Aircheck UK: Commercial Radio Groups

UPDATED: 05/10/2004

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CN Group Ltd is one of the quieter radio groups in the fact that you don't hear much about them, as opposed to other groups listed on this page.  This group have made in-roads to smaller, SALLIE (small-scale alternative local licence) stations.  The headquarters for CN Group are at 26 St Georges Quay in Lancaster.  CN Group are publishers of the Cumberland News, Whitehaven News, Times and Star, Hexham Courant, North West Evening Mail, News and Star, Cumbrian Gazette, The Advertiser, Local Pages, Cumbria Life and Business Gazette.  It also deals in niche products, magazines, contract print, Internet related activity and of course, radio stations.  They own the following: The Bay (Morecambe), FM 102 The Bear (Stratford-Upon-Avon), Centre FM (Tamworth, Lichfield & Burton), City Beat 96.7 (Belfast), Mid 106 (Cookstown, Northern Ireland), Kix 96.2FM (Coventry), Lakeland Radio (Kendal & Windermere) & Oak 107 (Loughborough).


Capital Radio, now legendary in UK radio history came on air on two frequencies, 95.8vhf FM (at 2kw of power from Croydon) & 539 metres MW on 16th October 1973 as the second commercial radio station in the UK, serving London and surrounding areas - it was the second commercial station aafter neighbouring LBC which came on-air a week before. Richard (now Lord) Attenborough was the first man on-air..   Later in the 1970s, it moved to 194metres (1548kHz) (27.5kw from Saffron Green's transmitter) where it's AM service remains today.  

Auntie Beeb controlled the UK radio scene from the 1920s until the IBA offered the first licences in 1972 to be financed by advertising whilst the BBC took it's finance from the licence fee.  

Capital Radio's remit was to provide 'general entertainment' whilst LBC was designated a 'news and information' station. The industry quickly expanded and by 1976 there were 19 stations covering most major cities in the UK. The government put a hold on further franchises until 1980, and there are now well over 200, with 19 in London.

The station is renowned for being based at the massive Euston Tower (picture coming soon), just down the road from Euston Station, where it had five different studios around the main control room.  On-air was Studio 1, 2 was a stand-by, 3 handled chat shows and was a standby incase of a problem with Studio 2, 4 was the music studio for live performances and 5 was for commercial production.  Capital moved to Central London and prestigious studios above the Capital Cafe in Leicester Square a few years ago.  It is perhaps the only commercial station to retain a celebrity line up of nationally known presenters like Radio 1 used to have years ago - names such as Chris Tarrant, Neil 'Dr' Fox, Cat Deeley, Dermot O'Leary and Mike Osman.  

It is the group's flagship station and forms the headquarters of what is now Capital Radio plc- from one London station, the group has grown to include other London station X-FM, initially quite a troubled station, but now secure under Capital's tenure, and a core of stations based in major cities around the UK.  Altogether there are over 20 analogue licences which broadcast to over half the UK's population.  There are also 40 Digital Licences in the group's portfolio.  Capital describes itself as the UK's leading radio group, due to the fact that is is the largest in terms of revenue and profit.  Their ambition is to establish a national presence for the business by continuing to acquire new stations and by expanding the digital side of the business also.  

The purchase of Border Radio Holdings' interests (Century Network) was of great importance in building the national presence they so importantly seek and this gave them coverage of every major metropolitan area in the England and Wales.  They will continue to keep a keen eye on new licences and potential acquisitions to build further.

They believe in a policy of communication with honesty, openness and transparency included: the music format of each station is targeted at the most commercially attractive - i.e. the listeners that advertisers want to hit.  

The end of the 80s saw a requirement to end simulcasting on both FM & AM - and this led to a great number of stations changing to a GOLD format on AM.  Capital Radio launched 1548 AM Capital Gold with classic hits, whilst relaunching Capital Radio as 95.8 Capital FM, playing contemporary hit music.  Over 3 million people listen to the FM service per week.  The AM service plays the music from the 1970s to the 1990s along with comedy and football commentary.  Audience figures show a reach for Capital Gold that is larger that most other commercial stations.  

It had two stations but went on to add another eighteen.  In 1993 BRMB FM and Xtra AM in Birmingham were taken from GWR's purchase of Midlands Radio plc - for 1994 Capital acquired seven South Coast stations including Southern, Ocean and Power FM - 1996 saw control take of Oxford's Fox FM - in 1998, Red Dragon FM and Touch Radio in South Wales became part of the group, along with the new music station 104.9 XFM in London.  Xtra AM and Touch Radio were welcomed into the Capital Gold family with rebranding. 

In May 2000, Capital beat off Scottish Radio Holdings by making a bid worth £146 million for Border Television. It received the backing of the Board and ended speculation on the future of Border who had previously rejected a Scottish bid for £141m and other bids from other major groups.  Capital valued each Border share at £13.53 and offered a cash alternative of £13.00 per share.  The takeover gave them ownership of the Century group of stations, in the North West, the North East and the East Midlands, Sunderland's Sun FM, and shares in South West Sound and CFM.  

Capital Radio subsequently sold the Border ITV licence to Granada in July 2001.  In June 2000 Capital acquired Beat 106 based in Glasgow.  The latest addition to the profile was made in February 2002 when Capital purchased 'Big AM' in Manchester. This station was immediately rebranded to form part of the Capital Gold network.

In December 1996 Capital acquired My Kinda Town, which was renamed Capital Radio Restaurants and focused on two concepts, the Radio Cafe and the Latin American chain Havana.  This side of the business didn't go as well as was anticipated and they sold the Havana chain in 1999 and brought the Cafe side into the radio side.  

Capital have a record label, Wildstar, launched in 1996 with Telstar Records, and they also set up Capital Interactive - the station's website arm - in 1999 Caapital moved into the Digital Radio business, winning licences for a national service 'Life' which launched in January 2000.  Capital now has 42 local services across the UK.  Many of these local services are provided by Xfm, which has been progressed from it's unsettled start to be a national digital network.

On 25th October Capital Radio plc took a 19% stake in Tainside Limted, operator of Choice FM for £3.3m, with an option put in place for them to acquire the rest in the future.  The acquisitional clause was accelerated following talks in 2003, with full control from January 2004.  The deal was concluded in exchange for the issue of 2.5m Capital shares valued at around £12m, with a final consideration of around £15m.  The 96.9FM service has been operating in the South of the Capital since 1990, with the North franchise on 107.1 being in place since 2000.  September 2003 RAJAR figures showed 415,000 listeners in London, 312,000 aged 15-34.  The station can also be heard on Digital networks locally in London, North West, Yorkshire, North East and Severn Estuary areas, as well as a place on the new West Midlands Multiplex.  Until acquisition and rebranding by Chrysalis Radio, the Choice brand appeared in the Birmingham area on 102.2FM.  The existing services show a possible audience of just under 29m people.  I

The Choice brand is seen as one of 'excellent investment' by Capital, and one which 'compliments' the existing Capital portfolio of London stations.  Capital had been selling air-time for Choice FM, and this looks set for further improvements and advantages following the total purchase.  Patrick Berry, non-executive Chairman of Choice FM retains his post at the station, which promotes Hip Hop, R&B and other similar genres.  The brand grew from a very small beginning to the level it is at today.  Choice management see the Capital Radio involvement as being of great security for the station, allowing the retention of the station's sound whilst developing the business opportunities as well.  


Chrysalis Radio Ltd

Chrysalis is a media and music group with four areas of operation: commercial radio, music, television production and book publishing.  Chrysalis Radio commenced business in 1994 with a strategy to invest in licences covering large metropolitan or regional areas where it identified opportunities for audience and sales growth.  Since the launch of its first station, 100.7 Heart FM in the West Midlands in September 1994, Chrysalis Radio has grown by both licence award success and acquisition to become the fourth largest commercial radio business in the UK with 7 major market stations that cover over 50% of the adult population and deliver a 9.0% share of total UK commercial radio listening (Rajar Q2 2002).

Chrysalis Radio today comprises two adult contemporary radio stations broadcasting under the “Heart” brand, 100.7 Heart FM in the West Midlands and Heart 106.2 in London, together with 5 dance music stations, operating under the “Galaxy” brand in Birmingham, Manchester and Yorkshire, the North East and Bristol.  It also operates a range of digital radio assets, which include significant stakes in a number of multiplexes and a number of digital services. These include extensions of “Heart” and “Galaxy”, a new “Arrow” rock service, along with a 22% stake in a rolling regional news service, DNN, which it manages on behalf of the other shareholders.  The Galaxy brand is to be further rolled out to across the country on digital multiplexes in 2003.  Chrysalis also owns a limited number of shareholdings in smaller local radio  licences.

During the eight years of its existence, Chrysalis Radio has grown audiences, revenue and profits on a consistent basis.

In the RAJAR August 2002 figures, Chrysalis Radio posted a record weekly reach figure across its stations of 5.1 million listeners. Individually, 100.7 Heart FM is now the commercial market leader by share within its transmission area, and is the largest commercial station as measured by total listening outside London in the UK.  Heart 106.2 is the second largest commercial station in London.  Galaxy 105 in Yorkshire is the largest commercial station as measured by weekly reach outside London in the UK.  The other Galaxy stations also have significant audiences within their transmission areas.

Advertising revenue for Chrysalis Radio has grown consistently over the past eight years and has consistently outpaced the growth in revenue enjoyed by the wider radio industry.  In 2002, Chrysalis Radio sold the original Galaxy station, Galaxy 101 for £12.5million to a dual consortia of GWR & Scottish Radio Holdings who have since re-launched the station as Vibe 101.  A sale was matched by a purchase: LNR (London News Radio)'s AM & FM brands were purchased for £23.5m from GWR and associated co-owners.   his will help sell airtime for all group interests in the City.  In January 2002, they relaunched LBC on FM as LBC 97.3, having taken it from AM, whilst NewsDirect moved to AM and was re-launched as LBC News 1152 

Chrysalis Radio is the lead member of the MXR consortium whose aim is to be the major regional digital radio operator in the UK.  MXR has regional digital radio multiplex licences in the North East, South Wales & the Severn Estuary, the West Midlands and the North West.  MXR was also awarded the digital multiplex licence for the Yorkshire region, which will launch in early Summer 2003.  Chrysalis Radio is a programme service provider on all the MXR multiplexes, offering simulcasts of the Heart and Galaxy services in the regions where they are already available on FM, and new digital-only version of Heart, Galaxy and The Arrow where no local equivalent exists. MXR also includes Capital Radio, the Guardian Media Group and Soul Media, all of whom also provide programme services.  UBC Media is also part of MXR and will be providing cutting edge data services.  MXR is also backed by Ford, Britain’s biggest car manufacturer, who will provide considerable marketing support and who intend to line-fit digital radios as standard in Ford new cars.  Chrysalis Radio is also a shareholder in the Digital News Network (DNN), formed with Capital Radio, the Guardian Media Group, Unique Broadcasting and Trafficlink to provide a rolling national and regional news service for each MXR multiplex, as well as to provide local news and information for any other digital radio service in each region covered by an MXR multiplex.  Finally, a simulcast of Heart 106.2 is available on digital in London and both the Arrow and Galaxy are also available on digital.   All three music services are now also available across Central Scotland.  Galaxy is also available in Leicester, where Chrysalis is a shareholder in the NOW Digital East Midlands consortium.  This group is bidding for the Nottingham digital licence in due course.


Classic Gold Digital Ltd



dmg Radio Ltd

Information to follow....


EMAP Performance Network

EMAP roots go back as far as 1847 when the group's founder, Sir Richard Winfrey, acquired the Spalding Guardian, which became one of the original provincial newspapers in East Midland Allied Press.  100 years later, it became a local newspaper company.  Within five years it owned 17 local newspapers all in the East Midlands and East Anglia.  Newcastle's Metro Radio was acquired in 1990, and this is where the radio interests really began.  Liverpool's Radio City was purchased the following year, along with Transworld Communications which owned four other stations.  In 1995, the investments in radio continued with the full purchase of the Metro Radio Group: Metro Radio in Newcastle, Viking Radio in Hull, TFM in Teesside and Hallam in Sheffield.

An historic moment came in 1996 when EMAP sold it's 69 newspapers for £200m enabling the group to focus on radio amongst other interests.  The newspapers weren't really earning the group a lot of money, certainly individually. In 1998, Melody FM was bought in London and relaunched as Magic 105.4. Rules governing the number of stations one group is allowed to own meant Red Dragon Radio in Cardiff had to be sold and was done to Capital Radio plc.  Finally, more recently in 2002, EMAP's  presence in the digital radio world took another step forward. They now operate seven wholly owned digital radio multiplexes in South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, Liverpool, Leeds, Teeside, Central Lancashire and Humberside as well as three joint ventures in Manchester, Birmingham and London.  They did a deal with The Wireless Group (TWG). The two companies announced a joint venture to apply for the local digital multiplex radio licences for Swansea and Stoke-on-Trent. The shareholding is 70% for TWG and 30% Emap.  As part of this new working arrangement EMAP take a 20% stake in TWG’s recent local digital multiplex licence for Bradford and Huddersfield, due to launch in September 2003.  

As well as Wave 105, Wireless Group now own talkSPORT, the national analogue and digital station, as well as Pulse FM (Bradford), Big AM (West Yorkshire), Signal 1 (Stoke), BIG AM (Stoke), Imagine FM (Stockport), The Wave (Swansea), Swansea Sound, Valleys Radio (Heads of the Valleys), The Wave (Blackpool), 96.3 QFM (Paisley), BIG 1548 (Manchester), Scot FM (central Scotland), 102.4 Wish FM (Wigan), 107.2 Wire FM (Warrington) and Wave 102FM (Dundee).


Forever Broadcasting plc exists to build a clearly focused new radio group founded on the expertise of an experienced management team.  Whilst it may appear to be a 'new-player' in the radio industry, that could be said of the name only.  The experience of the group goes back some considerable time, starting with Metro Radio in Newcastle.  Metro was floated on the Stock Market in December 1998, was involved in a successful hostile bid for YRN (Yorkshire Radio) in 1990 and the group sold the station to EMAP for £99million in 1995.  

The Radio Partnership was Forever's other guise.  It raised £19million, five stations were acquired in the mid-nineties, two further licences were won as The Radio Partnership and the entire outfit was sold to TWG (The Wireless Group) for £47million.  

Forever was founded in Autumn of 1999, and five licences have been acquired in that time in Liverpool (Juice 107.6), Bolton (Tower FM), Wolverhampton (107.7 The Wolf), Brighton (Juice 107.2) and Chesterfield (Peak 107).  It had a 35% stake in Splash FM Ltd, the winner of a licence for the Sussex coastal town of Worthing, which serves 160,000 people in a neighbouring area to Juice 107.2 in Brighton.   

Forever have a small interest in 'Somethin' Else Sound Directions Ltd, an independent production company.  

At a corporate level, the group aims to identify potential purchases, implement a strong financial management team with good fund raising and PLC experience.  At station level, they aim to turn around under-performing stations, give them the ability to drive audience and revenues despite compeitions, to recruit, develop, retain and motivate key staff and to gain a great deal of expertise in the local advertising sales market for the respective licence areas.

The Board includes Chairman and founder shareholder, John Josephs (FD of Metro Radio in 1973, MD of the Metro Radio Group plc in 1993, and founder of The Radio Partnership in 1995), MD Eric Lawrence (Financial Controller of Metro Radio in 1988, FD in 1993, FD of The Radio Partnership in June 1996, founder shareholder of Forever), Steve King, Group Programme Director (over 20 years in radio, former PD for Metro Radio Group plc until 1995, MD of Radio Aire in Leeds from 1995, MD of Manchester's Century Radio from March 2000 until Capital's acquisition in June 2000), and Harry Dunne, Group Sales Director (former Sales Director for Red Rose Radio (Preston), TFM (Stockton-On-Tees) and former Yorkshire Sales Director for Metro Radio Group plc, MD of EMAP Radio North East in 1995 looking after Metro FM, TFM & Magic 1152/1170, joined Border TV in 1998 as Group Commercial Director for Border Radio Holdings (radio division), joined Forever in 2001 as MD of Bolton's Tower FM)

The Group is keeping an interested but nevertheless cautious 'bystanders' eye on Digital Radio, adopting a 'Wait and see approach' - they consider that this aspect of radio will have costs which are likely to outweigh revenues for many years.  It is dedicated to both it's listeners and it's staff conducting it's business in an honest and honourable way, quite reasonably expecting the same in return.

Each station has a distinct brand and business plan in line with group aims.  Tests are regularly made on the respective audiences to address listener tastes and requirements, whilst maintaining the localness of each in all ways.  Three music policies are spread across the group stations.  A 'youth rhythmic' format for 15-34 year olds was given to Juice 107.6 & 107.2 (Liverpool & Brighton), a '50/50 Music Mix of Yesterday and Today' for 25-44 year olds (Peak 107 (Chesterfield) 107.4 Tower FM (Bolton)) and a 'Lite' policy for 35-54 year olds for 107.7 The Wolf (Wolverhampton).  The group intends to roll out such formats on any future acquisitions selecting the appropriate format to the station purchased. 

Interestingly, TWG (The Wireless Group) (see below) and other subsidiaries have a 16% share in Forever Broadcasting.   

In September 2003, Forever Broadcasting sold Liverpool's Juice 107.6FM to Absolute Radio (UK) Limited (AR-UK), a consortium made up of Ulster Television (UTV) and Eurocast, for £3.1m.  The deal was the first agreed under Royal Assent and considering the new Communications Act.  AR-UK were, at the time, making moves in the FM radio licence world, notably in the West Midlands and Glasgow.  The Chairman of AR-UK, John McCann expressed the group's delight on the acquisition of the Liverpool Juice station and referred to their determination to bid for several new licences in the future.  They aim to build on the success experienced by the Juice management team, putting additional funding into more localised programming, news and marketing, and to make the station number one for the young people of Liverpool.  Juice Liverpool made an adjusted operating loss of £760,000 and at 30th September 2002 had net liabilities of £4.02m.  Forever did not provide separate statutory accounts for the station.  

In early October 2003, Brighton's Juice and a stake in Worthing's Splash FM were also disposed of by Forever Broadcasting plc for a sum of £700,000.  Juice 107.2 was sold for £450,000 to Brighton and Hove Radio Limited - this sum, paid to Forever, enhanced Forever's financial position as a result of the cash income, and by removing what was a loss-making element.  Directors of the group considered that the sale of it's 35% share in newly licenced Splash FM to a consortium including shareholders of the buyers of Juice in Brighton and existing shareholders in Splash, allowed them to maximise sale proceeds.  

Up to 30th September 2002, Juice 107.2 made a loss of £500,000 with net liabilities of £1,000,000 as of 30th September 2002.  Due to it's recent launch, no figures on the financial activities of Splash FM have been made available - it only came to air on 5th May 2003.  Net proceeds for Forever will go towards reducing Company debt to £800,000.

The disposals left just three stations in the Forever portfolio - these being Peak 107 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, Wolverhampton's 107.7 The Wolf and Bolton/Bury's Tower 107.4FM, all three being SALLIE (small-scale alternative local licence) stations.  In comparison to the Juice stations which had been sold, accounts showed that in aggregate, the remaining group stations were all operating in profit and making money.   Prospects for all three were considered to be good by the Forever Directors and they were confident that results for the full year up to 30th September 2003 would confirm substantial growth for the first six months.  August stats showed a year-to-date, year-on-year revenue growth (excluding Liverpool's Juice station) of well over 40%.  

In March 2004, the term 'Forever doesn't mean Forever' was never more appropriate.  Having started out as a group which looked likely to start becoming a dominant force in local radio ownership, competitor The Wireless Group bought the three remaining Forever stations, Bolton & Bury's Tower FM, Wolverhampton's 107.7 The Wolf and Chesterfield's Peak 107 for £8.1m.  TWG already owned 16.1% of Forever, but made a move for the remaining issued share capital for 37.6p per share.  On processing the deal, TWG said that the three new stations would complement it's existing local radio portfolio.

Chairman and Chief Exec of TWG, Kelvin McKenzie said the acquisition of Forever was 'superb' and fitted well with it's strategy of growing a profitable local radio group.   He said that there would be considerable benefits for all TWG company stakeholders, as the group made moves to further strengthen it's position as a real force in local radio across the UK. 

Having previously been confident of their results showing substantial growth, Forever ended up announcing pre-tax losses of £4.8m in the year to September 30th 2003, against a figure of £8.4m, this due to disposals of part-shares and other stations as listed above.  In comparison, TWG made pre-tax losses of £20.3m up to December 31st 2002, but reported a 24% year-on-year increase in revenues in the three months up to September 2003. 


Forward Media:

Information to follow...


Fusion Radio:

Information to follow...  In 2003, a process to acquire Fusion Radio was started by the Milestone Group, a UK media group, who floated on the stock market on July 1st.  Milestone now owns newspapes, radio stations and a local Oxford TV station (SIX TV), and sold 10.5m ordinary shares at £1 each to start trading at the beginning of July.  Funds raised are to be used to repay debts, and to complete it's acquisition of the Courier Group, a local newspaper publisher in the Oxford area and the Fusion Group. 


Guardian Media Group (GMG)

GMG can be traced back to the early 1800s when the North's Manchester Guardian newspaper was started.  Other local Newspapers gradually came under the group's management around 1925 - the Scott Trust then took a control to avoid death duties and to protect the future of the Manchester paper on a local footing.  The Guardian newspaper was renamed around 1960 and moved to London in 1976.  Newspaper acquisitions continued and the visual and audible media then became part of the group.  They once held a stake in breakfast TV station GMTV.  Motoring magazine 'Automart' was purchased in the early 1980s - however, the name GMG plc wasn't formulated until 1993 when another broadsheet newspaper The Observer was acquired.  Internet now also forms a part of GMG as it's radio interest reach a different medium.  'The Newsroom' features more details about the history of the group and especially it's newspaper sector - 'The Newsroom' was developed to suit by the Scott Trust - there are a great deal of interesting artifacts and things to see.  Find out more at 

Most radio groups have interests in other radio groups and GMG is no exception.  They own a fair proportion of shares in Radio Investments Limited (see below), otherwise, GMG's radio history can be traced back to the Summer of 1999 when the radio division began.  GMG is the name behind the Real Radio and Jazz FM - the ex-Border Radio/Century group boss John Myers has found a comfortable home here.  Scot FM was purchased in 2001 and re-branded into the Real Radio network.   They are also heavily involved in the Digital Radio marketplace, being partners in the MXR consortium who have won licences across South Wales, the West Midlands, and across the North East & West. 



RW + WR = GWR written by Andrew Rogers: This article is reproduced from under their terms and conditions - see link at top of page.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GWR conclude disposals of overseas interests - board members reduce but keep responsibilities within..

During the first six months of 2003, the GWR Group plc subsidiaries - Advent International and Mezzanine Management Central Europe were sold for a cash sum of £18m.  The two companies retained GWR's Hungarian radio interests.  The £18m received by the considerably sized radio group was used to reduce Group debt.  GWR previously laid out an intention to sell it's 100% of it's overseas operations and to concentrate on services in it's UK homeland only, except for it's station Radio Melody in Salzburg.  As far as the end of the financial year 2002-2003, revenues for the Hungarian companies reached £9.4m with a pre-tax loss reported at £500,000.  Net assets were considered to be £400,000.

Results declared for the interim period up to the end of September 2002 showed the provision of £11.8m in disposing of the Hungarian arms.  GWR were able to get the licence for Radio Danubius, the national station, extended and the fee for it reduced considerably.  The businesses have been disposed of for more than the asset value in the Group balance sheet at the end of September 2002.  These moves have more or less resulted in the complete sale of overseas interests.  

In a completely separate move, at the end of May, the Competition Minister declared that she had accepted the Competition Commission's report that the joint venture to operate Bristol's Vibe 101 by both GWR & Scottish Radio Holdings (SRH) would be expected to operate against the public interest.  The holding company for the South West of England / South Wales licence (VRSL) (previously Galaxy Radio Wales & The West) is 51% owned by SRH & 49% by GWR.  At the time of the declaration, SRH stated it would be considering it's position along with GWR to find a resolution that the Office of Fair Trading and other associated parties, would accept.  VRSL was set up as recently as September 2002 with revenue of £1.6m and a loss declared pre-tax of just under a £1m, £925,000 after adjustments.  At the end of the last financial year (2002-2003), it had net assets of £17.4m.

SRH reached agreement to purchase GWR's complete interest (49%) for a cash sum of £17.64m.  VRSL also operate Ipswich's Vibe 101, the ex-Essex Radio Group station which covers the East of England.  As part of the deal, GWR's airtime sales contract for the two Vibe stations will also end.  SRH will take control of this instead, and it is expected that SRH's turnover will rocket.  SRH already own Solent regional station Wave 105 and Cumbria station CFM, plus other Scottish and Irish based stations.  The control of VRSL by SRH is subject of the approval of the Office of Fair Trading.  Both owning companies have contacted them on the subject of processes leading to the sale.  

Whilst both companies are disappointed with the Competition Commission's findings, they were pleased with the quick agreement on proposals made.  In particular, GWR said that the previously proposed remedies were commercially unworkable and that they were not prepared to implement them.  GWR also added that a swift disposal of their interests in VRSL was in the interests of GWR itself.  Whether the cash sum received by GWR from SRH was used to pay off GWR Group debts is NOT known.  

Big boys beginning to get just that little bit TOO big?  E-mail your comments to - we'd be glad to hear your opinions.  

Meanwhile, in June 2003, the company announced changes to the way the Board is made up.  Overseas interests having been disposed of, as were the elements of their UK business that they no longer saw as essential - allowing the group to concentrate on it's main UK business.  It's debts have now been reduced by around £100m to around £66m in about a year (2002-2003).  The company has been reorganised, with estimated savings of around £3m per year in the UK.  In line with it's restructuring, conclusions have been drawn that they don't need so many executive directors now - and the axe fell right at the top.  Chief Exec Patrick Taylor, and New Media & Digital Director Simon Ward both stepped down after the 2003 July AGM.  Patrick took on a part time non-executive role at Livetime, GWR's digital radio initiative which looks to make the best use of digital capacity.  Simon stays with GWR but will now concentrate on the Digital Radio arm.  Steve Orchard, Local Radio MD has taken control of Patrick's roles, and Roger Lewis, MD of Classic FM, will report back to Executive Chairman Ralph Bernard along with Finance Director Wendy Pallot.  

AUGUST 2003: The deal is done.  GWR are out of Austria having concluded the disposal of it's last elements of broadcasting in the country.  They've said farewell to the regional radio station for Salzburg, Antenne Salzburg, as well as shares in a small station in the Tirol, and it's share in another regional broadcaster for upper levels of the country, Life Radio.  The GWR assets have been taken by FFP, an Austrian foundation, better known over there as Fritz Felner Privatstiftung, for a net figure of EU1.6m - allowing for debts. Tthe buyer has had EU700,000 of the price deferred for six months.  GWR Group plc has now got rid of nigh on all of its overseas assets to concentrate on UK interests.


Independent Radio Group

More information to follow...

In December 1999, The Wireless Group Limited made a takeover bid for IRG to the tune of £21.5m through it's subsidiary The Radio Partnership Limited, as acquired by TWG earlier in 1999.  IRG owned six Scottish and Northern England based radio stations at the time, 96.3 QFM (West Central Scotland), Scot FM (Regional Central Scotland), Discovery 102 (as it still was then), 102.4 Wish FM (Wigan/St. Helens), 107.2 Wire FM (Warrington/Widnes/Runcorn) and Manchester's AM station 1458 Lite AM.  The takeover went ahead.


Jazz FM Ltd (formerly Golden Rose Communications)

The JAZZ FM brand is now owned by Guardian Media Group.  Information on Golden Rose Communications will appear here...


Kent Messenger Group

KM Radio stems from the KM Group empire. Kent Messenger runs several local newspapers in the county of Kent and has supported community radio for quite some time, being part of four successful licence bids in the county.  It's moves into radio ownership cam in 1999 when it took control of the Thanet based station TLR 107.2 which was subsequently renamed as KM-fm in March 2003.  After a year of ownership, the group bought a controlling interest in Canterbury's 106 CTFM.  This was followed in September 2001 by Folkestone and Dover's Neptune Radio (now also renamed), which created a group of stations across East Kent.

The acquisitions continued in March 2002, taking Mercury 101.6 for Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks, and the Medway Mercury station in Rochester, creating a county wide coverage.  CTFM changed it's name in early 2003, to group branding, along with Thanet's TLR.

The group hits around 160,000 weekly listeners tuning in for over 1.5million hours per week according to RAJAR/IPSOS-RSL figures for the 4th quarter of 2002.  

The KM Group has continued it's support of RSL (Restricted Service Licences) in Maidstone (20/20 was awarded the licence with KM's help), and Lark FM for Ashford.


Information to follow...


The Local Radio Company Ltd

The restructuring of parent group Radio Investments Ltd. means that all stations previously run by The Local Radio Company are now part of RIL Ltd.  See below.  However, in 2004, RIL was brought from owners GMG, GWR & Caledonia Investments - the group set up to make this acquisition was TLRC Ltd.  So, what goes around comes around!  See RIL for more information.


Marcher Radio Group

Wales finally succumbed to GWR in October 2000, when Marcher Radio was grabbed consisting of Marcher Coast-FM, Champion 103, MFM and Marcher Gold.  The full acquisition showed early signs back in July 2000.  Marcher Radio asked GWR's sales arm, OPUS to sell their airtime - OPUS said it didn't normally sell airtime for non-group stations, however the deal was done when it was agreed GWR could take a 20% stake in Marcher Radio.  Marcher then gave notice to their national sales house that OPUS would be taking control.  A full GWR acquisition soon followed after it disposed of eight DMG stations earlier that year.  


Milestone Group

Information to follow...  In 2003, a process to acquire Fusion Radio was started by the Milestone Group, a UK media group, who floated on the stock market on July 1st.  Milestone now owns newspapes, radio stations and a local Oxford TV station (SIX TV), and sold 10.5m ordinary shares at £1 each to start trading at the beginning of July.  Funds raised are to be used to repay debts, and to complete it's acquisition of the Courier Group, a local newspaper publisher in the Oxford area and the Fusion Group. On 14th April 2003,  the Radio Authority granted permission for Oxford station Fusion 107.9 to change it's name to Passion 107.9.  This name change co-incided with the planned acquisition of Fusion Radio Holdings by the Milestone Group.  The acquisition gives Milestone control of Fusion 107.3 (Lewisham, London), 107.6 Kestrel FM (Basingstoke),  Kick FM (Newbury), Passion 107.9 (Oxford), 107.1 Rugby FM (Rugby) and 106.8 Time FM (Thamesmead, London) and Reading 107 (Reading).  At the time they were also heavily involved in licence applications in for Leamington Spa (Spa FM), Banbury (BanburyFM), AndoverFM, Blackburn (The Burn), and Cornwall (CKFM).   Fusion 107.3 & 106.8 Time FM have since been sold to Sunrise Radio - see below.


Minster Sound Radio plc


Murfin Music International

Classic Gold 954 and 1530 (Herefordshire and Worcestershire)
Radio Maldwyn (Powys)
Sunshine 855 (Shropshire)


Radio First plc

In 1995, Brighton-based Radio First plc was founded and it's shares traded on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange.  As of 1998, it owned analogue radio stations including Tendring's Mellow 1557 AM - all analogue licences were later soldAs the years passed, and led by Keith Harris (Chairman) and the highly respected John Aumonier (CEO) (co-founder of talk Radio UK (now known as talkSPORT) as well as Surrey & Sussex's Radio Mercury, and former MD of Virgin Radio), it's aim was to use digital audio technology and create 'The Fan Radio Network', a chain of regional digital commercial radio stations covering what it called 'the key marketing areas of the United Kingdom' linked with major Premiership football clubs across the country and run jointly with the club as the 'official club station' owning the non-national digital audio rights for each football club.  The leading football clubs were: Aston Villa (The Villan), Chelsea (Big Blue), Derby County (Rampage) and Southampton (The Saint). All clubs signed joint venture contracts with Radio First for a minimum of twelve years.  The aim was to expand the station network further through more negotiations.  

Radio First aimed to create a network of stations that would be attractive to advertisers, advertising agencies, and sponsors, with all stations getting a piece of the advertising cake.  Stations would broadcast 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  At the time, digital radio was an even more foetal stage than it is currently.  But Radio First were aiming to seize the moment early and stake a claim to a battle ground before anyone else did.  They felt that the change from analogue (conventional FM/AM transmission platforms) to Digital, was well underway even at that stage, and aimed for various digital platforms.  There was much experience in radio and football in Radio First management and it was confident of achieving it's aims.  

In March 2000, it signed it's first deals with Chelsea, Southampton & Aston Villa football clubs.  On 18th January 2001, it signed it's fourth deal with Derby County, for output aired digitally, and via the internet.  In March 2001, the company agreed a five-year deal with British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC (BSkyB) to broadcast regional services of football-based digital radio stations on SKY Digital to a potential audience at the time of 4.7m.  It's services were designed to appeal to 12-30 year olds.  It aimed to agree deals for a further four similar services.  The six months up to March 31 2000, it posted pre-tax profits of £57,000 against a loss of £2.15m.  Operating profit was £49,000, loss £2.17m.  Earnings per share were 0.2pence against loss per share of 9.0p

On 9th August 2001, Radio First announced launch dates for the first two radio stations.  The first of the new stations, Chelsea's Big Blue, launched on 19th August 2001 (Channel 898) for a home game against Newcastle United, and Southampton's The Saint (Channel 899) came to air on 25th August, ironically, a home game against Chelsea - both stations launching at the beginning of the 2001-2002 football season and to an audience of 11m and 5.1m viewers respectively.  Test transmissions began on 14th August of that year.  Aston Villa's The Villan (Channel 903) followed and Derby County's Rampage (Channel 906) launching last on 12th January 2002..  SKY's technology meant it was possible to beam each station to it's specific target area.  Cross-promotional initiatives were developed for both viewers and listeners and SKY News Radio was carried, with allowance to use SKY audio material by each station.  4,550,000 shares were placed with institutional and other investors to raise £3.64m at a price of 80p per share with dealings set to commence on 12 March of that year.  

Excitedly, Chelsea's Chairman, Ken Bates said: “Chelsea was the first club to sign a joint venture agreement with Radio First because we believe in the concept that our fans want a station dedicated to club. We think that the station will also help grow our fan base in the South-East. Radio First’s agreement with BSkyB ties in with our own partnership with BSkyB. We are confident that this is another positive step in the development of our joint media activities."

But there was a problem that didn't seem too apparent to group bosses.  Although you could listen at home on your PC or through your SKY Digital box, you couldn't actually take it out with you to the match.  Plus, there were 10s of other radio stations available on SKY, plus of course, local sports coverage in the respective areas from BBC and Commercial analogue services.  But, Radio First were wax-lyrical on statistics which suggested success was in the air.  At the time of the Derby County deal, 6,000,000 adults told RAJAR, the audience ratings measurement body, that they listened to radio through their TV - a figure of more than one-in-eight listeners and a bigger audience than that attracted by all the AM commercial radio stations.  Radio First concluded that one-in-five 15-24 year olds listen to radio via the telly, particularly in Scotland, the North-West, North-East and Wales.  Derby County's Rampage was concluded to be capable of hitting 27% of the potential 7m listeners in the Derby area.  

March 2002: Radio First released a statement following it's 10:30am AGM held on the 18th of that month.  Keith Harris said: 'I would like to take this opportunity to comment briefly on the Group's results for the year ended 30 September 2001 and on trading since the year end.  2001 saw the concept of the Fan Radio Network start to become a reality with the launch of our first two stations, Big Blue (Chelsea) and The Saint (Southampton) both on Sky digital.  It is a credit to the staff that we were able to open two stations on time and within budget, despite the short lead time between raising the necessary finance and the launches.  Since the year end we have launched a further two stations, The Villan (Aston Villa) and Rampage (Derby), again on time and within budget. 

There is no doubt that the last 18 months or so have proved to be exceptionally difficult for the media sector with its heavy reliance on advertising revenues.  Despite this, the Board is encouraged by the response from both listeners and advertisers to our new innovative stations.  The response to on air competitions as well as promotions run at the clubs' stadia indicates an increasing level of awareness amongst our target audience and an increasing amount of listening.  Formal audience research will be completed at each station during 2002.  As far as advertising is concerned we are currently running campaigns across the four stations for a number of household names including Ladbrokes, Sport First, VodkaIce and Budweiser.  We are especially pleased with the number of campaigns the stations have sold to local advertisers with the local advertising market less susceptible to the ups and downs of the national advertising industry.  The number of advertisers and as a consequence the revenues are growing month by month and we believe the product we are offering with our stations and the network leave us well positioned to take advantage of the expected improvement in advertising expenditure trends in the second half of 2002.  We are also looking to expand further the network in the future as negotiations continue with a number of football clubs in England and Scotland.  All the resolutions were passed at today's Annual General Meeting.'

At the close of the stock markets - records show that as of 17th June 20022, one of the biggest recent fallers was Radio First, but at the time, shares recovered slightly, but without explanation - much the same way that shares had dived at the end of the previous week.  But everyone knows that shares can rise as well as fall, so that was nothing too alarming to every day Joes.  After a 38% drop on the Friday, Radio First shares put on 23% in value on the Monday - adding 1 1/2p to 8p.  These though, were clear signs .  In July 2002, it's shares were suspended following it's failure to publish audited accounts for the six months ending March 31st 2002.  Keith Harris, who was the Chairman of the Football League at the time, spearheading the League's £178.5m claim against ITV Digital said the grop were "optimistic" that additional funding would be raised and the issue resolved.  

In March 2003, Radio First withdrew from Rampage after a period in which the club had dropped out of the Premiership, had a run of significantly poor results, changed managers three times, suspending the most recent, who had also recently been landed with a five-match touchline ban, and had sold a swathe of key players.  At the exact time of withdrawal, Derby County were just six points above the First Division relegation zone and had only taken two points from the last 27 possible.  Shortly afterwards, Radio First ceased trading after City institutions failed to back the company's expansion plans.  The digital operator was on the point of acquiring a major English language network in Spain and re-joining the AIM market when underwriting for the scheme was withdrawn.   All of the stations continued on their SKY Digital channels and it was felt that the football clubs would continue with the services as each one had proved the demand for 'unique fanzine style programming'.  SKY meanwhile, didn't have, and indeed never had any obligation to provide funding.  

However, by July 2003, Radio First was in voluntary liquidation, having called the receivers in the previous year.  So, what happened to the four fledgling Radio First stations?  Chelsea, Southampton and Aston Villa continued the transmissions of the services (and still do) via satellite, the internet and locally on short-term match day licences.  They bought the assets from the liquidators for what was probably a fraction of what they were worth.  Derby County's Rampage went off the air completely.  Derby's ASWAS RADIO GROUP entered into discussions with Derby County to resurrect the station on analogue for a match day service.  Discussions reached an advanced stage where costings were put before the board and the-then Chairman Lionel Pickering.  The club also bought the assets, i.e. the studio and other fabric of the old station set up.  Pride Park Radio almost took to the air, however, at the last minute, the club plummeted into the depths of financial turmoil and the club was sold for a token sum to a new consortium.  This put the kybosh on the radio station's phoenix-like rise from the ashes and both radio group and club parted company.  It's believed the radio station has or will be completely eradicated from the stadium, with the space being turned over to commercial usage in some form. 


Q Radio Network

Based in Rossdowney Road, Waterside, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, this small group operates three Northern Ireland commercial radio stations licenced by OFCOM.  These are Q97.2 Causeway Coast Radio, Q101.2 & Q102.9FM. More information to follow...


Radio Investments Ltd

RIL was part of the Guardian Media Group based in London - GMG (see above) held a large proportion of shares in RIL - others parts were held by GWR (see above) and a firm called Caledonia Investments.  Based in the Buckinghamshire town of High Wycombe, Radio Investments has a seemingly ever growing portfolio of stations which are branded using the above arch of yellow circles and the otherwise blue & white colour scheme - easily identifiable to separate them from other brandings.  More information to follow...

Radio Investments Limited was sold in 2004 - to a consortium led by the former management team of Jazz FM - Richard Wheatley and Alistair MacKenzie, for £50m.  The new owners of the group are preparing to trade on the AIM (Alternative Investment Market) of the London Stock Exchange.  

The group created for the acquisitional transaction, The Local Radio Company plc (TLRC) prepared the placing of over 52,500 shares of just 4p each at a placing price of 95p per share, but this was expected to raise £47.3m after expenses.  £40m was set to fund the purchase of the entire share capital and repay RIL's debts.  The balance was set to be kept by the new company to provide working capital and funds ready for further possible acquisitions.  

Admission and commencement of dealings in shares commenced on 21st May 2004 - with the market capitalisation of the Company on Admissions being around £52.8m at what is called the 'Placing Price'.  There are 22 stations in the RIL group, 21 in the South West and North East of the UK, and just one in Scotland.  RIL has shown a steady increase in operating profits since 2001, with 30th September 2003 turnover at £14.5m and 14.5% ahead of the previous year for the five months up to 29th February 2004.  

As well as Richard and Alistair, Simon Cooke, who ran Jazz FM when it was first listed as a 'PLC', prior to it's sale to GMG, is joined by the current Chief Exec of Radio Investments, John Sanderson, the latter becoming an Executive Director upon Admission.  Richard Wheatley said: "We are delighted to have secured this high quality portfolio of local radio stations at such a timely moment in the radio market.  Looking forward, we now have an opportunity to build a significant second tier radio group based on Radio Investments and potential further acquisitions of independent local radio groups and individual stations.  Our strategy in building and growing The Local Radio Company is based on four key components: driving further growth from the Radio Investments business, identifying and executing further acquisition opportunities, new licence applications and driving new non-traditional revenues."


Saga Radio plc

Information to follow...



Information to follow...



Scottish Radio Holdings (SRH) was created in the early 1970s when a group of local businessmen from Glasgow applied for the third UK commercial radio licence, the first two being in London.  Despite fierce competition, and financial difficulty for the first two London stations, the seeds of today’s successful commercial radio industry in Britain continued to be sown.  Radio Clyde came to air 1st January 1974 and broke the mould.  With just £150,000 to start, financial backing came from star celebrities Sean Connery & Jackie Stewart, and a team of broadcasters and business talent was put together.  Although it started as the market leader, time and increasing competition has never led to the station releasing this title.  

A second group got together to start Radio Forth to the west in Edinburgh - and the commercial radio sector began to expand across the country.  Ownership restrictions applied in some force - all companies were private limited companies - but in the late 80s, early 90s, the two stations expanded by taking over the operations of other stations.  The two combined and floated on the London Stock Market in 1991 as Scottish Radio Holdings (SRH).

Northern Ireland newspaper and magazine publisher Morton Newspapers was purchased in 1995, and so the media links spread - further acquisitions followed into the Republic and Scotland - it owns the Kilkenny People, Tipperary Star, The Nationalist, Leitrim Observer and Longford Leader.   A group of billboard (advertising hoardings) companies, formed over two years,  were sold to Clear Channel International for £33.5million - this allowed the group to take a stronger focus on it's radio interests.  

It owns the following stations: (Scotland) Clyde 1, Clyde 2, Forth One, Forth 2, 3C Continuous Cool Country (Digital), Tay FM, Tay AM, Northsound 1, Northsound 2, West FM, Westsound FM, Westsound, MFR, Radio Borders, (Northern Ireland) Cool FM, Downtown Radio, (Republic Of Ireland) Today FM, (England) CFM & Wave 105.  It also plays a heavy part in the operation of Score Digital the digital radio network. 



From it's early beginnings - this group currently owns the following brands: Easy Radio London 1035, Fusion 107.3, Sunrise Radio (London), 106.8 Time FM & Yarr Radio.  Operations are based in Sunrise House, Merrick Road, Southall in Middlesex. 



In December 1999, The Wireless Group Limited made a takeover bid for IRG to the tune of £21.5m through it's subsidiary The Radio Partnership Limited, as acquired by TWG earlier in 1999.  IRG owned six Scottish and Northern England based radio stations at the time, 96.3 QFM (West Central Scotland), Scot FM (Regional Central Scotland), Discovery 102 (as it still was then), 102.4 Wish FM (Wigan/St. Helens), 107.2 Wire FM (Warrington/Widnes/Runcorn) and Manchester's AM station 1458 Lite AM.  The takeover went ahead.

TWG: As well as Wave 105, Wireless Group now own talkSPORT, the national analogue and digital station, as well as Pulse FM (Bradford), Classic Gold 1278 / 1530 (formerly) Big AM (West Yorkshire), Signal 1 (Stoke), Signal 2 (formerly BIG AM) (Stoke), Imagine FM (Stockport), The Wave (Swansea), Swansea Sound, Valleys Radio (Heads of the Valleys), The Wave (Blackpool), 96.3 QFM (Paisley), 102.4 Wish FM (Wigan), 107.2 Wire FM (Warrington) and Wave 102FM (formerly Discovery 102) Dundee).  

BIG 1548 (Manchester) and Scot FM (Central Scotland) were part of TWG's portfolio, but these have now been sold to Capital Radio who have renamed them Capital Gold Manchester and Beat 106 respectively.

March 2004 saw TWG acquire Forever Broadcasting (see above) which consisted of just three stations, Bolton & Bury's Tower FM, Wolverhampton's 107.7 The Wolf and Chesterfield's Peak 107, for £8.1m.  TWG already owned 16.1% of Forever, but made a move for the remaining issued share capital for 37.6p per share.  On processing the deal, TWG said that the three new stations would complement it's existing local radio portfolio.

Forever had been in a period of re-structuring, a period which saw the sale of part-shares of stations, particularly Worthing's Splash FM, and the total sale of Juice stations in Liverpool and Brighton.  This left them with the three stations which have formed part of the sale to TWG - the driving force behind national commercial AM sports broadcaster talkSPORT and 13 local radio stations including Signal One in Stoke, South Wales AM station Swansea Sound and Dundee's Wave 102 in Scotland.  Chairman and Chief Exec of TWG, Kelvin McKenzie said the acquisition of Forever was 'superb' and fitted well with it's strategy of growing a profitable local radio group.   He said that there would be considerable benefits for all TWG company stakeholders, as the group made moves to further strengthen it's position as a real force in local radio across the UK.  

Forever announced pre-tax losses of £4.8m in the year to September 30th 2003, against a figure of £8.4m, this due to disposals of part-shares and other stations as listed above.  In comparison, TWG made pre-tax losses of £20.3m up to December 31st 2002, but reported a 24% year-on-year increase in revenues in the three months up to September 2003.  



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; North Norfolk Radio, Norfolk, as well as minority stakes in Kick FM, Newbury; and Kestrel FM, Basingstoke.


UBC Media (see GWR Group plc re: Classic Gold Digital & Classic Gold Digital Ltd.)

In September 2000, GWR sold 12 of it's 17 Classic Gold stations to Classic Gold Digital Ltd, a company owned 80% by UBC Media Group plc - GWR retain the other 20%.  UBC paid GWR just over £2m for the stations with 5million shares going to GWR also.  GWR were, at the time, struggling with the Radio Authority's ownership points system, and sold the stations on the agreement that they can buy back 55% of the new company anywhere between five and eight years after the deal was done.  By this time, GWR hope the authorities will have relaxed the rules on radio ownership which have restricted their expansion so far.  

GWR went over the points limit in the July of 2000, when it took on DMG's radio interests.  GWR continue to sell airtime for the network through it's OPUS sales-house.  GWR kept ownership of the Classic Gold stations in Bristol & Bath, Swindon, Nottingham & Derby, Wolverhampton & Plymouth.  Those that went into UBC's ownership were those in Norwich, Southend, Ipswich, Crawley, Luton & Bedford, Peterborough, Northampton, Coventry, Reading, Gloucester & Exeter & Torbay.  However, later, UBC took complete control of Classic Gold when GWR continued to have problems with acquiring new FM stations and the remaining five Classic Gold stations it still owned.  

UBC are also part shareholders in Oneword, the national digital broadcaster, and MTV Radio in South Wales, also digital - in this latter case, they are equal shareholders with media company Viacom.  



UKRD are based at Dolphin House, North Street Guildford Surrey GU1 4AA.  UKRD Group Ltd is one of the UK's fastest growing radio operators. It currently owns and operates a number of terrestrial radio stations and has interests in other associated companies.

The original UK Radio Developments was formed 22nd August 1990 as a vehicle to invest in new radio licences. Its first (initially minority) investment was in Cornwall's Pirate FM 102 - now a wholly owned Group subsidiary.

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 ('UKRD') cemented a relationship between a group of individuals who had, by then, been working together directly or indirectly for several years. The merger ensured that UKRD quickly acquired controlling shareholdings in three radio stations (Pirate FM, Star FM - Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead, and Wey Valley Radio), and a large minority share in another company (Kiss 102 in Manchester).

Since then UKRD has acquired majority control of Star FM and led the consortium that successfully challenged for the Guildford FM and AM licences (previously held by Allied Radio plc). Its management then negotiated a deal to buy out the remainder of the licence to start broadcasting from 1st September 1995. The resultant company, the new County Sound Radio Network Ltd, is now also owned by UKRD and controls and operates three radio stations; 96.4 The Eagle, County Sound Radio 1566 AM, Delta FM (formerly Wey Valley Radio).

In February 1996, Infinity led the Kiss 102 application that secured the Yorkshire regional licence ahead of 12 other applicants including; Capital Radio, GWR, Chrysalis, Yorkshire TV, Saga and CLT amongst others. The new station, Kiss 105, commenced broadcasting to an audience of 4,000,000 adults (15+) on the 14th February 1997. With Kiss 102 into profit and Kiss 105 expected to quickly outperform its parent, interest in the two stations from larger groups was strong.

Six months after the launch of Kiss 105 it was announced that Chrysalis was to buy the Kiss Manchester and Kiss Yorkshire stations for £17.6 million - UKRD's share of the proceeds amounting to almost £5.3 million. UKRD's initial strategy was to grow assets for its shareholders through the application for and subsequent winning of radio licenses. The sale of its interests in the Kiss stations was confirmation of the success of that strategy, with the sale setting new industry price benchmarks.

UKRD was then involved in winning four further licences in quick succession: In December 1997 it was announced that Active FM had been awarded the licence for Havering in East London. The station went on air in May 1998. UKRD was, initially a minority shareholder but by November 1998 had gained a controlling interest.

In January 1998, FLR 107.3 was granted a licence for South East London. In May of the same year Easy FM (on-air name The Falcon) was granted a licence for the Stroud area of Gloucestershire. UKRD was the joint largest shareholder (40%) alongside Southern Newspaper Group. UKRD now owns in excess of 75% of the Falcon and disposed of its interests in FLR 107.3 in February 1999 to Fusion Group.

In September 1998 Oldham FM was awarded a licence to cover Oldham and the area to the north east of Greater Manchester. UKRD is the joint largest shareholder (45%) alongside the Oldham Evening Chronicle. The radio station's on air name is 96.2 The Revolution. UKRD is also a 20% shareholder of a licence for South Devon, called South Hams Radio.

On 19th November 1999 Clan FM went on air in Lanarkshire (UKRD later gaining a controlling interest) and on 26th November 1999, 107.3 The Eagle (application name Kute FM) went on air in Bristol.

On 1st December 1999 UKRD acquired the radio interests of Dawe Media which included KL.FM in King's Lynn, Cambridge Red Radio and Oxford's Oxygen 107.9FM. The deal also meant that UKRD became a significant minority shareholder in Peterborough's Lite FM.

In 2000 UKRD disposed of its interests in Lite FM to GWR and Oxygen 107.9 FM to Fusion. In November of the same year it was announced that Australia's major radio group, Austereo, had acquired a minority interest in UKRD.

In November 2000, a new senior management team was put in place to chart the course for the UKRD group in the new Millennium. A new strategy of enhancing existing assets' output and developing regional clusters of stations was introduced. As part of that strategy, in 2001 the Bristol and Cambridge radio stations were re-branded as Star 107.3 & Star 107.9. Subsequently, UKRD purchased Westcom Media Limited, owner/operators of WFM in Weston-super-Mare & Cat FM in Cheltenham. At the same time it acquired X-Cel FM in the Fens. Both of these purchases added considerable strength to it's presence to the West & East of the UK.

In March 2001 Bright 106.4 went on air, in which UKRD has a minority stake.

In October 2001 X-Cel was re-launched as Star 107.1

In November 2001, The UKRD Group & Infinity Media de-merged, allowing UKRD to concentrate on maximising the potential of its existing stations while adding appropriate licenses to its regional clusters.

In March 2002, WFM, Cat FM, & The Falcon, were re-launched as Star 107.7, Star 107.5 & Star 107.2/9. The company's East London based station was relaunched as Soul City 107.5.

In September 2003, Scotland's Kingdom FM Limited purchased UKRD's Scottish radio assets.  The Fife-based group took a majority shareholding in, and control of Lanarkshire's Clan FM, 25% in West Lothian's River FM, and 18% in a Glasgow commercial radio licence bidder - Go-FM led by TV presenter Kirstty Wark.  She said that Kingdom FM was 'a proven radio operator with the know-how and credibility in Scotland that few other radio companies can match.'

Ian Sewell is Kingdom FM's Chief Exec, and he was appointed into the same post in the new larger sized company.  He said that Clan FM would benefit immediately from the input of the new owner's management plus investment in local programming, and that, as the only radio partner in River FM and Go-FM, Kingdom FM would provide useful knowledge of the Scottish Radio market and management advice.  Clan FM's Chairman, Ian Livingstone said; 'This is a good move for Clan FM and I'm sure that the station will go from strength to strength under Kingdom's direction.  Kingdom FM has been successful since it launched back in October 1998.  It is 100% local, and has always been the most popular station in Fife, recently notching up another record audience rating.  The station moved into profit in it's first year on air and has continued to be a financial success. 


Vibe Radio Services Ltd

Previously owned joining by Scottish Radio Holdings plc (51%) and GWR Group plc (49%).  Following the involvement of the Competition Commission in 2002/2003, GWR were forced to sell their entire 49% of VRSL to SRH.  

Vibe 101 (Bristol and South Wales)
Vibe FM 105-108 (East of England)


Westcom Media Ltd

Following acquisition by UKRD, all stations previously owned by Westcom Media are now part of UKRD Group.


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