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Thanks to Terry Cleaver for providing some of the information on this page. (Visit his radio pages here)
BBC LOCAL RADIO:
BBC RADIO MEDWAY (KENT) came onto the airwaves in 1970 only covering north-east Kent from Thames to Sittingbourne using studios based in Chatham. It quickly reflected the spirit of the locality with hundreds of regular contributors from the community, all anxious to be a part of what was seen as an exciting project for the area. The first manager was Harold Rogers, and his work stood the station in good stead for the following 25 years enabling BBC Radio Medway to be a vital part of the framework of Kent. He was awarded the OBE for his pioneering efforts at the station.
BBC Radio Medway
became BBC Radio Kent upon the switch on of a new transmitter in 1983
which then gave the station countywide coverage. Reporters are now based
in Canterbury, Chatham, Dover, Margate Tunbridge Wells, and Sevenoaks
facilities, and there are unmanned studios in Ashford, Dartford and Gravesend.
The radio station is now based in Tunbridge Wells in one of the most modern broadcasting centre in the world. 'The Great Hall' is home to BBC South East Today and the BBC Kent website. BBC Radio Kent has covered its fair share of major stories: the Chatham dockyard closure, the Zeebrugge disaster, the Great Storm of 1987, and the Channel Tunnel opening.
There have been a whole range of activities that make BBC Radio Kent a busy place through the year. The reporters cover Gillingham FC and other local football teams, County Cricket, vital traffic and weather news, and they even record local school bands to promote the county's talents on-air.
BBC Radio Kent broadcasts on 96.7, 104.2 & 97.6FM. www.bbc.co.uk/england/radiokent
COMMERCIAL: LOCAL (ILR):
FM / CTR-FM:
Six applications were submitted to the Radio Authority, for a new FM licence to cover the town of Maidstone in Kent.
By January 7th 2003, the applications were submitted from:
* Go-FM (Absolute Radio Kent Ltd): Proposing a new local radio station targeting a 30+ audience combining a unique mix of great adult music with a first-class local news and information service with features and entertainment that focus on the lives of adults in Maidstone
* Maidstone Live (Maidstone FM The Max Ltd): Proposing 'the talk and music radio station for Maidstone' - with local and national news, sport and entertainment.
* MLR (Maidstone Local radio Ltd): Proposing to provide a dedicated radio station for Kent's county town, providing focused local news and information alongside a wide variety of entertaining music-led programming presented by interesting local personalities.
* RFM (Radio for Maidstone Ltd): Proposing a service that will reflect the lifestyle of Maidstone, with a quality local news service, excellent travel information, weather and sport, and will play the best music from the mid-seventies to today. The station's RSL guise was as Maid-FM and brought out a free newspaper in support of the station on 6th December 2002. The Director of the Group is Radio Caroline (60s), Piccadilly Radio (70's), BRMB (early 80's) & Invicta (late 80's / 90's) star Roger Day who has had several radio based roles and has been in high demand over recent years. He has most recently been Group Programme Director of Fusion Radio Holdings and prior to this was the man who launched Cornwall's Pirate FM. Nigel Reeve is the founder of Fusion Radio Holdings, ex-Radio Orwell, 2CR, Invicta, Classic FM & LNR, and there's also Nick Jordan, ex-Invicta, KFM & LNR and Paul Chantler, ex-NewsTalk106 (Dublin), Ministry Of Sound & EMAP, The Wireless Group, Essex Radio & Chiltern Radio, TalkSport, Southern FM & BBC Wiltshire Sound and launched Galaxy 101 & Vibe FM.
* Stone FM - Maidstone Community Radio (Starmela.co.uk Ltd): Proposing a new, innovative, dynamic and exciting station that will primarily target the local community residing within Maidstone, ensuring a local service relevant to the needs of local residents.
* 20/20 (Maidstone Radio Ltd): Building on the success of its numerous RSL broadcasts, 20/20 will be a vibrant, entertaining and unique full-time service of broad appeal that will swiftly become an essential part of Maidstone life with its comprehensive local news, views and information mixed with a wide variety of music from today's greatest hits and the best songs from the last four decades.
In April 2003, the Radio Authority announced it had awarded the licence to the above applicant, 20/20. The new service will provide a local service for the Maidstone area, consisting of over 140,000 people, including over 80% worth of over 15 year olds. It is believed that the actual potential audience within reach of station transmissions is between 100,000 and 170,000.
20/20 FM took backing from the Kent Messenger Group, who operate a string of KM-FM stations in the South East. 20/20 ran a series of RSL broadcasts under the name Maidstone Festival Radio (MFR), County Town Radio (CTR) and, more recently under it's successful application name. When CTFM came on-air in 1997, the Radio Authority asked CTR to change it's name to prevent confusion. 20/20 FM was created taking the number from local roads, the A20 and M20 and a new road the A2020. In it's new guise, and with backing from Kent Messenger, it was set to be a 'vibrant, entertaining and unique full time service of broad appeal that will swiftly become an essential part of Maidstone life with it's comprehensive local news, views and information mixed with a wide variety of music from today's greatest hits and the best songs from the last four decades'. It is expected that the local community will be involved in station production, with input from charities and voluntary organisations. The station launched as a full time station on 18th October 2003 on 105.6FM as CTR-FM from purpose built premises at 6-8 Mill Street in Maidstone. Despite it's early KM backing, it is totally independent.
It's licence says that the service is designed for 25-54 year olds, and it is a music-led service with comprehensive local news, views and information mixed with a wide variety of today's greatest hits and the best songs from the last four decades. 24hour programming is provided, locally produced and presented, with 21 hours of actual live programming on Sundays. There are presentation and production staff on site for 16 hours a day, particularly all day Monday to Saturday and for 12 hours on Sundays. There are no simulcast or repeated programme strands. Speech content is set at 20% minimum, 30% maximum during weekday daytime, 15% min, 25% max during weekday evening programming, Saturdays and Sundays see 15% min, 25% max in the day and the evening.
Speech content, other than news includes regular weather and travel, what's on, charity and voluntary organisation information, entertainment news and gossip, jobnews, business news in breakfast, with a weekly review each Sunday, including news and local issues, guests, phone-ins, and sports coverage lasting at least four hours on Saturday afternoons. News bulletins, including local, regional and national as well as World news, lasting at least three minutes is heard hourly from 6:20am-7:00pm weekdays and 8:00am-2:00pm weekends and bank holidays, with an extended bulletin lasting at least 15 minutes at 1:00pm and 6:00pm. Headlines are provided in peaktime every twenty minutes from 6:20am weekdays and at 8:30 and 9:30am weekends, with hourly bulletins at other times.
CHANNEL TRAVEL RADIO: What sounded like a good idea in theory, actually proved quite difficult in the main. Having launched five years previously on 107.6 FM to cover the M20 and the Channel Ports, and with a sister station on 106.7 for Calais and Northern France, the rolling travel news service operated by Radio Services Ltd under contract, focusing on cross-channel activities, shut down suddenly, without the Radio Authority being told, at Midnight on 27th September 2000. Eurotunnel had previously been financing the station but had formerly advised the station that it was withdrawing all funding. Radio Services made attempts to continue the service, but to no avail. And so the service closed down with Ella Fitzgerald's 'Evry Time We Say Goodbye' with station manager Michaela Segol thanking all supporters and referring to the 24hour service that had been provided for the five years previously, with the only interruption being when a transmission provider cable was damaged accidentally. The RA went on to investigate the sudden close - conclusions drawn are not widely known.
106 CTFM / KM-FM 106: CTFM started as the ILR station serving more than 140,000 people in the Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay area from state of the art studios at 16 Lower Bridge Street, Canterbury, Kent. Transmissions started at 11am on September 21st 1997. Perhaps one of the lines becoming gradually more tired in the radio industry is 'the home of the no-repeat work 925 workday' - a line used by CTFM as well ass others too. It's licence remit line states 'Great songs, news and information for Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable - Across the city and along the coast.'
October of 2001 saw a relaunch of the station using another strapline, 'The Best Music, Across The City and Along The Coast.' with a format to 'play a unique mix of music from the last four decades intermixed with Local, National and International news and up to date travel news, local weather and local information.'
Five shows took up CTFM's week's schedule from Monday to Saturday: Breakfast 6:00-10:00, Mid Morning 10:00-14:00 and a lengthy drive/afternoon show from 14:00 to 18:00. Evening programming consists of the request show 18:00 to 23:00 (!) and a late night show from 23:00-01:00 when automation takes over. On Sundays, the shows are shorter after 10:00am with patterns from 10:00-13:00, 13:00-17:00, the National Recall chart from 17:00-19:00 and the BBC appear at 19:00. But don't be confused, this is a play on the initials and actually stands for the 'Barry Bethall Club'. Late night programming is from 23:00-01:00 as with the other days in the week.
Almost four years after launch, local newspaper business Kent Messenger Ltd notified the Radio Authority that it had acquired the station, along with other South East Radio Ltd stations, Dover & Folkestone's Neptune Radio. Under broadcasting law, a company which runs a local newspaper cannot also own a local radio station in the same area unless a public interest test shows that the arrangement would not be against the public interest. And so the public interest test was conducted with no negative conclusions drawn by the Authority by November 2001. The station name was subsequently changed to reflect group branding - KM-FM. Today the station continues it's music variety format with the resources of the Kent Messenger for news coverage, and prides itself on offering a 'purely local' service. www.ctrfm.com
NORTHDOWN RADIO / INVICTA SOUND / INVICTA RADIO / INVICTA FM: Kent's first major commercial radio station took it's name from the crest of the county showing the word which heraldry shows as meaning 'unconquered'. It commenced broadcasting on 1st October 1984 using 103.8FM, & 242meters 1242kHz Medium Wave for the Maidstone area and 95.1FM & 497meters 603kHz (Canterbury) 95.9 FM (Thanet) 96.3 (Ashford) & 97FM (Dover). However, it could quite easily have been called Northdown Radio - this was the working title given in the initial 1983 application written by Roger Day (ex-Radio England, Caroline, Luxembourg, North Sea International, Piccadilly & BRMB previously)
In the early days, it played on the AM services - station logos prominently showing 1242 & 603kHz 'and on FM in Stereo' attached as an optional add-on. Also, in the early days, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were listening to a talk station, because there was a significantly high level of news - in such an early period of commercial radio, this had quite an adverse effect on listeners. Having spent some time externally monitoring the output, station management brought in local man Michael Bukht to turn things around. An early Alfasound jingle amusingly sung 'Invicta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta Stereo'. Due to a frequency audit around 1985, 103.8 became 103.1, and 95.1 became 102.8 - this was to enable the FM band to show groupings for FM commercial and BBC stations. Programmes came from studios in Canterbury and Maidstone. Another frequency change, albeit slight, occurred with the splitting of FM & AM frequencies in the late 1980s.. Invicta FM continued on FM whilst Coast AM took over the MW service, which later became Invicta Supergold. Amongst it's celebrity names to have appeared, there's ex-Radio 1 early days presenter Duncan Johnson & the great Dave Cash (ex-Radio 1, Caroline & London) was also Weekend Breakfast show presenter and Deputy MD from 1987-1989. In that time, he turned around the station's revenue fortunes and increased the station's audience. Southern Radio bought Invicta in 1991 which in turn latterly became part of Capital Radio plc when they bought out Southern Radio Group stations. Today, the station, which is officially for Maidstone, Medway & East Kent operates on five frequencies - 95.9 (East Kent), 96.1 (Ashford), 97.0 (East Kent), 102.8 (Canterbury) & 103.1 (Maidstone & Medway) from studios at Radio House, John Wilson Business Park, Whitstable in Kent. www.invictafm.com
NORTHDOWN RADIO / INVICTA RADIO / COAST AM / COAST CLASSICS / INVICTA SUPERGOLD / CAPITAL GOLD (Kent): Kent's first major commercial radio station took it's name from the crest of the county showing the word which heraldry shows as meaning 'unconquered'. It commenced broadcasting on 1st October 1984 using 103.8FM, & 242meters 1242kHz Medium Wave for the Maidstone area and 95.1FM & 497meters 603kHz (Canterbury) 95.9 FM (Thanet) 96.3 (Ashford) & 97FM (Dover). However, it could quite easily have been called Northdown Radio - this was the working title given in the initial 1983 application written by Roger Day (ex-Radio England, Caroline, Luxembourg, North Sea International, Piccadilly & BRMB previously)
In the early days, it played on the AM services - station logos prominently showing 1242 & 603kHz 'and on FM in Stereo' attached as an optional add-on. Also, in the early days, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were listening to a talk station, because there was a significantly high level of news - in such an early period of commercial radio, this had quite an adverse effect on listeners. Having spent some time externally monitoring the output, station management brought in local man Michael Bukht to turn things around. An early Alfasound jingle amusingly sung 'Invicta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta Stereo'. Due to a frequency audit around 1985, 103.8 became 103.1, and 95.1 became 102.8 - this was to enable the FM band to show groupings for FM commercial and BBC stations. Programmes came from studios in Canterbury and Maidstone. Another frequency change, albeit slight, occurred with the splitting of FM & AM frequencies in the late 1980s.. Invicta FM continued on FM whilst Coast AM took over the MW service, which later became Invicta Supergold.
Coast FM was the first station for Willie Morgan who merely did a Rock Show fill one day from their Maidstone studios. Amongst it's celebrity names to have appeared, there's ex-Radio 1 early days presenter Duncan Johnson & the great Dave Cash (ex-Radio 1, Caroline & London) was also Weekend Breakfast show presenter and Deputy MD from 1987-1989. March 27th 1989 saw a renaming of the station to Invicta Supergold. In that time, Dave Cash turned around the station's revenue fortunes and increased the station's audience. Southern Radio bought Invicta in 1991 which in turn latterly became part of Capital Radio plc when they bought out Southern Radio Group stations in 1998. Today, the local AM elements of the Capital Gold service come from Invicta FM studios at Radio House, John Wilson Business Park, Whitstable in Kent. www.capitalgold.com
LARK FM / KM-FM Ashford: See THE FUTURE section below.
MEDWAY FM / MERCURY FM / Medway's KM-FM: Transmissions for this new Kent service started 1st September 1997. But within 12 months of launch, the operators Medway FM Ltd, were in hot water with industry regulators, The Radio Authority, who found the station guilty of intentionally adjusting the power of it's transmitter on two separate occasions, and significantly above the level specified by the licence. Subsequently, a £5,000 fine + £60 RA costs was imposed. The RA said that the station's frequency of 107.9 is right next to the frequency range off a normal radio spectrum, as used by aircraft to be guided towards their target airfield.
By February 1999, an approach to the RA had been made by DMGT, (Daily Mail & General Trust) who were, at the time, making inroads into radio acquisitions. The acquisition in question here was that DMGT were seeking approval to buy Radio Mercury Limited for £3.75million in cash. Mercury then controlled Surrey FM & AM licences, Mercury FM & Fame 1521 for Reigate & Crawley.
So, here we begin to see where the Mercury branding came in. DMG then took a controlling interest in Medway FM in the March of 2000 - and notified the RA of the same - meaning DMG were becoming a dominant force in the five counties around London - taking the licences held to nine in the South East of the country. DMG then held 70 stations in the UK, Australia and Central Europe - plus other minor radio investments. A public interest test was then carried out by the Radio Authority but no negative effects were forseen and business continued under the new name which was then rolled out - Medway became Mercury, at least on-air.
Following DMGT's disposal of it's radio interests, for a short time, GWR had their hands on Mercury - and many feared a repeat of the 'better music mix' in yet another area. But GWR didn't keep it for long due to the ongoing group problem of 'station ownership points' as stipulated by the Radio Authority - enter the next owner. Enter another public interest test. Kent Messenger Ltd had then taken a controlling interest in Medway FM Ltd which broadcast as Mercury 107.9 and 100.4. KMG already published several newspapers in the Medway FM area so plurality was investigated. Again, no negative effects were envisaged, and so the takeover was complete and the station was re-launched in group branding: Medway's KM-FM from 2nd September 2002.
The station continues to serve 315,000 adults aged 15+ from studios at 186 High Street, Rochester. www.kentonline.co.uk/kmfm
CHANNEL RADIO / THE SOUND / SHEPWAY SOUND / WHITE CLIFFS SOUND / NEPTUNE RADIO / KM-FM for Shepway & White Cliffs Country: The roots of this radio station can be traced as far back as the 1970s as a pirate station - Channel Radio, launched by Eddie Austin. The station was hugely popular, and despite receiving heavy fines, Eddie vowed to fight on until a full-time licence was granted. Upon the arrival of new regulator The Radio Authority, came the opportunity to hold short-term radio licences - RSLs or Restricted Service Licences. Shepway Sound made two outings using these licences - firstly from 27/11/93 to 24/12/93 for Folkestone, then again from 08/08/94 to 04/09/94 for Dover. White Cliffs Sound aired in between times, firstly from 02/05/94 to 29/05/04 to cover the Dover White Cliffs Festival, and again as White Cliffs Country from 01/08/1995 to 28/08/1995.
This service launched as Neptune Radio - a GOLD format station for the Channel Ports of Dover and Folkestone, operated by South East Radio Ltd (although Kent Messenger had a share holding too) on 29th September 1997. It was originally going to be called The Sound after the trial broadcasts were provided in the broadcast area - the name Neptune Radio was put in place prior to launch because of it's close location to the sea! It's broadcasts started in one of the oldest buildings in Dover, situated in Church Street, ironically, next door to Kent Messenger offices. As Neptune, the station won several radio industry awards - notably a 1998 Sony Radio Award for the Drivetime show and was also nominated for a Sony Radio Award for Station of the Year in 1999. The station subsequently won the award in both 1999 & 2000. Station Programme manager Spencer Cork won an award for Technical Excellence in Broadcasting in 1999, as awarded by the CRCA (Commercial Radio Companies Association). There was also an award for 'Best News Programme' for 'Neptune Reports'
With such success, the station became an attractive acquisition target. Radio Investments took control of the station, applying it's successful format to Arrow 107.8 (Hastings) and Sovereign Radio 107.5 in Eastbourne.
Almost four years after launch, in August 2001, local newspaper business Kent Messenger Ltd notified the Radio Authority that it had acquired the 60% of the station it didn't own, along with Canterbury's CTFM Ltd, broadcasting as 106 CTFM Radio, and TLR in Thanet. Under broadcasting law, a company which runs a local newspaper cannot also own a local radio station in the same area unless a public interest test shows that the arrangement would not be against the public interest. And so the public interest test was conducted with no negative conclusions drawn by the Authority by November 2001. August 2002 saw the encroachment of networking under the guise of 'East Kent's biggest jukebox' followed by the Barry Bethall Club. The station name was subsequently changed to reflect group branding - KM-FM.
In January 2003, under Kent Messenger's ownership, KM-FM for Shepway & White Cliffs Country moved to a purpose built office at 93-95 Sandgate Road, Folkestone - this site offers station staff some pleasant views across the English Channel & the Dover Straights. The move was not done with ease - Shepway Council wouldn't let the station beam the Dover signal across from Folkestone to the Guston transmitter. Instead, a land line was installed across to what later became vacated Dover offices. The station broadcasts to a potential audience of 145,000 with a mix of adult contemporary music from the 60s to today plus the obligatory news programming. There are also regular travel bulletins covering ports activity plus crime prevention programming with Kent Police. Two frequencies, 96.4 (Folkestone) & 106.8 (Dover) are used to broadcast the service. www.kentonline.co.uk/kmfm
PREMIER RADIO / PREMIER CHRISTIAN RADIO: It was 10th June 1995 when religious radio got the chance to take to the air, albeit on AM airwaves. Broadcasting from the appropriately named Chapter Street in London's SW1 Victoria district, it provides news, current affairs and lifestyle issues reflecting the values and beliefs of the Christian faith. Music aired on the station is designed to reflect Christian life as well as traditional and contemporary styles. Broadcasts come from five transmitters using three frequencies for London and around the M25 catchment area: 1413AM (Heathrow) (West) for Maidenhead, Camberley, Staines, Harrow, Watford, 1413 (Dartford) (East) for Chelmsford, Brentwood, Dartford, Maidstone & Sevenoaks, 1305 (Enfield) (North) for Stevenage, Bishops Stortford, Harlow and Hertford, 1305 (South) (Ewell) for Crawley, Guildford, Reigate and Woking, and 1332 (Bow) for London, including Barnet and Croydon. The station can also be heard on the local cable television service (NTL) on channel 886 and nationally via SKY DIGITAL on Channel 873.
Premier Christian Radio aims to provide a platform for others to be heard, with editorial content designed to emphasise common beliefs and values from within the Christian community, but does not hold firm places for particular religious denominations, theologies, political or doctrinal views. Output is produced and presented by both paid staff and volunteers, the latter numbering over 150. It is commercial funded. www.premier.org.uk.
TLR FM / TLR 107.2 / Thanet's KM-FM: Founded by Ken Wills, Alan McKaye & Peter Wilson, the station was launched as TLR (Thanet Local Radio) on January 17th 1998. Research has shown that the launch was not without drama - back in the September of 1997, the Radio Authority gave the station the green light on the licence after some alleged internal legal wrangles between the company's directors. We can find no further information on this particular point.
Still, after launch, the station forged very strong links with the local community in it's early years. The station was the first acquisition for Kent Messenger Ltd, publishers of a set of local newspapers. After launch, RAJAR/IPSOS-RSL figures showed an increase in average weekly listenership of 20%.
In 2001, local newspaper business Kent Messenger Ltd notified the Radio Authority that it had acquired the Canterbury station CTFM, (see above), along with another old South East Radio Ltd station, Dover & Folkestone's Neptune Radio to add to Thanet station TLR 107.3. Under broadcasting law, a company which runs a local newspaper cannot also own a local radio station in the same area unless a public interest test shows that the arrangement would not be against the public interest. And so the public interest test was conducted with no negative conclusions drawn by the Authority by November 2001. On 12th March 2002, it was announced that Kent Messenger had bought two more radio stations, almost doubling the size of it's overall broadcasting reach. It reached an agreement with GWR Group plc to purchase, for what was an undisclosed sum, the Mercury radio operations, to add to other acquisitions The station name was subsequently changed to reflect group branding - KM-FM - in March 2003, having been authorised by the Radio Authority in the previous January. Today the station continues it's music variety format with the resources of the Kent Messenger for news coverage, and prides itself on offering a 'purely local' service, which includes regular community action features, and outlets for charities and organisations. The Thanet station continues to appear at local events such as the Grand Prix Ramsgate Power Boat Event and the Broadstairs Water Gala.
Programming runs from 6:00am to 1:00am with each late night show quite beautifully titled 'Dreamtime'. An overnight sustaining service fills the gap in between. Programmes originate from the old TLR premises at Imperial House, 2-14 High Street in Margate. www.kentonline.co.uk/kmfm
RADIO THAMESMEAD (RTM) / MILLENNIUM RADIO / MILLENNIUM 106.8 / 106.8 TIME FM: Formerly heard exclusively on the Thamesmead cable system as a community radio station, it spent many years campaigning for a full FM broadcast frequency. In 1989, their hard work paid off when Radio Thamesmead Ltd, operated by Thamesmead Town Ltd, was awarded a licence to broadcast to South East London by the Radio Authority. It launched as RTM Radio on 18th March 1990. Four years later, in January 1994, a full eight-year licence was re-awarded to the station. (It faced just one opponent for its licence from Thames Radio Group.)
The station was to be run entirely not for profit, with any excess funding steered into community based projects and to improve station facilities. Over its time on air, a diverse mix of specialist programming was broadcast, along with regular input from members of the public - a group of nearby houses were where adequate production facilities were housed.
In September 1999, the Radio Authority gave permission for the station, which had then changed its name to Millennium Radio, to choose two ethnic communities it wished to provide a community radio service for. Previously, a three-month trial period had been agreed in which no Asian music programming was carried. It's broadcast licence had, in the past, obliged the station to feature Asian music programming within the schedule. It also provided a set of programmes for Vietnamese and Africans but these were not part of the licence remit. The RA, acting with a light touch policy, considered it inappropriate to give orders to a mainstream station as to which minorities it should provide a service for. The Millennium format was subsequently amended with the inclusion of the elements for the minorities of the station's choice - those being Vietnamese & African, although stating that they could still expand to feature Asian programming if they decided to. This was based on the varying nature and volume of the make up of each ethnic community in the Capital - and allowed such a free rein for the station providing they were obliging their community remit.
1991 Census figures showed less than 4% of the people living in Bexley & Greenwich, the station broadcast area, were of Asian origin. This was in contrast to letters and petitions received by the RA regarding Asian programming on the station during the three month trial period - a contributing factor to the RA decision was based on the fact that a large proportion of mail received was actually from outside the Millennium broadcast radius.
A year later, the station was sold to Milestone Pictures Group, who were already running YouthFM on the internet, Sky Digital and using the Radio Authority Restricted Service Licences (RSLs). At this point, RAJAR - audience figure providers - concluded that of almost 800,000 possible listeners, 2% of all adults were listening, that is around 15,000 adults and around 1,000 children aged below 15. The acquisition had followed a lengthy period of speculation about a possible takeover and several failed attempts by other groups and individuals. It was originally put up for sale for £1m in June 1999.
At the time of takeover, it was turning over £180,000 for the financial year to 1998-1999, but was having a difficult time and showed a running loss of £267,000. This was despite a change of name and frequency (106.8). Its licence format at the time showed that the station was providing a 'full service of music, news and community information for 35-55 year olds in the Thamesmead area' and that hourly news bulletins with local news must run in daytime programming from Monday to Sunday, speech content should not be less than 20% of the same and that music policy was one of current and recent hits and album tracks with a whopping 40% of music airtime open to be non-hit singles, album material and easy listening. Just five hours of evening programming per week were to be of specialist orientation.
The station was later owned by Fusion Radio Holdings who, in January of 2003 renamed the station Time 106.8. The station's total survey area (TSA) was then downsized to around 500,000 - IPSOS/RAJAR figures for the period July-December 2002 showed an increase in audience to 20,000 people (4%) with each listener tuning in for 8.1 hours per week. Broadcasting from studios at the top end of Basildon Road in London, it is designed to appeal to a more specific 25-54 year old age group with a mix of music from the past five decades. The participation of the local community in programme production was evident as was the arts and specialist music programming. Time 106.8 targets South East London and North West Kent and Central London south of the River Thames.
A scan down the schedule under Fusion Radio Holdings ownership showed a general schedule Monday to Saturday, except a continuous music sweep from 9pm-10pm weekdays, Vietnamese programming aired for 30 minutes at 6:00am every Sunday, a soul show every Sunday night from 10pm, there was continuous music from Midnight to 6:00am throughout the week, and for sports coverage, the station focused on the progress of Charlton Athletic FC.
In February 2004, Sunrise Radio Holdings, which already held two London analogue radio licences at the time, plus digital radio services, bought Time 106.8 (Thamesmead), and Fusion 107.3 from Milestone Group for £1.2m. Both stations had been for sale for twelve months previously - Sunrise also later bought Havering's Soul City FM, rebranding both that station and Fusion 107.3 as Time FM. The newly acquired stations form part of the Sunrise Empire, but under the separate heading of the London Media Company. Another station joined the group in May 2004 when Sunrise bought Slough's Star 106.6FM.
The Time 106.8 station schedule is now very mainstream with standard elements throughout the day with the occasional special, i.e. Smash Hits Chart, School Reunion, 80s and Love elements. Programming is live from 4:00am-Midnight with automation in between. There is no longer coverage of Charlton Athletic FC - a change evident since the new owners moved in. According to Jul-Dec 2003 audience figures, the station is listened to by 16,000 of a potential 483,000 adults aged 15+ with each listener tuning in for 7.8 hours per week - this gives it a 1.3% share of all listening in the local marketplace. www.timefm.com/Time_106.8.htm (Time FM home page @ www.timefm.com)
COMMERCIAL: REGIONAL (IRR)
JAZZ FM London / JFM / 102.2 JAZZ FM / 102.2 SMOOTH FM: Broadcasting from 26-27 Castlereagh Street in London, this specialist station began broadcasting on 4th March 1990 as Jazz FM (London). Its sister station in the North West started four years later. This particular station's format is one of jazz, soul, blues and R&B, with regional, national and world news in with the speech content. The Jazz FM brand belongs to the Guardian Media Group - the 100.4 North West Independent Regional Radio (IRR) MD is the ex-Border Radio/Century boss John Myers. The service is also available to DTT Freeview customers, on SKY Digital channel 917, via cable TV operators, DAB Digital Radio and on line at www.jazzfm.co.uk. Daytime output includes a general mix of popular jazz and soul music - with evening programming taking on an increasingly more laid back feel as the night progresses. Specialist shows also feature. Among well known presenters to appear, there's Tony Blackburn, Paul Jones (Manfred Mann & Radio 2), and Jim Colvin (Chiltern Radio & Choice FM). There are also experienced Jazz musicians in the presenter line-up. As far as regional coverage is concerned, we're talking outwards from the Capital, as far as Stevenage & Luton in Bedfordshire in the North, Chelmsford and Essex, Maidstone & Kent in the East, Camberley & Woking, Guildford, Reigate & Crawley in Surrey to the South, High Wycombe & Hemel Hempstead in Buckinghamshire, and all points in-between, to approximately 10million people. Although it was known as JFM for a short time, it later reverted back to original branding, albeit with an additional frequency tag.
Audience figures for Jazz FM reached a new high for the three months up to September 2004, with 131,000 new listeners taking total listenership to 845,000. It aims to have 10% of the audience listening for an average of seven hours per week. Despite the fact that the station owners have never made a profit in it's 13 year lifetime, Myers expected GMG Radio would record a profit for the first time in 2004 - it reported only a £2.1m loss in 2003, down from £6.3m the year before. Myers refrained from commenting on suggestions that the group could merge with Chrysalis who, in November 2004, reported flat advertising revenues over recent months and in the wake of the suggestion of a Capital / GWR Merger.
Would you expect a station called Jazz FM to play Jazz music? OFCOM didn't seem to think so, as it was agreed that from Monday 15th November 2004, traditional Jazz could disappear from daytime schedules on the London station and North West 100.4 Smooth FM station previously known as Jazz FM, after the regulator agreed to the station request for a change of format. Instead, the station will play more soul and R&B in daytime hours in a bid to appeal to more listeners and advertisers, however, modern jazz singers, described as being of the likes of Jamie Cullum and Joss Stone, arguably cross over artists anyway, will be heard in the daytime. Chief Exec of the station's owners, Guardian Media Group, John Myers said: "The policy we are going on is ratings by day, reputation by night Jazz is much more of a night-time listen so the changes fit well." The station will increase evening Jazz output from 40 to 45 hours per week, with the flagship 'Dinner Jazz' show, lasting three hours per night rather than two. OFCOM's authority for the changes has seen the scrapping of it's licence provision stating that '50% of the output in daytime sits well with the term 'Jazz'.
Following the renaming of the North West station in March and the subsequent amendment to the music format in November 2004, in February 2005, GMG took a decision to abandon the Jazz name completely by re-branding London's 102.2 Jazz FM as 102.2 Smooth FM. The North West change was implemented with the aim to appeal to a wider audience of listeners and enable it to achieve full potential. Now, the London station is expected to relaunch within six months, moving on to target a wide audience of listeners interested in a broader selection of music. A multi-million pound advertising campaign across the Capital will back up the transition.
The decision to abandon the Jazz FM name came after efforts to get the programming schedule across, whilst keeping the name, failed to attract audience and revenue to GMG's satisfaction. However, extensive research has revealed that there is a large appetite for the style of music set to be broadcast when the relaunch takes place - artists such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, George Benson, Michael Buble and Diana Krall will fill the new daytime schedule.
Radio Chief Executive John Myers said: "We believe this station has
enormous potential and will soon be among London's top five commercial
stations. As sorry as we are to say goodbye to JAZZFM, it's a sad fact of
life that it has never made a profit in its 15 years of existence. We are
caught between not playing enough jazz to please the purist and having the name
which inhibits trial from other listeners. There are not enough people who
like jazz music to make it a viable proposition and this has been a fact for 15
years now. This new brand and direction will allow us to really grab the
opportunities that lie ahead - there is a wider gap in the market for what we
will do. The success of and appetite for Smooth FM has already been proven
in the North West and we're looking forward to replicating its achievements in
The London station will continue to include 45 hours of specialist jazz programming each week, and presenters such as Sarah Ward, Ramsey Lewis and Campbell Burnap will remain with the station. In a further move, GMG Radio has also announced that the stations website www.Jazzfm.com will see additional investment with the site upgraded to include its own 24 hours a day output of pure jazz.
Having established the brand in the North West, Smooth now appears on the SKY Digital radio channel line up. Output launched on Channel 878 from Valentine's Day, 14th February 2005. Audience figures from RAJAR Quarter 4 figures for 2005 show that the station achieved an record audience figure of 437,000 listeners a week. GMG Radio Managing Director Roy Bennett said: "The station's been such a huge success it will be great to give it a national platform. Radio listening via the television continues to grow and is a great way for people to sample Smooth FM."
For ALR 106.5 Ashford Local Radio, ASHFORD FM & LARK FM: See THE FUTURE section below.
THE RIVER: Established in 1997, this station has been campaigning since then to bring local radio to Gravesham and Dartford, aka Kent Thameside. They state that there is space on the local radio dial for a new station for the area. This has been acknowledged by former radio industry regulator The Radio Authority, however, the RA also said at the same time that they could not find a slot on the crowded FM dial.
The group maintains it's campaign based on many factors, but particularly that the area has the UK's largest regeneration scheme, that the population is set to rise by more than 50% by 2021, and that there will be 50,000 jobs and 30,000 homes in the next 20 years including a new mini city called Ebbsfleet near Gravesend and Dartford, and the creation of the Ebbsfleet International Passenger Station linking the area to the continent in two hours or under from 2007 and halving journeys to London St. Pancras to just 20 minutes.
Three trial services have been operated to date - firstly from 05/07/97, again from 27/11/97 and most recently from 03/07/1999, all on 107.1 FM. The group has been very quiet since then, but maintains it''s campaign via it's website - www.theriver.co.uk
SWALE SOUND: This station first appeared on the local radio dial on 28th November 1997 for 28-days targeting Sittingbourne. For it's second broadcast from 4th August 2002, it targeted Sheerness, and since that time, it has based itself towards Minster On Sea for further regular broadcasts. Swale Sound has long campaigned for a local radio station for Sittingbourne, Faversham, The Isle of Sheppey and the Swale area. Despite maintaining it's campaign for the same, it has won one battle to get on-air, and now appears on the new Kent Digital Multiplex (see below) which came on-line in April 2004. Swale Sound shares the channel with Totally Radio and airs from 6:00am-6:00pm. www.swalesound.co.uk / www.swalesound.com
DIGITAL: One application was received by the Radio Authority for the new Kent Digital radio multiplex licence. Capital Radio Digital, a subsidiary of Capital Radio plc, applied for the 12 year licence to serve over 1.2million people aged 15 or more in the service area. In April 2003, the RA awarded the new Kent DAB licence to them. Nine channels are promised including BBC Radio Kent, of which it is required to carry under the terms of the 1996 Broadcasting Act.
Line-Up is as follows:
* Invicta FM (CHR)
* Capital Gold (Gold)
* BBC Radio Kent (PSB)
* Kent Digital Extra (AC and classic hits, local news - provided by Kent Digital Extra Ltd., a subsidiary of Kent Messenger Ltd.)
* Xfm (Credible new music)
* Saga Radio (Easy listening)
* Kiss (Dance)
* Community channel - supplier to be confirmed
* Swale Sound (a Full local service (Swale area) (06.00-18.00)) / Totally Radio (Alternative specialist (18.00-06.00)) See RSL section above for a profile & weblink
The service started operating in April 2004 using VHF band III frequency block 11C (centre frequency: 220.352 MHz)., utilising five transmitters located at Bluebell Hill, Chartham, Ashford, Tunbridge Wells and Margate) to hit 73% of the intended audience.
In late July 2004, OFCOM formally advertised a new 12-year FM radio licence for Ashford in Kent to cover the town and the surrounding area using 107.6 for an estimated audience of 60,000 adults (15+) but this is dependent on the capabilities and technical statistics for the transmission site which will be authorised after OFCOM receives final plans from the successful applicant. 500w mixed looks set to be the max achievable for this station which has variable measures of radius width dependent on the transmitter site. OFCOM may have to impose restrictions so as not to affect existing stations Dream 107.7 in Chelmsford, Havering's Soul City 107.5 and Sovereign Radio in Eastbourne (107.5). Additionally, there may be problems resulting in a restriction to south-east signals which, if allowed, could interrupt output for a 107.7 based travel news service in France. Applicants had until 21st October 2004 to submit an application along with a non-refundable deposit of £1,500.
Following the closing date, a total of six applications had been received. Only East Kent Radio pledged to target local residents aged 30 or over - all the others targeted a younger audience. In February 2005, OFCOM awarded a licence to Lark FM, who will launch under the locally familiar KM-fm branding of KM-fm Ashford. Kent Messenger own 67% of the enterprise, with Barretts Ltd owning 10%, Hobbs Parker Partnership holding 7.5% with the remaining 15.5% owned by 10 individuals.
A total of five short-term licences under the Lark FM brand have been held, the first from 09/10/00, the last from 28/09/03. The station aimed to provide a quality service concentrating on the local area and people. Output included music from four decades, as well as new chart releases, competitions, news, sport and travel. This station clearly set out aims to be first past the post for the Ashford licence. Programming was hugely similar to the KM-fm format.
Lark FM's website also claimed to have been at the forefront of campaigns for a local radio station, and interestingly stated that the issue became more important after Ashford failed to get a licence in the round of community licences awarded to Kent in 1996, leaving the borough the only place in the Eastern part of the county without a community licence. This comment is made all the more interesting by the fact that actual community licences only came to the fore in the early part of 2004. The group was informed of the plans to bring the process of advertising a licence for the area back in April 2001 by the previous radio industry regulator The Radio Authority (RA), and this is where the group began formulating the sound of the station, in conjunction with public consultations. This began in January 2002 with an initial taste and interest survey, carried out again in May 2002. A focus group carried out research in October 2002 after a further broadcast, and the final survey came in June 2004, to assess who would listen to their proposed new service. If awarded the licence, Lark FM aims to go to air in the Summer of 2005. www.larkfm.co.uk
Having beaten off five other applicants (see below), the station will provide the Borough of Ashford and surrounding areas with a full service of music and speech for a potential 60,000 adults (15+), with a wide variety of contemporary and classic tracks, accompanied by locally focused news, comprehensive local and practical information, and other speech features deemed to be relevant to the Ashford area. The exact transmission area has not been specified - this will be determined by the declaration of the transmitter site and other technical specifications, but the station will operate on 107.6FM, subject to international agreement on the use of the radio dial. KM-fm Ashford aims to launch in the Summer of 2005.
The unsuccessful applicants were:
A10 FM: www.atenfm.co.uk
ALR - Ashford Local Radio: There has been just one outing for this station on conventional airwaves - from 31/05/2003 to 27/06/2003, although it later carried out some webcasting. Ashford Local Radio is a Limited company owned by local investors, and had they have been successful in winning the licence, they aimed to be truly local, owned by, run by and produced for the people of Ashford. Bravely, their website announced that they did not want to be just another number within a giant multinational broadcasting firm or take news and programmes from a central source. They aimed to be an independent voice, accessible to everyone from an early 2005 launch date.
The team's radio connections are reflected by the inclusion of Nigel Reeve, a director, and senior name in the radio industry. He has worked in commercial radio since 1975, when he started at Radio Orwell in Ipswich. After spells at 2CR in Bournemouth and County Sound in Guildford he became Sales Director and then Managing Director of Kent's Invicta Radio, taking the company to a USM flotation in 1989. In 1991 he launched Classic FM as Sales and Marketing Director and in 1996 became Chief Executive of London News Radio. In 2000 he formed Fusion Radio Holdings Ltd before merging the company with Milestone Radio. In 2002 he formed Laser Broadcasting Ltd. Also with Nigel was Project Manager Tim Gill, who has 12 years of experience with the Invicta, Southern and Allied Radio Groups as well as LBC. www.ashfordlocalradio.com
ASHFORD FM: This station appeared regularly since the first outing which commenced 07/07/1996, operating on 106.5, the last of which was held from 18th February 2002. The year 2000 saw the station embark on a campaign for a full time licence for the area - a campaign which was not without reward. In July 2004, the station announced the intention to apply for the Ashford licence. The Wireless Group, operators of national sports station talkSPORT as well as 16 other local radio stations around the UK, supported the bid. Ashford FM is led by the Managing Director, Mark Carter who has overseen all the short-term broadcasts. He has a great deal of experience having worked in journalist and presenter roles for both the BBC and commercial sectors, notably Star 106.6, Neptune Radio, Channel Travel Radio and BBC Radio Kent. Malcolm Triggs runs a local marketing and PR consultancy company 'Go4' and joined the station team in 2003.
The Wireless Group saw Ashford FM as having been "the driving force" behind getting Ashford into OFCOM's list for pending licence advertisements, and provided both business and financial resources, however the group also saw this as part of a longer term strategy to build on it's network of local radio stations. This would have undoubtedly meant eventual acquisition moves and rebranding if the station had been awarded the licence and having allowed it to settle. The bid was also backed by the local newspaper Adscene. This saaw the company's Chief Exec Peter Edwards join the board which also included ex-Invicta Radio Chief Exec Nigel Reeve, ex-Invicta Radio Chairman Richard Sturt, Kent County Councillor Richard King, Charity Organiser Lea Randolph, Ashford Town Centre Manager Chris West, Daniel Jones from Ashford Hospital Radio, and other local businessmen David Parker and Keith Rawlings. Invicta Radio launched with the help of Richard and Nigel, from Ashford-based studios back in the late 1980s. www.ashfordfm.net
EKR (EAST KENT RADIO): www.eastkentradio.co.uk
TIME FM (Ashford) (LMC / Sunrise Radio): www.timefm.com/timeashford.htm