Aircheck UK - Wiltshire

UPDATED: 19/09/2003

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BBC LOCAL RADIO

BBC local radio came to Wiltshire on 4th April 1989.  Research continues into BBC Local Radio's earlier history.  Why not e-mail to supply details for a page update?

BBC WILTSHIRE SOUND / BBC RADIO WILTSHIRE / BBC RADIO SWINDON: BBC local radio for the region has been based around separate services for Swindon and Wiltshire.  In 2002, the BBC made funding available to enhance the service.  On Monday 11th November 2002 BBC Wiltshire Sound became two separate services, BBC Radio Wiltshire & BBC Radio Swindon.  Familiar voices Peter Heaton-Jones and Dan Chisholm remain on BBC Radio Swindon and Sue Davies and Mark Seaman (see below under the Commercial section for Mark) feature on BBC Radio Wiltshire with Graham Seaman presenting an afternoon show.  A local man, Mark Jones, from Marlborough has returned to his homeland to present the Wiltshire Drive show with station regular for over 12months, Rachael Hodges.  Swindon meanwhile features Ashley Heath on Drivetime from 4pm featuring Brinkworth's Sam Ryder with news and information.  Swindon listeners who prefer a more county-wide service can tune to the Wiltshire service. 

BBC Radio Wiltshire can be heard on 104.3 for Chippenham & West Wiltshire, Salisbury & The South can hear the station on 103.5 & Marlborough & East listeners have a transmitter at 104.9.  There are also two AM frequencies - 1368KHz for Swindon & 1332KHz for Chippenham and the West of the County.  BBC Radio Swindon has it's service on 103.6 for Swindon only.

COMMERCIAL:  LOCAL (ILR)

107.5 3TR FM serves Warminster with 'more music variety and local news and information'.  It came on-air 5th November 2001 from studios at Riverside Studios, Boreham Mill, Bishopstrow, Warminster and is part of Radio Investments Ltd. This group uses a generic blue, yellow & white logo design with an arch of differing sized yellow discs in an arch above the station name.    But this station didn't start out as 3TR.  Up until fairly recently, surfers who typed www.pridefm.com were routed to the new website with the new name, because it did start out as PRIDE-FM.  (I have an idea why they changed the name, but it's not relevant to this page! Ed).  

On 27th April 2001, published it's assessment of the Warminster licence award which was made to PRIDE-FM Ltd earlier on the 5th April.  The licence was advertised back on 11th August 2000 and two other applicants, also applied by the closing date of 21st November 2000.  It beat off other applicants WCR Community Radio, and White Horse Radio Ltd.  The award decision was quoted by the Radio Authority as 'challenging because of the difficulties of comparing the proposals put forward by a not-for-profit community radio organisation with those of commercial radio companies'.   PRIDE-FM were considered 'best able to meet the statutory criteria and provide a genuinely locally-focused service for the people of Warminster'.  

It's potential audience is an estimated 50,000 adults in the Warminster, Westbury and Frome areas.  PRIDE-FM Ltd is/was owned 100% by Salisbury station, Spire FM, owned by Radio Investments Ltd.  PRIDE-FM was set to utilise links between the two with a shared MD and central financing resources.  The application promised to introduce a volunteer scheme as run at Spire FM with those involved sourcing news and sports stories and assisting with technical duties, whilst not being reliant on them.  The name change to 3TR came just prior to on-air launch.  

A 24 hour service operates for 25-54 year olds, with between 20% and 40% speech in the weekday including information for the business and military communities amongst others.  Local news and sports coverage runs from 6:30am to 6:30pm weekdays and between 8:00am and 11:00am at weekends.  It's music policy includes tracks from the last four decades, with particular focus on the 70's, 80's and what is considered the best of current and recent releases.  

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RADIO WEST / WILTSHIRE RADIO

RW + WR = GWR written by Andrew Rogers: This article is reproduced from www.transdiffusion.org under their terms and conditions - see link above.

Independent Local Radio came to Bristol on 27-Oct-1981 with the opening of Radio West. The Bristol franchise battle had been hard fought and two groups, Radio Avonside and Bristol Channel, came together to form the winning consortium. The choice of on-air name presented few challenges, as the BBC had provided two years of free publicity courtesy of Eddie Shoestring.

The station launched with high hopes and appeared to generate a great deal of positive reaction, but cracks soon started to show. Breakfast show presenter Nino Firetto was moved to weekends within six weeks, and the lack of focus to the music policy meant enormous gear-changes within the daytime schedule as presenters indulged their personal musical tastes. In summer 1982 the first JICRAR figures gave the station a reach of 30% and a share of 13.2%, excellent by today's standards but behind both Radio One and the long-established BBC Radio Bristol.

Meanwhile, Wiltshire gained its own station on 12-Oct-1982. Wiltshire Radio launched with a very different station sound to Radio West, continuing the news-based breakfast and drive-time shows pioneered at Hereward Radio by programme controller Ralph Bernard. With no local BBC competition, and indifferent reception of the BBC national networks in its coverage area, Wiltshire Radio found it easy to capture the No.1 slot locally, achieving an enormous reach in its Swindon heartland, and began to make money.

Back in Bristol a host of star names came and went as Radio West's situation went from bad to worse. Enormous cutbacks in broadcasting hours were made in October 1983 and, although these were restored in September 1984, the station never really found its financial feet, although the programming output had become far more polished and consistent. In May 1985 an approach was made to the directors of Radio West by Wiltshire Radio, and the stations planned a "merger" which would take place on 1 October 1985.

Although subtle hints were dropped and a couple of presenters said their final goodbyes a few weeks early, programming plans for the new station were kept under wraps until Radio West's last week on air, when it became clear that what was planned for Bristol was an opt-out from the main Wiltshire service, which would retain the current Wiltshire Radio schedule. Only breakfast, mid-morning up to 11 a.m., one hour in the afternoon and drive-time would be separate, with the breakfast and drive-time shows being news-based. All of West's specialist programmes, including the award-nominated classical music programme and the pioneering computer programme Datarama, were to be dropped.

So four minutes into Monday 9-Sep-1985 programme organiser Mark Seaman made the final announcements and Radio West closed down for the last time, after a "Final Hour" retrospective presented by Trevor Fry. The next few weeks saw Bristol treated to test transmissions for the new station, with continuous music interspersed with news bulletins, promotions for the new programmes and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's finest jingles. Then at 6 a.m. on 1-Oct-1985, listeners heard GWR for the first time, with three separate GWR-AM breakfast shows for Swindon, West Wiltshire and Bristol. The Bristol presenters were Steve Orchard and Richard Evans.

Separate programming for Bristol continued with Trevor Fry's mid-morning show until 11 a.m., although Swindon and West Wiltshire combined for Dave Bowen's show. Then Johnnie Walker introduced the first totally networked show, which went out initially, in Bristol at least, on one stereo channel only. At 2 p.m. Johnnie made way for that staple of 80s local radio, Telephone Exchange, a Tradio-type programme that had a separate Bristol edition presented by Mark Seaman. Dave Barrett was networked from 3 to 5, when all three stations had separate drive-time programmes. Called GWR-PM, the Bristol edition was presented by Steve Egginton, Radio West's Head of News. Networked evening and overnight programmes were presented by Mark Baddeley, Bob Harrison and Paul Phear, who had been Radio West's afternoon presenter.

From the point of view of Wiltshire listeners, little had changed, apart from 24-hour broadcasting, the introduction of the West Wiltshire opt-out (which mysteriously disappeared after a few weeks, due to "poor reception") and the appearance of a "G" before "WR" in the station jingles. In Bristol everything was completely different, not least the technical hitches that often occurred within networked programmes when news bulletins and commercials for the separate areas were broadcast. There was little change in the music policy - in fact, comparatively little music was broadcast during the daytime, with the bulk of the nine-hour needletime allowance being channeled into the evening and late-night shows. The overall effect was to move the station much closer to BBC Radio Bristol in sound, and the expected improvement in audience figures did not really come about, with the first JICRAR reach in the combined area being 31%. 

Over the next three years, the sound gradually evolved into a much more music-led station, with the news-based programmes reduced in length, then relegated to the AM-only Brunel Radio, then disappearing altogether. Finally in 1992 GWR-FM relaunched as "The New GWR", rapidly mushrooming into the vast FM network we know - and love - today.

Text Andrew Rogers
Compilation Transdiffusion Broadcasting System.  Used with permission.

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'The NEW...GWR-FM

Up until 1985, in the South West and elsewhere in the country up until the early part of the 1990s, the initials GWR stood for Great Western Railway.  This isn't so much the case nowadays, certainly within radio circles, and arguably outside it too.  GWR became particularly dominant by buying up smaller radio groups - dog eat dog you might say.  It's growth began in 1989, when it merged with Consolidated Radio Holdings to acquire stations in Reading (210) & Bournemouth (2CR)Midlands Radio, home of Radio Trent (Derby & Nottingham), Leicester Sound, BRMB, Mercia and GEM were swallowed up in 1994, BRMB being spat out towards Capital Radio, Peterborough's Hereward FM and Kings Lynn's KL-FM (which was soon sold in 1997),  the Chiltern Radio Group, home of such greats as Northants, Chiltern and Horizon Radio was swallowed in 1995, East Anglian Radio Group, home of Radio Broadland and SGR was acquired in 1997and another M5 corridor station, ex-Midlands Radio station Radio Wyvern too.  Amongst others, there was Orchard Media, owners of Orchard, Lantern & Gemini FM plus Westward Radio in 1999.  

Amongst all of those acquisitions was the ding-dong 'do we don't we own' Plymouth Sound in 1999 which it had previously owned part of along with Capital Radio plc.  There was also a 45% element of South Hams Radio with it.   Research showed that within six months of the acquisition of Plymouth Sound, both AM & FM, after nine years of being non-GWR and having a regular audience of over 60,000, AM audiences plummeted to around 20,000.  Audiences were taking a dive across the Commercial Radio sector, but GWR seemed to be hit harder than others.  Obligatory rebranding followed - much to the horror of fans of the guises of the stations previously.   

Over recent years, the Group have taken a part share of many radio stations, either taking more or offloading completely over time, with the station now fully in control of Classic FMGWR was involved in the INR bidding process with Classic FM but took control of the station fully in December 1996 when it purchased the 83% it didn't already own.

The new Millennium saw GWR get hold of DMG Radio from Daily Mail & General Trust, adding six more stations in Southend-on-Sea, Harlow, St Albans, Rochester, Tonbridge and Crawley to the company's portfolio.  Finally, Wales has been GWR'd when Marcher Radio was grabbed consisting of Coast-FM, Champion 103 and MFM stations. 

CLASSIC GOLD: The AM brand name Classic Gold, (known within radio circles in previous years as 'Classic Gaps' due to networking problems), once a lively jingle and classic oldies led station, has been rolled out, to such an extent, from it's humble beginnings as Brunel Classic Gold (15/11/1988 - 936/1161/1260kHz AM), to be a National Network, launched on Digital platforms..  Bournemouth's 2CR AM service was branded 2CR Classic Gold 828, along with Reading's 210 Classic Gold 1431.   Heavy resistance prevailed in areas where the older, smaller radio group names had been favourites.  Coventry's Mercia Classic Gold was next (1359, the old XTRA AM frequency)  GWR made comments it would not be rebranding stations such as Nottingham & Derby's GEM-AM, purchased from Midlands Radio in 1993.  This was, of course, a lie, but for the time being, GEM-AM and WABC, which they got when they purchased Beacon Radio in 1993, were left to run live and local 24hours day unlike 2CR & 210 which took output from Brunel in Swindon.  Classic Gold arrived in Luton and Bedford (792/828) when the Chiltern Radio Network was taken, Northampton (1557) and Gloucester (774).   Another great GOLD station name to bite the bullet was WGMS, The World's Greatest Music Station in Peterborough which became  Classic Gold 1332.  The Chiltern takeover enabled the station to be based at Dunstable's HQ where the SuperGold service had previously been so popularly based.  Eventually, a 'happy' medium was struck as the names were retained as an after-thought, i.e. Classic Gold GEM and Classic Gold AMBER.  Networking and local programmes showing a GEM/NOT GEM, AMBER/NOT AMBER ever changing clash of names in general links and during ad-breaks.  1996 was when East Anglian Radio was acquired and so the brand arrived in Norwich, Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds as Classic Gold AMBER.  This change though, did take some time to reach fruition.  The old Midlands Radio station, Radio Wyvern was taken too, becoming another outlet on 954 and 1530kHz.  This was later sold to Muff Murfin who kept the format, but not the networking output.  

In 1998 GWR lobbied the Radio Authority to allow them to network Classic Gold for up to 20 hours a day, saying that the use of higher profile presenters (such as Mike Read, Dave Lee Travis, Simon Bates) would allow listeners a better quality service than they would otherwise receive.  The Radio Authority agreed, and so at this point all the Classic Gold stations (including GEM and WABC) began to be networked from Dunstable for 20 hours a day, with the exception of the Breakfast Show, which was presented locally so as not to be seen to be allowing a national licence via the back door.  The local programme was later changed to be Drive-time, to allow Mike Read and later Dave Lee Travis to present a networked breakfast show.

In 1999, GWR bought Essex Radio, bringing Classic Gold (after much petitioning by locals) to Southend and Chelmsford (Classic Gold Breeze on 1359/1431kHz AM), as well as Reigate and Crawley (Classic Gold Breeze 1521). This deal meant that GWR had to sell a number of its licences to avoid going over the ownership points limit, so it sold 12 of the Classic Gold stations to a new company, UBC, Classic Gold Digital Ltd (of which GWR is a major shareholder).  GWR also ensured that they have the right to buy back the stations, when ownership rules allow.  The network is still run from Dunstable, so nothing has changed, apart from the fact that all the stations are now branded Classic Gold Digital, which brings with it some ridiculously long names!

In 1999 GWR also purchased Orchard Media, meaning that Classic Gold arrived in Plymouth (Classic Gold Digital 1152) and Exeter (Classic Gold Digital 666/954)

Classic Gold broadcasts in the following locations: 
Bristol / Bath 1260 AM & Digitial 
Bournemouth, Dorset 828 AM 
Coventry / Warwickshire 1359 AM and DAB 
Exeter / Torbay 666 / 954 AM 
Gloucester / Cheltenham 774 AM 
Herts, Beds & Bucks 792 / 828 AM 
Norfolk / North Suffolk 1152 AM 
Northamptonshire 1557 AM 
Nottingham / Derby 999 / 945 AM 
Peterborough 1332 AM 
Plymouth 1152 AM 
Reading 1431 / 1485 AM 
Suffolk (Ipswich / Bury St Edmunds) 1170 / 1251 AM 
Swindon/Wiltshire 936 / 1161 AM 
Wolverhampton / Shropshire 990 / 1017 AM and Digital 
Crawley / Reigate 1521AM 
Southend, Essex 1359 / 1431 AM
South Yorkshire Digital Only 
Liverpool Digital Only
SKY Digital Channel 859 

On 31st October 2000, the Radio Authority said it had finally agreed to proposals from GWR for the disposal of 12 local AM licences to Classic Gold Digital Ltd, a company 80% owned by Unique Broadcasting and 20% by GWR Group.  As part of the deal GWR Group took a 3.9% shareholding in Unique Broadcasting.

The Authority also agreed to GWR's acquisition of the five licences held in the Marcher Radio Group, but said it considered GWR "controls" these licences and the stations would be included within GWR's ownership points total.  Marcher's AM service came under the Classic Gold umbrella at this time.  

The East of England regional station, Vibe FM, in which GWR Group has a 49.99% shareholding, was also agreed but the Authority determined that GWR again in this case does not control the licence.  The Authority said it believed that GWR "does not and will not have control over the programming output of Vibe FM."

Most people will remember the year 2001 for two major events - there were global repercussions after the World Trade Centre fell on September 11th, and that year was also terrible for farmers across the UK with the re-emergence of the terrible Foot and Mouth disease.  Both disastrous events have been the focus of blame in all businesses - with a so called 'knock on' effect down the chain.  Whether these events made any dent into the radio business including GWR isn't known as no group has ever stuck their head up and used it as an reason for a downturn in revenues to my knowledge.

Ownership restraints placed by the Radio Authority meant GWR had to choose what it wanted to do.  Gradually, the Classic Gold stations were sold off, finally being totally acquired by UBC.  The anticipated re-branding of the network has not yet materialised and so the GWR sound remains.  

The company offloaded LBC and London News Radio to Chrysalis in late 2002, and the new owners set about on a rapid revamp as of 2003.   

GWR also has various part share radio interests abroad in places as diverse as Bulgaria, there's a joint venture with the BBC in Poland, Austria was GWR'd in 1996, Salzburg's Radio Melody was part purchased (24%) and Antenne Wien in Vienna (39%)  Classic FM also broadcasts in Holland, Finland and South Africa.  

They're the majority shareholder in Digital One, the licence holder of the national digital radio network launched in 1999 featuring Core (GWR), and Planet Rock (NTL run by GWR).  They have also created a wholly-owned subsidiary, NOW Digital to apply for local digital licences as advertised by the Radio Authority.  It has already won the licence for the Wolverhampton, Shrewsbury, Telford, Bristol & Bath, Coventry, Southend and Chelmsford area.  They are also involved in a third London multiplex licence and are a third of Score Digital along with Scottish Radio Holdings (SRH), and Guardian Media Group (GMG).  They are now branching out into the internet field with koko.com, which they hope will develop into a national network of locally orientated sites and musicradio.com, a radio entertainment portal to enhance group brands.  

GWR meanwhile continue to seek an interest in and acquire more FM stations, with only these frequency stations in their portfolio.  The tired, often used line of 'Today's Better Music Mix' has finally in 2002 been replaced with the similar but slightly different 'Today's Best Mix' line - and associated lines such as 'The World's Best City' and 'Pride Of England' added as tag lines to station IDs.  A corporate 'flare' logo, albeit in various garish colours, has been rolled out across the group, with the 'flare' representing the GWR 'Mix' network carried overnight - careful not to feature the exact locations of phone callers, just in case the lack of localness shines through maybe?   Nevertheless, GWR Group continues to be the butt of many jokes within the radio industry, and meanwhile I myself have heard (and I mean this most sincerely) members of the public commenting on how neighbouring Midlands stations '....sound the same as ...' a neighbouring station they usually listen to but lose when they drive out of the area.   The worm has always showed signs of turning maybe?

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SPIRE FM: Providing a commercial radio service for the Salisbury area, this station takes it's name from the spire of Salisbury Cathedral.  It came to air on 5th September 1992 and broadcasts from City Hall Studios in Malthouse Lane. Salisbury.  Originally part of 'The Local Radio Company', the station is considered to be flagship of the stations which operate under the umbrella of Radio Investments Limited.  It was the first station in the group to launch, and being part of it, has now adopted the corporate 'mothership' colour scheme of blue, white & yellow, consisting of a blue background, white and yellow text and the familiar varyingly sized yellow roundels.  However, back in July 1992, GWR bought a forty percent share in Spire FM.  It is not known whether they still own any share in the station today.  Amongst Spire FM's accolades since launch, it was the Station of the Year in the Sony Awards of 1994, 1997, 2001 and 2003, it received a BT Press Award for local news coverage in 1995 and 1996, a KPMG Award for Marketing Excellence in 1997 and the station was also proud to receive a 1999 award from the management team of Salisbury City Centre - the rather long award title being 'The Business that made the biggest contribution to Salisbury' in 1999.  Interestingly, as of 2003, the station had it's very own motor rallying team with Gareth and Emma Hurford Jones racing a classic 1977 Toyota Celica 2-Litre GT on their behalf.  The tie-in becomes more obvious when you note that the station manager is Ceri Hurford Jones, who broadcasts as Ceri Jones, not to be confused with Keri Jones who is a completely different radio person.  Spire FM's news coverage includes 15 minute bulletins at 6am, 1pm & 6pm with hourly local news throughout the day.  Sports coverage includes regular bulletins in peak programming and a featured Saturday sports show from 2pm.  The brand very nearly made it into another area renowned for it's spire - that being the Derbyshire town of Chesterfield - it entered the running in 1997, but along with other bidders lost out to Peak 107.   Spire FM promotes itself as covering South Wiltshire and West Hampshire.  The station's transmitter is based at Camp Hill.                    www.spirefm.co.uk 

UPDATES on the following categories are pending.

COMMERCIAL:    REGIONAL

RESTRICTED SERVICE LICENCES (RSLs):

106.8 MOONRAKER FM: Specifically for Trowbridge and Bradford, this station operated for the first time with great success from 1st March 2003.  As with the nature of RSLs, this station's broadcast aimed to assess the viability of and the necessity for a station in the area.  During the broadcast, there were regular items of 'What's on' information from all over the broadcast area.  Station management have assessed that advertisers' campaigns were successful, this particular aspect of the station's success was partially attributed to it's link with the local Chamber of Commerce.  The area's 22-55 year old set are not currently served by a local commercial station directly, and the station set about emphasising this fact on pre-broadcast promotion which featured pre-dominantly in the local press.  Moonraker FM plan to campaign for the area to be put on the Radio Authority/OFCOM working list for licensing, and in the meantime the station plans another short term broadcast as soon as the regulations allow.  

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