more recent AC (Adult Contemporary) chart hits.  For many years, Amber Radio teamed up with it's sister FM stations to run a charity fundraising initiative called 'Operation Santa Clause' which was carried simultaneously by both stations.  

In 1997, GWR were well into their acquisitions, and, after a shareholder (& other interested parties ) battle, East Anglian Radio's four stations fell into GWR control, taking the company close to the maximum ownership levels then of 35 stations.   As part of the terms of the takeover, E.A.R management dictated that the name Amber must be incorporated into the station's future name - quite sensible considering the small amount of time the station had actually been on the air.  This demand was obviously made with the acknowledgement to GWR's rollout of the Classic Gold brand.  And so, Amber Radio became Classic Gold Amber.   And not surprisingly, the name, as with a similar system with East Midlands' GEM, only appears on about four hours of local programming, in news-in jingles and on local content drop-ins.  The rest is nowadays networked using the standard big names of the Classic Gold network.

With the Radio Authority's restrictions on ownership of stations, GWR eventually had to sell off some of, and then all of their Classic Gold stations to UBC.  However, upon the sale, a clause was written into the contract allowing GWR to re-buy a large proportion back, 'when' industry regulations are allowed.  The Classic Gold (Suffolk) network broadcasts on the original frequencies of Amber Radio; 1170AM for Ipswich and 1251 for Bury St. Edmunds - with programmes emanating from studios at the Alpha Business Park, 6-12 White House Road in Ipswich.        www.classicgolddigital.com 

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103.4 THE BEACH came to air 29 September 1996 and is currently part of Tindle Radio Limited.  The station serves Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Waveney, and the East with adult contemporary music, entertainment, local and national news.  The station is based in Lowestoft studios.

It's present licence expires 28th September 2004, but this has not stopped the management of the station from looking at ways of expansion into neighbouring areas.  The coastal town of Great Yarmouth is actually in Norfolk, an area which is served by the once superb and highly locally based station Radio Broadland, now Broadland 102 as acquired with the rest of the East Anglian Radio Group stations and cloned into 'today's better music mix/today's best mix'  in the early 90s.

This has given 'The Beach' management something to sink their teeth into and use 'North Norfolk Radio is Radio for North Norfolk' as a strapline for it's bid for a new North Norfolk licence which was announced by the Radio Authority in November 2002, and for which applications are due by March 4th 2003.  Tindle has been working on it's proposals for a number of years.  Currently called NNR (formed in 2002 to apply for the licence), the MD of The Beach and Director of NNR David Blake feels they can supply something which reflects local life.  

In the preceeding period prior to the RA's announcement of the advertising of a North Norfolk licence, station management have run trial broadcasts from Studios in North Walsham (November 2000) and Holt (June 2001)

(Tindle Radio is the only family-owned radio operator in the UK. It operates six radio stations across the UK. It owns Channel 103, Jersey; Island FM, Guernsey; The Beach; Dream 100, Colchester/Clacton; Dream 107, Chelmsford; Bridge FM, Bridgend; as well as minority stakes in Kick FM, Newbury; and Kestrel FM, Basingstoke.)

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RADIO ORWELL / SGR Ipswich: Launched for Ipswich on 28th October 1975 broadcasting on 97.1FM & 1170AM. Merged with Ipswich commercial station Saxon Radio (97.1) to form SGR.  After a period aboard Radio Caroline (1967-1975), Andy Archer was the drivetime presenter on what was then, one of the first commercial radio stations in the UK - Radio Orwell.  (After a period at commercial stations in Guildford, Exeter, Canterbury and Leicester, Andy later moved to BBC Radio Suffolk in 1996 and BBC Radio Norfolk a year later.)  Also on the team at Radio Orwell was Stephen Foster who worked at the studios of Electric House from 1982 to 1990 when he also joined BBC Radio Suffolk.  Alan West, Guy Hamilton, Greg Bance, Nigel Rennie (1977), Tony Gilham, Charlie Wolf , Dave Luck and Mark West also worked on the station too over it's time on-air.  Notably, Dave Luck joined the station in 1983 to present the mid-morning show leaving Radio West to do so, with much sadness by the Radio West people, especially Dave West who gave out Orwell's telephone number so that Dave Luck's loyal listeners could still hear him!, Local radio-man, more recently active in the Kent area with licence bids, Nigel Reeve spent 12 years at the station in it's early and later guises, latterly as the station's chief engineer.  ITN news reporter Tim Ewart moved from the BBC World Service to join Radio Orwell as News Editor before leaving in 1977 when he went into television.  During the 1985-1986 football season, the station were shirt sponsors for Ipswich Town FC.  

Radio Orwell (97.1) later merged with nearby Saxon Radio to form SGR (Suffolk Group Radio) in April 1992, said to be done to give a firmer financial base to local commercial radio.  All in all, Radio Orwell was the first independent local radio station to open in East Anglia, but over the years, it was taken over twice, changed its name to SGR and is now part of the GWR group, operating from the West side of Ipswich.  So, about those three little letters then...

In 1997, GWR were well into their acquisitions, and, after a shareholder (& other interested parties ) battle, East Anglian Radio's four stations fell into GWR control, taking the company close to the maximum ownership levels then of 35 stations.   The usual re-branding to 'today's better music mix' and later 'today's best mix', plus a change of staff followed. 

The current SGR licence refers that the station is a contemporary/chart music and information station for the under 40s in the Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds area,.  Musically, the station plays current chart hits, new releases or hits up to ten years old.  Up to 25% may be hits over 10 years old.  Specialist music programmes for a target audience, which fit in with the main musical content of the station can be aired for up to 30 hours in a week, in off-peak programming hours.  

The station is music-led, but information and/or features of particular local relevance should be prominent in programming and as drop-in items where programming is not locally originated, except when the Network Chart is aired on Sundays.  Hourly news run weekdays and on Saturdays at peak time - national news is carried from IRN outside of these periods.  Speech content should be at least 15% of daytime output.  

The station broadcasts from the Alpha Business Park, 6-12 White House Road, in Ipswich, broadcasting on 96.4 for Bury and 97.1 for Ipswich.  Local programming runs for 16 hours a day during the week, 12 hours on Saturdays and 8 hours on Sundays.  Other programming comes from a an alternative location but you're not supposed to really know that! (It's Bristol or Swindon by the way!)

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SAXON RADIO / SGR Bury / SGR / SGR-FM: Research has shown that commercial radio first came to the Bury St.Edmunds on 6th November 1982, with Saxon Radio, broadcasting on 1251AM and 96.4FM, taking it's name from the fact that the area is renowned for it's links with the visit of Saxons in centuries past.  After a career with various BBC national radio stations, and BBC Television, it was Brian Cook that set up (1981) and the managed the station. A check with the Radio Authority website shows a reference that SGR Suffolk & Classic Gold Amber came to air seven years previously on 28th October 1975 - approximately one licence term. No further clarification is known at this stage.  

It was another local station Radio Orwell (97.1) that merged with Saxon Radio in April 1992 to form SGR.  In 1997, GWR were well into their acquisitions, and, after a shareholder (& other interested parties ) battle, East Anglian Radio's four stations fell into GWR control, taking the company close to the maximum ownership levels then of 35 stations.   The usual re-branding to 'today's better music mix' and later 'today's best mix', plus a change of staff followed. 

The current SGR licence refers that the station is a contemporary/chart music and information station for the under 40s in the Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds area,.  Musically, the station plays current chart hits, new releases or hits up to ten years old.  Up to 25% may be hits over 10 years old.  Specialist music programmes for a target audience, which fit in with the main musical content of the station can be aired for up to 30 hours in a week, in off-peak programming hours.  

The station is music-led, but information and/or features of particular local relevance should be prominent in programming and as drop-in items where programming is not locally originated, except when the Network Chart is aired on Sundays.  Hourly news run weekdays and on Saturdays at peak time - national news is carried from IRN outside of these periods.  Speech content should be at least 15% of daytime output.  

The station broadcasts from the Alpha Business Park, 6-12 White House Road, in Ipswich, broadcasting on 96.4 for Bury and 97.1 for Ipswich.  Local programming runs for 16 hours a day during the week, 12 hours on Saturdays and 8 hours on Sundays.  Other programming comes from a an alternative location but you're not supposed to really know that! (It's Bristol or Swindon by the way!)

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

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

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

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

(Tindle Radio is the only family-owned radio operator in the UK. It operates six radio stations across the UK. It owns Channel 103, Jersey; Island FM, Guernsey; The Beach; Dream 100, Colchester/Clacton; Dream 107, Chelmsford; Bridge FM, Bridgend; as well as minority stakes in Kick FM, Newbury; and Kestrel FM, Basingstoke.)

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COMMERCIAL:  REGIONAL

VIBE FM: The creation of this East of England regional station was the target of frustration upon launch, as it's sheer power caused a bottleneck on the FM waveband and a forseen lack of available frequencies for RSL groups to reliably use.  Airing first on 22nd November 1997, it was then operated by Essex Radio Group - operators of Breeze, Oasis FM & of course, Essex Radio amongst others, and a subsidiary arm of Daily Mail & General Trust).  But the management and ownership of the station moved on again in June 2000 when GWR made a takeover bid for DMG, to the tune of 146m.  GWR were then right up against the points limit regarding ownership of stations.  The Radio Authority set this points level so as not to create a stranglehold monopoly on the UK radio scene.  GWR responded to the comments of the high points level by declaring of it's intent to dispose of some of it's UK local licences to keep within the points restriction limit.  The takeover of DMG included eight UK licences reaching 3.9m, a 25% stake in almost 60 Australian radio stations, a three year option to acquire the remaining 75% of the same and the acquisition of Hungary's largest commercial radio station, as well as a new Australian Sydney licence which DMG bought at auction. DMG as part of the deal took further shares in GWR, i.e. from 18.8 to 29.9% on completion of the deal.  There were also DMG shares in Mansfield 103.2, Centre FM (Tamworth), The Eagle and Medway FM at the time.  The deal was the culmination of two years worth of efforts by GWR

Over on the opposite side of the country, in the Severn Estuary and Bristol region, Chrysalis were offloading the first Galaxy station, Galaxy 101.  It was acquired by GWR and Scottish Radio Holdings.  Being the home stomping ground of the GWR empire, and the root of all networked programming across the GWR network, the creation of VRSL (Vibe Radio Services Limited) saw the intervention of the Competition Commission, who concluded that this merger would act against the local interests of the radio marketplace.  Despite the deal taking place, the Competition Commission concluded it's findings and ordered GWR to act to their requirements.  The demands of the Commission were concluded to be 'unworkable' by GWR who promptly sold their interests in Vibe, lock, stock and barrel to Scottish Radio Holdings.  The full details of this matter can be read on our Avon/Somerset page.  

In short, it's a classic, contemporary dance and R&B station we're talking about here, now owned solely by Scottish Radio Holdings, and operating from the Alpha Business Park, 6-12 White House Road, Ipswich on a wide variety of 'top of the dial' frequencies, hence the irritation referred to at the head of this profile, those being 105.6 (Cambridge), 106.1 (Norwich), 106.4 (Ipswich) and 107.7 (Peterborough), and reaching around 1.7million across East Anglia alone.    www.vibefm.co.uk 

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