Aircheck UK - Devon

UPDATED: 19/02/2005

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BBC LOCAL RADIO BBC RADIO DEVON (or BBC Devon County Radio as it has been known) shares a birthday with it's near neighbour Radio Cornwall - 17th January 1983 - infact, the BBC has three reasons to celebrate on this date as BBC Breakfast telly started the same morning too!  Commercial radio was already established - competition enough you might think - however, the Exeter studios weren't actually ready.  Presenters 'presented' from Portacabins until building work had finished, but finish it did and studios were opened by the DG of Auntie at the time, Alastair Milne, 30th September 1983.

The station is vital to it's audience in adverse weather conditions which affect the county - it's Snowline, a welcomed feature.  It's programming has won several Sony Awards, and even featured US President Ronald Reagan when it linked up with a Boston, Massachussets radio station on New Year's Eve during Reagan's role at the White House.  The station is similar to a lot of BBC stations in that it shares premises with local BBC TV.  Of the original 1983 presenters, only Douglas Mounce remains.  Some of today's stars that cut their teeth at the station include the BBC Lottery's Voice Of The Balls, Alan Dedicoat, BBC America correspondent David Willis, and the late, and sadly missed Jill Dando.  Ex-BBC Radio 2 presenter Keith Fordyce now works at the station.  You can listen to BBC Radio Devon on 104.3 (Beacon Hill), 94.8 (Huntshaw Cross), 103.4 (North Hessary Tor), 96.0 (Okehampton) and 95.8FM (Exeter St Thomas), and 801 (Barnstaple), 990 (Exeter), 855 (Plymouth - separate programming aired) and 1458AM (Torbay). 


DEVONAIR:  Devonair first began broadcasting at 6:00am on 7th November 1980 for Exeter and Mid Devon on 95.1vhf, and 314metres 854khz AM/MW.  Bob Kingsley was the first presenter on-air, broadcasting from St. Davids Hill in Exeter.  The first song played was The Beatles' 'Here Comes The Sun'.  On 12th December of the same year, at 6:00am, Devonair launched a second service from Harbour Point Studios in Torquay, called Double Devonair, to cover the county as far down as Torbay on 97.0FM, 666khz, 450metres MW

1987 saw the station acquired by Capital Radio - and on 4th July 1989, Devonair launched South West 103 for the East of Devon, East Dorset and South Somerset.  As a result, a strapline of 'The Heart and Soul Of Devon - Devonair' was a recognised line across the South West.  Presenters included Keith Oliver, Bob Kingsley and John Brocks.

In 1990, financial difficulties were experienced, in line with a dip in the amount of national advertising revenue.  Transmission costs were also increasing.  Neighbouring station Plymouth Sound, owned in it's entirely by GWR were also struggling, so the two parent companies met and decided there would be considerable savings to be had by sharing costs and merging.  This took place in the June of 1991.  Work processes between the two groups were closely monitored to maximise the resources and minimise the costs.  A holding company 'West Country Broadcasting' was formed in November of 1991.  This led to operating improvements and greater experience amongst the staff.  

The station had a relaunch in 1992.  This is a period that fans of the station consider as the beginning of the end. GWR had purchased the station the previous year, and a new broom went through with a new team of presenters.  The station was renamed 'The NEW Devonair FM' 'Devon's Better Music Station' on 9th November 1992.

In 1993 the ILR Licence was re-advertised for the South West.  Four contenders entered a bid for Devonair's licence, those being Gemini Radio, Bay City Radio, Wild West Radio and Devonair who promised to provide 'Devon's better Music station' with the best news and sports coverage.  Bay City Radio promised to reintroduce an old Devonair show of news and current affairs, 'Devon Day'.  Gemini Radio promised to play 'the mix of music you wanted to hear.'   Competitions were also planned along with the usual mix of news and sport.  Wild Wild West Radio was building it's hopes on it's promise to have three studios across Devon to provide local.   All three promised different services on AM and FM.  Devonair meanwhile said that simulcasting the same service on both frequencies was at the heart of the station's success and had resulted in over 80,000 listeners who they argued may lose out because of the dominance of Devon's hills if the wavelengths were split.  They thought they had won the licence as late as 8.15am on the 8th of October 1993 but it was a press release from the Radio Authority which shattered their illusions, and left them in a state of shock.  'There's no other way to describe how we feel shocked really shocked', Paul Angus said at a studio press conference on the same date.  All that the Programme Controller Dave Bowen could say was that the staff were dedicated and would give their full effort up until the endDevonair ceased broadcasting on 31st December 1994 - and there was absolutely nothing that the listeners could do to stop it.


GEMINI FM:  The new licence holder commenced broadcasting on 1st January 1995 using 97FM for Exeter, 96.4FM for Torbay and 103 for East Devon.  GWR's dominance has now led to a corporate standard look and corporate standard music mix.  Gemini are based at Hawthorn House, Exeter Business park and started by offering £1,000 to be shared amongst anyone who correctly guessed the title of the first song to be played at launch.  

GEMINI AM / WESTWARD RADIO / CLASSIC GOLD 666/954: The new licence holder commenced broadcasting on 1st January 1995 using 666AM for Exeter and 954AM for Torbay.  It's current licence ran from 1st January 1995 and now runs until 31st December 2009 under it's standard GWR branding for Classic Gold, even though the station is credited as being owned by UBC.  UBC bought the brand from GWR because of ownership restrictions set by the Radio Authority.  On sale of the stations to UBC, a clause was put in to say the GWR can buy the stations back 'when' the RA relax ownership rules.  Originally, Gemini AM, it became Westward Radio on 1st January 1999, and rapidly morphed into Classic Gold on 28th June 1999.  Westward Radio's studios were based at Hawthorn House, part of the Exeter Business Park and broadcast from Pearces Hill.  Westward is amongst other GWR stations listed on 'mothership'  DMG Australia's list of worldwide interests. Don't say we didn't warn you... visiting this link will set your browser to the first of the GWR stations you hit, meaning next time you visit the portal, you'll go straight to what your browser thinks is your local GWR station...


LANTERN RADIO / LANTERN FM launched as Lantern Radio with it's service to North Devon on 19th October 1992, taking it's name from Lantern Hill, a place outside it's broadcast area at the time, it was not a popular choice. The licence application was submitted in December of the previous year, a sister station to Orchard FM.  The management team included established writer and broadcaster Leslie Frewin (Chairman), Sandra Yeo and Simon Maunder (Directors) and Rodney Grant and the Director of Finance.  March 5th 1992 was a date ranked high in the memories of the Lantern FM board - this was the day that the Radio Authority awarded the licence to Lantern Radio Limited, but subject to the final sums of finance being put in place.  The backing came from Radio Investments Ltd (RIL) with Robert Stiby at the forefront.  John Brocks recruited a team, and a  property in Bideford was bought by a station investor.  This location was ideal - studios to fill a large basement, staff quarters in the guise of three comfortable flats, and plenty of office space.  However, the people and critics from Barnstaple share a heavy rivalry with Bideford, and figured their side of the river was a far superior location.

The first year of any new radio station is undoubtedly difficult, and Lantern suffered a similar experience.  However, it was the strong support of local businessmen that saw the station through this early period - but this was not without cost.  There are critics for everything, and in the station's case, they hinted that a prestigious set up had been created with paltry standards of money and little idea as to where the money was to come from to keep things going.  High expectancy levelled on the same businessmen and others who would throw more into the pot.  

Output consisted of a large level of niche specialist programming - thus neglecting a wider listener base and the potential customers of would-be interested advertisers.  

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) Don't say we didn't warn you... visiting this link will set your browser to the first of the GWR stations you hit, meaning next time you visit the portal, you'll go straight to what your browser thinks is your local GWR station...


Radio in Cornwall written by Ian Beaumont (This article is reproduced from under their terms and conditions - see link above.)

I was just two years old when local radio first arrived in Cornwall, and that radio station wasn't even targeted at the area.

Plymouth Sound first went to air on 19-May-1975, and although targetted exclusively at the city, the signal from the AM transmitter could be received far and wide, across most of the Eastern half of Cornwall, and along most of the south coast until you got to Lizard Point. Because it dealt mainly with Plymouth, very little of their output had anything to do with Cornwall, except perhaps an odd reference to the Torpoint Ferry. It would be almost 8 years before Cornwall got a station that it could truly call its own, from the BBC.

17-Jan-1983, is a very famous day in broadcasting history, as that is the day that the first regular national breakfast programming arrived on TV in the form of BBC Breakfast Time. I remember that very well, I was watching it that morning at 6.30, I was in our living room, and I remember the titles and music very well. But I didn't just have the TV on at that moment. I also had a radio with me, with headphones, so that I didn't disturb my parents, because just over half an hour earlier, I had put the radio on to listen to the launch of Cornwall's first dedicated local radio station, BBC Radio Cornwall.

I remember hearing the station theme for the first time, back then, and I wish now I'd had the foresight to record the launch and hold onto it. But I was a kid of 9 coming towards 10 years old, and all I really cared about was just enjoying the moment. The station theme was very memorable, and as I recall was in use for about the next 8 or 9 years after they launched, and I still remember it pretty well today, even after 8 or more years of disuse, and no recording of it to aid my memory either.

Prior to that, all of our local news had to come from newspapers, television, and a BBC Radio 4 opt-out of Today called Morning Sou'West. For less than an hour a day, during the Today programme the South West of England opted out of network Radio 4 to put on a local news and information service for the South West. Then from lunchtime, regional television picked up the baton, with 4 bulletins during the rest of the day, Lunchtime, Mid-Afternoon, Spotlight in the early evening just before Nationwide, and after the news at 9pm. And that was the South West's newsday in terms of radio and television prior to the arrival of both BBC Radio Cornwall and BBC Radio Devon on the 17th January 1983.

In those early years, BBC Radio Cornwall and BBC Radio Devon did share some programming, such as Afternoon Sou'West, Devon and Cornwall's debating forum, Saturday Sou'West, the home of the region's sports coverage, and later, Late Night Sou'West, which was completely seperate from the rest of the output, which aired between 6am and 7pm.

Imagine that, a radio station stopping transmission at 7pm. Of course in those days, like the rest of the BBC Local Radio network, BBC Radio Cornwall took Radio 2 when they weren't broadcasting. But unless you were in the South East of Cornwall, you had no choice in Local Radio. In the South East, you could pick up Plymouth Sound, but elsewhere, there was just Radio Cornwall as the only local station. If you were lucky, like me, you could actually pick up BBC Radio Devon too.

Thankfully, choice in your Local Radio listening was to come about. In 1991, the new Radio Authority decided to licence a commercial radio station for Cornwall. Eight consortia bid for the single licence. Most of the applicants proposed local programmes from 6am to 7pm, a sustaining service outside those hours and local news only at morning, lunch and afternoon drivetime slots, not hourly. Two applicants, though, attracted my attention, but both for very different reasons.

One consortium, calling themselves Cornwall Sound FM, caught my attention first. I wondered if they were anything to do with nearby Plymouth Sound, who at that time were co-owned by GWR and Capital Radio. As it turned out through reading the application document, they were. Now at the time, both Plymouth Sound and Devonair were co-owned by GWR and Capital Radio, with both stations linking together to provide a sustaining service. Under the Cornwall Sound FM plans, Cornwall Sound would broadcast locally produced programmes between 6am and 2pm, then linking up with Plymouth Sound until 7pm, with news and advert opt-outs.

Then it would join the sustaining service from 7pm, overnight. At the time, I felt this devalued the service to effectively the status of an opt-out. Radio in Tavistock provided a Breakfast opt-out, before linking back to Plymouth Sound. Similarly South West 103 was an opt-out of DevonAir at Breakfast, before linking up at 10am. So I felt, that this wouldn't be a good service for Cornwall.

Another consortium that was bidding for the license was Cornwall FM. They were the only consortium proposing hourly local news from 6am to 6pm, and local programmes until 10pm. The consortium went into a lot of detail about the tempo and format of each of their programmes and even presentation style. I still have some stuff I photocopied from that application.

Cornwall FM were just a group of local businessmen who had an idea for a radio station. And their application was, I felt, the best. It didn't devalue Cornwall for radio, something BBC Radio Cornwall hadn't done either. Neither was it, to my mind, too ambitious, unlike another consortium I remember which despite only offering local news at morning, lunch and afternoon drivetime slots, proposed 24 hour local programming with a multitude of presenters, something in the recessionary climate of the time I felt was quite desirable, but very impractical, especially for a brand new station.

In late October of 1991, the Radio Authority gave the go ahead to the Cornwall FM consortium and in less than 6 months, on April 3 1992, Pirate FM launched to the waiting world of Cornwall. They initially provided 18 hours of presenter led programming and 6 hours of computer driven programming all locally from its base in Pool, Redruth. These days, they still provide 24 hours of local programming most days, except for 5 hours on Sundays from 2pm to 7pm, which is up on their initial 3 hours a week on Sundays, but nowadays they have presenters for 20 of those 24 hours on weekdays.

It was around the time of Pirate FM's launch that Radio Cornwall decided that it was going to go after an older audience with talk based programming and very little music. This meant that Pirate FM was going after the 25-54 audience whilst Radio Cornwall were looking at the over 50's. You might think it was a bit of a cosy duopoly, neither station really looking to compete with the other for audience, just sticking to the audience that they could go for most easily.

But it wasn't quite that simple. Some people felt that Pirate FM wasn't commercial enough, not going for the 18-35 audience but a broader 25-54 audience, whilst others felt Pirate was too commercial. Some people felt Radio Cornwall was too boring, whilst others felt it really should be all-talk and no music. To some people, both stations felt like compromises.

I did expect that when laws were passed to allow Restricted Service Licence radio stations, that Cornwall would be one of the areas that suddenly and strongly benefited from it. The range of opinions and ideas about both BBC and commercial radio meant that surely some consortia were going to try for a licence down here to try to influence the current local stations. But for years, nothing. Not one single RSL station started up. I was expecting the first one in 1994, a couple of years after Pirate's launch, but again, nothing. In 1997, I was beginning to think that all the opinions I'd heard were just that, opinions, with nobody looking to put their money where their mouth was.

Thankfully in 1997, that changed with Live 105. Live 105 was Cornwall's first RSL station and nobody knew what to expect. What they got in Truro and "Central Cornwall" was a dance music based station with some top 40 stuff in the daytime, and a continuous dance mix every evening and through the night. The organisers considered the station a success but I don't quite see it that way.

Yes, I could see that to Cornwall's youth, a dance music station would appeal, but when it had such luminaries as an ex-Pirate FM presenter called Eliot Turner, who, unfortunately for him, had an awfully monotonal voice, presenting on the station, and presenters who were too personality minded to let the music do the talking sometimes, it was never really gonna work properly. But it did introduce RSL's to Cornwall. I personally felt that Newquay would have been a better area for Live 105, not Truro. But Live 105 was the first RSL in Cornwall and although I was disappointed with it, I felt that more would come and better would be heard.

Progress on the RSL front has been very slow. In 1998, we had our first event RSL, Tall Ships FM, which ran for 28 days around the time of the Tall Ships race start in Falmouth. I wasn't involved in the station but I was involved in the on-site Public Address for the event, and we quite heavily promoted the station. In 1999, Newquay got its first local RSL with Malibu Surf FM. A service very much aimed at both the tourists and the local people, Malibu Surf FM provided relevant local information, including Tide times, surf conditions and traffic news, and dance music, very much in keeping with a town who's success is based very much on the local nightclubs.

Indeed it was so successful that the station returned in 2000 and 2001. 2000 also saw a project based RSL, called Red Youth Radio in Redruth, but again it was the wrong type of station for the location. Also it was too much of a mixture of music to be a really viable station idea for Cornwall. In 2001, we have again had 2 RSL's. Malibu Surf FM in Newquay, and CK-FM in Falmouth. CK-FM was a trial service, playing what they called Pure Gold Music, but with a fair amount of talk as well, not unlike what BBC Radio Cornwall used to do in the 1980's. Local News was provided at 2 minutes to the hour with IRN on the hour.

There was also a programme called the 7 o'clock Session to provide local bands a chance to have their music played on the radio. Whilst some of the ideas were great, others weren't and the presentation was at times just a little too relaxed and not professional enough, but all in all, the station actually doesn't sound bad, and just might get another RSL licence before the Radio Authority would consider applications for a "community" licence in Falmouth. So Falmouth, Truro, Redruth and Newquay have all seen RSL's since 1997.

A total of 7 licences have been issued since 1997. Considering the mixture of opinions I have heard since Pirate came on air, only 7 short term stations is in fact a little bit disappointing, considering the opportunities that have regularly presented themselves as being suitable for an RSL, and locations such as Truro and Redruth, that would benefit from the right station for the right audience. Falmouth and Newquay seem to have found their niches in my view, Truro, Redruth and other towns need still to find theirs.

Overall, when it comes to Local Radio, Cornwall has in my view faired relatively poorly compared to other places where there have been RSL's for many more years and plenty of stations that have come about from them. In the south west, both South Hams Radio, and Quay West Radio were originally RSLs, and there are plenty more nationwide.

Also, Cornwall has yet to benefit from DAB, and the increase in stations that brings, although having seen DAB licences awarded in other areas, I do not hold out much hope for a real extension of choice. Cornwall, like the rest of the South West has also yet to benefit from a regional service, unlike our Severn Estuary cousins, who have Galaxy 101.

I also note that at the last check there were no plans for regional DAB for the South West. I do feel that Cornwall and the South West would benefit from regional services. But plans for such services are not forthcoming. I'm afraid that as far as Local Radio in Cornwall goes, overall, it's a poor C- bordering on a D+. Could definitely do better

Text © Ian Beaumont
Compilation © Transdiffusion Broadcasting System.  Used with permission.

Since this article was written, Galaxy 101 has now been sold to GWR who have rebranded and relaunched the station as Vibe 101 in partnership with Scottish Radio Holdings.   Aircheck Editor.  


PIRATE FM / PIRATE FM 102: Late October 1991: Cornwall FM's cautious but clever application had beaten the other applicants, the GWR boys hands-down.  On-air, from April 3rd 1992, they would be known as Pirate FM, from studios at Pool, near Redruth.  Critics felt that the new commercial station wasn't commercial enough, appealing to a wide demographic of 25-54 years olds rather than the younger element - but with the lack of a competitive nature to the local radio scene, others saw this as a valuable service to the majority.  The set-up of Pirate FM 102 was the first task of the newly formed Infinity Radio Ltd, an investment and radio consultancy company.  Following Pirate's successful launch, the subsequent merger between Pirate FM Ltd and UK Radio Holdings Ltd, on 30th September 1994, to form UKRD Group Limited, cemented a relationship between a group of individuals who had, by then, been working together directly or indirectly for several years.

Today, 24 hour programming features except for 5 hours of programming from 2:00pm every Sunday.  Only four hours of weekdays are computer-led.  It is then, clearly the first station for UKRDThe original UK Radio Developments was formed on 22nd August 1990 as a vehicle to invest in new radio licences. Its first (initially minority) investment was in Cornwall's Pirate FM 102.  From small acorns, mighty oak trees grow.  Pirate FM102 is a music-led radio station, playing a mixture of contemporary and classic hits and the usual news and information service you would expect from a local radio station.  It broadcasts on two frequencies; 102.2 (East Cornwall) & 102.8 (West Cornwall & The Scilly Isles) from Carn Brea Studios, Wilson Way, Redruth, Cornwall.  it covers the whole area of Cornwall, Plymouth and West Devon, an area of 3,000 square miles.  Ex-Orchard FM presenter Bob McCreadie is the Programme Controller.  The station has retained it's familiar purple & yellow logo, often seen with the station's parrot..well, every Pirate has a parrot!


PLYMOUTH SOUND (RADIO IN TAVISTOCK - OPT OUT) / PLYMOUTH SOUND FM / 97FM PLYMOUTH SOUND: This station came to air on 19th May 1975 as the pioneer of ILR in the West Country, to serve the local area on 97FM and 1152 (261metres) AM/MW.  In 1980, it celebrated it's fifth birthday with broadcasting presented by members of the public.  Nine listeners names were picked out of hat by IBA South West England rep Heather Innes.  Even the news was read out by members of the public, Jean Phillips and Gillian Marks on mornings and afternoons respectively.  The staff worked very well and had some on-hand training from experienced staff - this didn't stop some envious but nevertheless praising comments from those not picked.  

1987 saw events unfolding at neighbouring station DevonAir - after a period of financial difficulty, Capital Radio took control, two directors from the London HQ joined at board level and their airtime sales arm was commissioned to sell commercial space.  Three years had elapsed when a national revenue drop and other money matters led to overall financial pressure again for the station.  These pressures were affecting Plymouth Sound - then wholly owned by GWR - and both parties got together to ridee out the storm after concluding the benefits of cost sharing and service overhauls.  June 1991 saw a merger between the two upon which time, strategies were examined and standardised.  For the purposes of this profile, Plymouth Sound fell under the umbrella of a new owning company, West Country Broadcasting Limited, in 1991, and further changes were made.  

In January 1993, Westward Broadcasting Group looked to acquire West Country Broadcasting, which operated DevonAir in Exeter and Plymouth Sound in Plymouth.  As far as ownership of the station is concerned, GWR has had various levels of ownership of this station to the extent where they either owned some, none or all of it.  The licence was once co-owned (along with the Devonair licence) with Capital Radio, but they decided they didn't want anymore to do with it, and GWR were forced to sell it under the restrictions of the Radio Authority's points system regarding station ownership.  It was bought by The Local Radio Company (TLRC).  Then, they bought it back again in June 1999 paying TLRC £5.28m.  Prior to this, it had a 20% holding in TLRC anyway.  . Plymouth Sound operated one FM and one AM licence covering an area of 330,000 adults. In October 1999, after careful consideration, the UK Government decided it was not going to refer the acquisition to the Competition Commission.  You would be forgiven for thinking that this licence was kind of important to GWR, it being so close to their homeland in Avon/Somerset - however, there doesn't appear to be mmuch competition for their licence.  When it was last renewed in 1996, there were no competitors, however, things may be different when the licence is readvertised in time for either a re-award or new award in 2004.  In the ever competitive radio industry, maybe this time, another group may be interested - the smaller groups are certainly known for ambitious expansion plans.  It is still fully owned by GWR and comes from studios at Earl's Acre in Plymouth and also broadcasts on 96.6FM.

In July 2002, six stations in the South West announced plans to merge their news operations.  Plymouth Sound won the approval of the Radio Authority to carry out a six-month experiment that would see its news programmes produced in one location and then sent back to each station. Critics said the move would reduce each stationís ability to report on local stories, and would undoubtedly lead to job losses.  There were widespread fears that news would go the same way as music policies at many local stations, i.e. music on stations owned by major groups is normally programmed by 'men in suits' at headquarters, rather than at a local level, resulting in local radio not being able to react to and assist local talent.  The RA had similar concerns at the time, despite allowing the trial to go ahead.  

On Thursday 20th February 2003, two Breakfast Show co-hosts appeared to fall out with each other live on air, resulting in one of them storming out of the studio.  The fall-out came after a impromptu discussion about levels of customer service.  Presenter Martin Mills reckoned that shops were obliged to give refunds for goods that were undamaged, but co-presenter Vicky Compton was certain that they was no such obligation.  In her support, a caller rang-in, but Mills asked the caller outright if she was just "another whinging woman", accusing her of "spouting emotional crap".  A trading standards officer had actually previously confirmed that Mills was right - however, Compton was still outranged about her co-presenter's harsh treatment of both her and the caller, accusing him of being opinionated and "...always having to be right".  She threw her headphones down and exited the studio, Mills shouting after her to "put the kettle on while you're out there...".  But the tirade continued from Mills, making comments and refusing point blank to apologise.  The PC of the station, Gavin Marshall then took over, and sent Mills home.  Neither of the two presenters were suspended, but they refused to make up and were ordered to stay off-air until they'd cooled down.  Both then confirmed they'd return to air together on the following Monday 24th.  She was nervous about returning, he was outspoken still, adding that he was sorry for upsetting his co-presenter, but that " the end of the day, I was actually right.  Someone accused me of not liking women ó thatís rubbish, I love women. Iíve got five of them: one to do the cooking, one to do the cleaning, one to sleep with . . ."  (Why does this all smack of a publicity stunt?  Ed) - NB: If you have never visited this link before, choosing a station from the map which appears, will set your browser to that station as default as if it is your 'local' GWR station.  You will need to clear out your 'HISTORY', 'COOKIES' and 'TEMPORARY INTERNET' files to stop this from happening.  In other words, you can't just keep visiting different station sites.  You have been warned!

PLYMOUTH SOUND / PLYMOUTH SOUND AM / 1152 PLYMOUTH SOUND AM / CLASSIC GOLD 1152 (Plymouth): This station came to air on 19th May 1975 as the pioneer of ILR in the West Country, to serve the local area on 97FM and 1152 (261metres) AM/MW.  In 1980, it celebrated it's fifth birthday with broadcasting presented by members of the public.  Nine listeners names were picked out of hat by IBA South West England rep Heather Innes.  Even the news was read out by members of the public, Jean Phillips and Gillian Marks on mornings and afternoons respectively.  The staff worked very well and had some on-hand training from experienced staff - this didn't stop some envious but nevertheless praising comments from those not picked.  GWR has had various levels of ownership of this station to the extent where they either owned some, none or all of it.  GWR has had various levels of ownership of this station to the extent where they either owned some, none or all of it.  The licence was once co-owned (along with the Devonair licence) with Capital Radio, but they decided they didn't want anymore to do with it, and GWR were forced to sell it under the restrictions of the Radio Authority's points system regarding station ownership.  Then, they bought it back again, but, when taking over radio groups elsewhere in the UK, they hit the points buffers again, the AM service changed hands.  The 1152 service was controversially re-branded by GWR, on Monday, 7th February 2000 as another CLASSIC GOLD segment.   On sale of the stations to UBC, a clause was put in to say the GWR can buy the stations back 'when' the RA relax ownership rules.  It seems that GWR still own 20% of the network. 


SOUTH HAMS RADIO: Servicing Kingsbridge on 105FM, South Hams Radio first came to air on 17th November 1997 as trial service in anticipation of the availability of a full time licence.  On 10th September 1998, the Radio Authority advertised a new eight-year Independent Local Radio licence to serve as much of the South Hams area as technically possible with the pre-allocated frequencies, an area with around 60,000 people aged 15+.  The closing date for receipt of applications was Tuesday 5th January 1999 - each application must include 20 copies of the same, and a non-refundable deposit of £750.00.  By that date, two applications had been received, from Regatta Radio and South Hams Radio.  The RA were impressed by the level of community liaison and promotion of the latter and its work on assessing the best use of transmitters across the service area.  On 18th May 1999, the RA concluded their deliberations and awarded the licence to South Hams Radio.  In June 1999, the station awarded a contract to build it's transmitter network to sbs.  Four transmitters were installed ranging from 1KW to 100watts covering an area between Plymouth and Paignton and South to Prawle Point.  The four transmitters operate on 101.9, 100.8, 100.5 & 101.2FM receiving their feeds from the studios at Unit 1G, South Hams Business Park in Churchstow, Kingsbridge in Devon.  

A service of classic hits and easy listening music, along with hourly daytime local news would be followed by a younger-orientated music range during evenings.  South Hams Radio was able to offer a lot of radio management expertise and financial clout through it's associated links with neighbouring commercial radio service Plymouth South, with 45% of funding for South Hams coming from them.  At the time Plymouth Sound was owned by The Local Radio Company Ltd.  

Today, UKRD own 20% of the station with the rest being owned by GWR since 2000.  They took control when they acquired Plymouth Sound and have since brought the station under the group of station websites.  

22nd March 2003 was a sad time for the South Hams team when David James, a presenter on the station since it started broadcasting, died suddenly following a stroke at the age of just 44.  He previously worked at Gemini AM, Jazz FM and other stations.  He leaves a wife Janice and daughter Charlene. - NB: If you have never visited this link before, choosing a station from the map which appears, will set your browser to that station as default as if it is your 'local' GWR station.  You will need to clear out your 'HISTORY', 'COOKIES' and 'TEMPORARY INTERNET' files to stop this from happening.  In other words, you can't just keep visiting different station sites.  You have been warned!



TLR (TORBAY LOCAL RADIO): The first broadcast for this Torquay-based RSL group came on 22nd March 2002 - but it was not without drama.  It was originally licenced to operate in the regular FM spectrum area for RSLs at 87.9FM.  When test transmissions commenced early on the morning of the 22nd, there were no problems and the transmitter was getting a good reach.  However, the lie of the land towards the southern most tip of the UK is one of rolling countryside and therefore varying radio signal strengths.  The problem began when locals approached station management offering compliments on the new station for Torbay - however, the irate section of the community was frustrated that they couldn't listen to Terry Wogan - just down the dial on Radio 2 - he was being suffocated by TLR breakfast show presenter Hugh Evans.  Still, the problem was good for listener awareness of the station.  And so the station moved to the opposite end of the FM dial - 106.2.  As a result of continuing, problem free(!) trials, the station aims to apply for the licence for the Torbay area to broadcast permanently when the area's licence is advertised - scheduled for 2004 with new controllers OFCOM.  

DIGITAL:  The 46th digital radio licence has been advertised and awarded by the Radio Authority.  Designed to cover around 650,000 adults, the licence is for Plymouth and most of Cornwall and, on launch, will run for 12 years.  There are two separate frequencies allocated for this new network - 223.936MHz for Plymouth (VHF band 3 block 12A centre) and 218.640 (11B centre) for Cornwall.  This licence was the last the RA will issue before handing over control to new communications regulator - OFCOM - the Office of Communcations.  The winning applicant must, under the terms of the 1996 Broadcasting Act, provide access for local BBC stations, Devon & Cornwall, but otherwise, commercial stations must negotiate carriage with the licence holder.  Bids had to be in by Tuesday 16th September with a decision expected by the end of 2003.  In the early stages, groups planning a joint bid included both GWR and UKRD, who formed a consortium called 'South West Digital Radio Limited'.  (GWR own 67% and UKRD the remaining 33%)  

By the closing date, it was just the one previously declared interested party who were in the running.  They propose to carry BBC Radio Devon on the Plymouth part of the multiplex, and BBC Radio Cornwall on the other part, Pirate FM (UKRD), Plymouth Sound (GWR), Classic Gold (UBC/GWR), Kiss (EMAP), The Storm (GWR), and an Access Channel featuring a selection of stations including student programming from 7:00pm to midnight courtesy of SBN.  Two additional channels are planned for introduction during the licence term plus other Access elements.  

On 6th November 2003, the RA awarded the licence to the sole applicant.  Authority Chief Operating Officer David Vick said "We are extremely pleased to have completed the programme of local digital radio licensing which we embarked upon back in 1998, on schedule and with no loss of momentum. This has been due to the enthusiastic support given by the commercial radio industry, as multiplex operators and digital programme service providers, to this technology, which will transform radio listening in the years ahead. The UK is acknowledged to be the world-leader in the development of Digital Audio Broadcasting, and I am proud of the role which the Authority has been able to play in facilitating this."   The service will launch in the Summer of 2004 using three transmitters at Plympton, Redruth and Caradon Hill, which should initially provide noise-limited outdoor coverage to 72.6% of the adult population of the main broadcast target area.


February 2005 saw the advertisement of a new 12-year licence to provide an FM commercial radio service for Torbay in Devon and surrounding areas, possibly including Totnes, Newton Abbot, Dartmouth and Teignmouth, and also possible overspill into Plymouth and/or Exeter.  In the case of the latter, this is not the intention of the licence advertisement, and OFCOM won't approve any proposals which target these two areas to unacceptable levels of signal strength.  The area has a potential audience of around 200,000 adults (15+) - a similar size to that served by Gemini FM which operates on 96.4FM.  

One FM (VHF) frequency will be made available - but international agreement for 106.8FM will be sought, and the only transmission site permitted is that of Beacon Hill, owned and operated by NTL, situated 188m above ordnance datum and 80m above ground level.   The exact coverage will be determined by the location of the transmission site and other technical statistics.   Interested parties must submit completed applications by 3:00pm on Thursday 5th May 2005 along with a non-refundable fee of £1,500.  Details will appear here shortly after release by OFCOM.  

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