Aircheck UK - Surrey

UPDATED: 19/02/2005

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BBC LOCAL RADIO: The Southern Counties first got a BBC Local Radio station in 1968 as BBC Radio Brighton.  Blizzards hit the region whilst the studios and premises were still being built, with the sheer volume of snow almost bringing the town to a grinding halt.   And so, manager Bob Gunnell took the executive decision to go on-air earlier than planned.  There is a rumour that he borrowed a transmitter from one of the BBC networks taking it off the air and replacing it with a local service.  

Early programming came from a rapidly built studio in a small room at the Dome.  However, full service commenced quickly, with the station earning a place in listeners' hearts as a friend and companion, but also as a provider of local news and information.  It had a reputation for coverage of not only very local stories, but also major stories of national importance.

When the Eurovision Song Contest was held at the Dome in 1974, extensive coverage was aired on BBC Radio Brighton without ever actually playing Abba's massive hit, 'Waterloo', which was considered to be too noisy by station management of the time.  Major stories covered include the 1987 mud slides in the coastal town of Rottingdean, (situated between Brighton and Peacehaven), and the hurricane which hit the same week in the same year.  Local talent to have started on Radio Brighton include Kate Adie, Des Lynam and Jeremy Paxman.  

1992 saw the launch of BBC Radio Surrey which came from the current BBC Guildford HQ with Radio Sussex programming sharing the airwaves.  Both came together in 1993 with a new name - BBC Southern Counties Radio from September 1994.  More recently, in February of 1992, the Brighton broadcast staff moved into new studios in Queens Road, Brighton.  BBC Southern Counties Radio broadcasts on 104 - 104.8 & 95-95.4FM.  There are no AM services.  


COMMERCIAL:  LOCAL (ILR)

Steve Hack reports: COUNTY SOUND RADIO commenced broadcasting in April 1983 on 1476 MW and 96.6 FM.   The first presenter on-air was Phil Miles.   As the IBA had dictated simulcasting should stop in favour of separate services on FM & AM, County Sound split its service in 1988, believed to be the first station to split, launching Gold AM (on AM!) and renaming the FM service Premier FMGold AM was later re-launched as First Gold Radio and Premier FM as Premier Radio, then County Sound Premier.

In 1992 a separate service was started on 97.1 for Haslemere called Delta Radio, billed at the time as Britain's smallest radio station.

County Sound merged with Radio Mercury in 1991 with Mercury subsequently making dramatic changes to the schedule, including the dropping of specialist shows and eventually renaming the FM service Mercury. Delta was dropped as was First Gold.

Some of the people behind the original County Sound won back the licence in the mid nineties with the FM service named The Eagle. Delta returned (and later merged with Alton station Wey Valley) and the AM service is called County Sound.

It was the original County Sound that got me into radio when I was at school and I was an avid listener until it changed to Mercury, hence why I know a bit about the station!

The Aircheck Editor adds: Mercury as a brand name expanded over the last couple of years, with Mercury stations on 96.6 (St.Albans & Watford - 22nd October 1994), 96.2 & 101.6 (Tunbridge Wells & Sevenoaks - 8th July 1995), 100.4 & 107.9 (Medway Towns - 1st September 1997) and 97.5 & 102.7 (Reigate & Crawley - 20th October 1984).  The Tunbridge, Sevenoaks & Medway Towns services are now broadcasting as KM-FM since acquisition by Kent Messenger Group.  They purchased the stations from GWR who had purchased the Mercury stations a short period previously from DMG Radio / Essex Radio Group.  See our Sussex and Kent page and elsewhere on this page below for more details on the Mercury story..

COUNTY SOUND 1566AM  is owned by UKRD, providing a full soft adult contemporary and gold service - the licence commenced 4th April 1996.  County Sound Radio is a medium wave adult contemporary music station broadcasting to Surrey and North East Hampshire. Aimed at the 35+ plus age group, it plays classic hits from the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and today.

County Sound has a commitment to local news for Surrey and North East Hampshire - hourly bulletins and half hour headliines during the day complemented with two half hour news programmes at 1pm and 6pm. Sport also features with regular programmes covering local football and ice hockey in particular. Lifestyle interviews and competitions feature throughout the day.

Also there are a wide range of evening 'Community' programmes allowing a broad range of subjects and music genres to be covered - from Swingtime to the best of the Sixties, from the latest Entertainment News to a twice weekly hour long religious programme.

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DELTA FM serves the Hampshire areas of Alton & Haslemere - this service was the next to launch in the area on 22nd November 1992 - it uses three frequencies - 97.1 (Holy Cross Hospital, Haslemere)), 101.6 (Four Marks, Hindhead relay added July 9th 2001 to provide better coverage of Grayshott & Beacon Hill) & 102FM (Alton) supplied with programme feed from studios at Prospect Place, Mill Lane, in Alton, Hampshire.  It is now part of the UKRD group of stations.  Originally Delta FM 102 Wey Valley, then County Sound Delta FM 97.1, and owned by Radio Mercury, it's launch day was hectic - just one hour after the local Mayor opened the station, strong winds hit Haslemere but the station remained on-air.  Mercury closed the station in 1994 - former management of County Sound then applied for the licence promising to bring back Delta as part of it.  It's application was accepted by the Radio Authority in 1995 and the station returned to air on 9th May 1996 from Weyhill studios.  Amongst the presenters on duty at this time was the legendary Tony Brandon.  It's broadcast area ranges from Bramley, Elstead & Bentley in the North, Midhurst in the South and Greatham in the West.  Interestingly, locals are given the opportunity to present community programmes which are broadcast during some weekday evenings.  The station considers itself to serve South West Surrey and North West Sussex as well as North East Hampshire 

The Delta service arrived in Petersfield on Saturday 2nd August 2003.  The station has long campaigned to the Radio Authority to be able to permanently broadcast in Petersfield - which has not had it's own radio station before.  To assess the feasibility of the station broadcasting to the area, two short trial broadcasts aired - there was a good level of feedback flooding into the premises in Rams Walk.  As a result of the trials and the lobbying, FM 101.8 now services Petersfield and surrounding villages.  The new Rams Walk transmitter was launched at 10:18 on the 2nd August 2003 by the local Mayor.        www.deltaradio.co.uk 

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96.4 THE EAGLE is branded as a a hot adult contemporary radio station broadcasting to Surrey and North East Hampshire. The licence commenced 4th April 1996, primarily targeted at the 25-44 age group, and playing music with a broad appeal from the 80ís, 90ís and the current decade.  It also carries regular local news and travel information. Features, competitions and on air promotions reflect the contemporary nature of the station.  The station is also owned by UKRD.

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KINGSTON FM / PALACE FM / 107.8 THAMES FM / 107.8 THAMES RADIO / THAMES 107.8:  The history of this station can be traced as far back as 29th June 1992 when a station by the name of Palace FM went on the air to cover the International Flower Show at London's Hampton Court Palace, using a Restricted Service Licence (RSL) from the Radio Authority.  It returned again for the same event for another 28 days, from 25th June 1994.  In between, Kingston FM broadcast across the Kingston district from 27th November 1993.  Following the final Palace FM broadcast, the group concentrated on working towards a full-time licence with further RSL broadcasts coming from 1st May 1994, 28th November 1994 and finally 1st May 1995.  

Having proved it's ability to broadcast, it subsequently won a radio licence to cover South-West London from 1st March 1997 as Thames FM.  As quickly as a year later, 20th April 1998 to be precise, it re-launched in a completely opposite way to other FM stations, who had previously dropped the word 'Radio' to be replaced with FM.  Thames FM became Thames Radio.

Licenced to cover Kingston-Upon-Thames and surrounding areas, the licence covers 24 hour programming, locally produced and presented for at least 18 hours a day during the week, and 12 hours at weekends, with general output being of a full service of music, news, community issues, and information for 25-54 year olds in the broadcast area.  The licence also includes a strong focus on news and information - speech not dipping below 25% of the daytime output, 10% off-peak, hourly local news bulletins to run during daytime with national and international news at other times, and an extended news bulletin each weekday.  Musically, Thames was licenced to include popular tracks, half less than seven years old, and half for the 7-35 year age range.  Easy listening and album tracks also feature in the licence.  In addition, country, light classical and tracks older than 35 years can also feature.  A comforting 16 hours of specialist music features in off-peak evening programming.  

In July 2002, the Radio Authority published it's 'Programming & Advertising Review' for the second quarter of the year.  Thames Radio featured, but not in a positive light.  The RA had cause to issue what it called a 'yellow-card' because of what it felt was a drop in the level of speech to below the levels quoted in the licence.  It also concluded that the station was including too much recent music and neglecting the older material.  The RA can issue a 'yellow card' if it feels that a station's character of service as defined in it's licence, is being breached - the 'card' is designed to act as an early warning to stations with the requirement to return within the boundaries of the station format to avoid any further punitive action.  

During it's time on-air, the station has been affected to some considerable extent by pirates - management claimed that London based pirate interference to it's 107.8 frequency was limiting it's transmitter range, losing advertising revenue and listeners.  However, complaint to the Authorities came at a price - Thames Radio received the pirate's payback when a presenter's car was vandalised.  

In 1985, Tony Collis was forced to shut down 'the sound of South-West London' on 227m, 1332khz - Radio Jackie, after 15 years of operation, albeit illegally on 4th February 1985.  Ten years after this closedown, in 1996 to be precise, he made efforts to bring the station back as a legal broadcaster when the South-West London licence was advertised.  Radio Jackie proposed a very detailed set of plans with a lot of community content, but, possibly due to the fact that the Radio Authority could not be seen to be rewarding illegal broadcasting, Thames were awarded the community radio licence for the area.   However, in the early part of 2002, the Radio Authority gave it's consent for Radio Jackie Ltd to take over the financially struggling Thames Radio for the price of just £1, however, they also inherited station debts at the same time.  As at June 2003, an automated service was being aired on 107.8 across the South West of London - and as of the time of writing this prrofile, (late July), the station is expected to relaunch as Radio Jackie, with some of the original presenter team also involved.  Back in the 1980s, research showed a reach of 28%.  Recent figures show Thames Radio to be hitting just 0.2% in audience share - something the Jackie team must be looking to improve on.  

The station broadcasts from studios within The Old Post Office, 110-112 Tolworth Broadway, in Surbiton, Surreywww.thamesradio.com 

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RADIO MERCURY / MERCURY FM: On 20th October 1984, having won the radio licence for Reigate in Surrey, Radio Mercury owned by historic media mogul John Aumonier, began it's commercial radio service from Broadfield House in Crawley operating on both FM (103.6 for Reigate in Surrey & 97.5 for Crawley in Sussex) and AM (1521 / 197metres).  The man who launched the station was Mr. Ed Stewart - however, other well known names to have worked at the station were Pat Sharp and Russ Williams.  For a time, programming was shared with listeners to Sussex station Southern Sound - predominantly evenings - this gave the stations the opportunity to swap presenters, something which happened on a couple of occassions in the early years.  In November 1984, Mercury's owner John Aumonier served a writ on London pirate station Radio Jackie for taking audience from his station.   A group claiming to be Radio Jackie reaped their revenge four years later when they hi-jacked transmission facilities of both Radio Mercury and Southern Sound.  

Gary Johnson remembers the attempts to maintain continuity where commercial breaks were different: 'Hi Ian, great site by the way!  When a commercial break used to come on during shared programming with Southern Sound, bits of music used to appear instead of commercials sometimes.  I often used to wonder why and after my curiosity got the better of me, I found out!  Both stations were airing their own commercials of course, and what with different booking schedules, one station used to finish their ads before the other - so they had to fill it.  It didn't always work I seem to remember....  Also, I could never work out quite what the station's logo from the early days, had to do with the station's name.  It was a jogger, running along huffing and puffing!  Obscure!'

Thanks Gary. Having spent such a short time on 103.6, a frequency shake up in 1986, saw the station's Reigate frequency meander down the dial to it's present location 102.7.  Radio Mercury Ltd merged with nearby station Delta FM 102 Wey Valley, which later became County Sound Delta FM 97.1 - see our entry above - Mercury's AM service became County Sound Radio in the early part of 1991 - together the group would become known as Allied Radio.  Poor AM results for County Sound saw the new branding of Mercury Extra and then again as Fame 1521.    The Independent Radio Group (IRG) purchased Allied Radio for £4.5m in March 1996.

Back on FM, the FM service finally took on the more hip and trendy radio moniker of Mercury FM.  The Mercury name has become a brand over recent years, and this can be accredited to DMG Radio, the radio division of Daily Mail & General Trust who became the owners in November 1998 for £3.75m in cash.   At that time, Radio Mercury Ltd controlled licences in Reigate (Surrey) & Crawley (Sussex) as Mercury FM, and the AM service Fame 1521.  The acquisition was subject to a public interest test by the Radio Authority due to DMG's interest in the newspaper industry. They subsequently took control of and re-branded KFM in Tonbridge, Medway FM in Medway, and Oasis FM in St. Albans all as the Mercury brand.  

DMG disposed of their UK radio interests in 2000 - enter GWR Group plc - who took control of their six stations in Southend-on-Sea, Harlow, St Albans, Rochester, Tonbridge and Crawley after a Radio Authority public interest test.  It's still not clear is it?  So, what of the Mercury brand do GWR currently own?  In short - all of it.  That's two stations on three frequencies - Crawley & Reigate on 97.5 & 102.7 & Mercury FM in Watford & St. Albans on 96.6.  The Kent Messenger Group took control of Mercury stations in Kent and renamed them as KM-FM.  To get a clearer picture, we suggest following our Aircheck UK Kent link!  

So down to today's facts then - Mercury FM as referred to here for Reigate and Crawley, currently broadcasts from The Stanley Centre on Kelvin Way in Crawley.

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RADIO MERCURY / MERCURY EXTRA / FAME 1521 / BREEZE 1521 / CLASSIC GOLD BREEZE / CLASSIC GOLD:  On 20th October 1984, having won the radio licence for Reigate in Surrey, Radio Mercury owned by historic media mogul John Aumonier, began it's commercial radio service from Broadfield House in Crawley operating on both FM (103.6 for Reigate in Surrey & 97.5 for Crawley in Sussex) and AM (1521 / 197metres).  The man who launched the station was Mr. Ed Stewart - however, other well known names to have worked at the station were Pat Sharp and Russ Williams.  For a time, programming was shared with listeners to Sussex station Southern Sound - predominantly evenings - this gave the stations the opportunity to swap presenters, something which happened on a couple of occassions in the early years.  In November 1984, Mercury's owner John Aumonier served a writ on London pirate station Radio Jackie for taking audience from his station.   A group claiming to be Radio Jackie reaped their revenge four years later when they hi-jacked transmission facilities of both Radio Mercury and Southern Sound.  

Gary Johnson remembers the attempts to maintain continuity where commercial breaks were different: 'Hi Ian, great site by the way!  When a commercial break used to come on during shared programming with Southern Sound, bits of music used to appear instead of commercials sometimes.  I often used to wonder why and after my curiosity got the better of me, I found out!  Both stations were airing their own commercials of course, and what with different booking schedules, one station used to finish their ads before the other - so they had to fill it.  It didn't always work I seem to remember....  Also, I could never work out quite what the station's logo from the early days, had to do with the station's name.  It was a jogger, running along huffing and puffing!  Obscure!'

Thanks Gary. Having spent such a short time on 103.6, a frequency shake up in 1986, saw the station's Reigate frequency meander down the dial to it's present location 102.7.  Radio Mercury Ltd merged with nearby station Delta FM 102 Wey Valley, which later became County Sound Delta FM 97.1 - see our entry above - Mercury's AM service became County Sound Radio in the early part of 1991 - together the group would become known as Allied Radio.  Poor AM results for County Sound saw the new branding of Mercury Extra.   On 4th May 1992, Mercury Extra became Fame 1521, broadcasting from the same studios as Radio Mercury, with a service of hits of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s with local and national news and sport for a potential audience of 357,000 people.  

The Independent Radio Group (IRG) purchased Allied Radio for £4.5m in March 1996.

DMG Radio, the radio division of Daily Mail & General Trust, became the owners of what was then IRG's Essex Radio Group in November 1998 for £3.75m in cash. Subject to a Radio Authority public interest test, the deal was approved in March 2000.   The station later became Breeze 1521, a DMG brand name.  Breeze acted as a classic pop hit-led station targeted primarily at the over 35s in the Reigate and Crawley area, and incorporating ex-Top 30 hits taken from 15 to 40 year period prior to broadcast.  Hits aged less than 10 years old only accounted for less than 35% of the daily output.  Special themed music genre days also took place occasionally, taking a particular decade rather than a couple.  

DMG disposed of their UK radio interests in 2000 - enter GWR Group plc who rolled out the Classic Gold service, first as Classic Gold Breeze, and now as Classic Gold 1521 which is now run by UBC - who took control of the group stationns when GWR  exceeded it's limit of station ownership.  GWR have shares in UBC and have written a clause into the sale enabling them to buy back a large portion of the group when/if ownership regulations are relaxed.  

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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.  

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TINDLE RADIO: Surrey is the home of Tindle Radio Limited - based at Weaver's Yard, 6 West Street in Farnham.  The company is led by the highly respected Sir Ray Tindle CBE DL.  Tindle Radio is the only family-owned radio operator in the UK. It operates six radio stations across the UK. It owns Channel 103, Jersey; Island FM, Guernsey; The Beach, Lowestoft; Dream 100, Colchester/Clacton; Dream 107, Chelmsford; Bridge FM, Bridgend; as well as minority stakes in Kick FM, Newbury; and Kestrel FM, Basingstoke.

COMMERCIAL:  REGIONAL (IRR)

Would you expect a station called Jazz FM to play Jazz music?  OFCOM don't seem to think so, as it has agreed that from Monday 15th November, traditional Jazz can 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's 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'.  

Audience figures for Jazz FM reached a new high for the three months up to September, 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's owners have never made a profit in it's 13 year lifetime, Myers expects GMG Radio would record a profit for the first time this year - it reported only a £2.1m loss last year, down from £6.3m the year before.  Myers refrained from commenting on suggestions that the group could merge with Chrysalis who recently reported flat advertising revenues over recent months and in the wake of the suggestion of a Capital / GWR Merger.

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."

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. 

GMG 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 London."

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.

RSL:

RADIO ST.HELIER: Radio St. Helier have recently completed an RSL on 87.7 from their hospital radio studios in the St. Helier hospital.  The station started broadcasting to the Carshalton hospital on June 6th 1970, and has provided a regular service since then.  They first took to the external airwaves back in 1995 to celebrate the station's 25th birthday, and operated the third RSL three years ago.  The local community responded so well that they returned to celebrate their 33rd birthday.  The combined costs of running the hospital service and the RSL is set at £10,000 by the station.  Normal programming includes specialist from 7-8pm, soul, rock, country, classical, and jazz being the genres, with other usual hospital orientated programming also being carried.  

DIGITAL:

HOSPITAL RADIO:

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