GWR FM is a radio station serving the former county of Avon, England. Broadcasting on 96.3 in Bristol and 103.0 in Weston-super-Mare, the station plays Top 40 and Hot Adult Contemporary music targeting 15-35 year olds. It is the highest-rated local radio station in the area according to RAJAR, beating local competition from BBC Radio Bristol, Kiss 101, Star 107.2 and Original 106.5. At the 26th annual Sony Radio Academy Awards on May 12th 2008, GWR Bristol won Station of the Year; 300, 000 to 1 million TSA.
GWR FM launched on 27 October 1981
under its original name, Radio West, 11 years after BBC Radio Bristol
. The station began a full service commercial radio station on 96.3 MHz FM
and 1260 kHz AM
(238 metres medium wave), the culmination of a merger between two companies bidding for the Bristol and Bath radio licence (Radio Avonside and Bristol Channel) awarded by the then Independent Broadcasting Authority
. The choice of on-air name proved to be simple when the BBC
aired a series called Shoestring
complete with the fictitious Radio West.
Radio West's cost base was large due to the extravagant studio premises that had been purchased, and the lack of audience made for disastrous advertising revenue and losses of £300,000 by 1983. John Bradford, who had helped found the extremely successful Mercia Sound in Coventry, joined the station in 1983. Alongside Dave Cash (ex Capital Radio), big guns Johnnie Walker (ex Caroline, BBC) and Roger Day (ex Caroline, Piccadilly, and latterly BRMB) were brought in, but to no avail. The station still slipped and programmes had to be curtailed in October 1983. The station closed down each day at 7:30 pm, while resources were concentrated on daytime output. After more fine tuning of the station's output Radio West became more mainstream and by late 1984 the prospects were more promising and programmes were extended to a 1am closedown.
Although the station was broadcasting programmes of a high quality (including award-nominated computer show Datarama), listeners remained loyal to BBC Radio Bristol, already established as the radio station for the locality.
Financially commercial radio struggled to make any money as the 1980s economy in Britain was hampered by union strikes. Radio West had not made any profit since it started and looked set to close, when the neighbouring local station Wiltshire Radio, based in Swindon made an approach to merge the two stations, creating a station covering from Weston-super-Mare in the west to Swindon and Hungerford in the east. This merger was approved by the government and was completed in 1985.
Some of the 1980s DJs included Dave Barrett, Dave Bowen, Mark Seaman, Andy Westgate, Alan Roberts, Gary Vincent, Steve Orchard, Sandy Martin, Keith Francis, David Hamilton, Andy Henly and a returning Johnnie Walker.
Closure of Radio West
Radio West formally closed in September 1985 with a preview of the new radio station to come during test transmissions which followed immediately. In October 1985 GWR Radio was launched as a 24-hour radio station (previously Radio West closed overnight). New disc jockeys were brought in, however the station still sounded like competitor Radio Bristol with its mix of music, news and talk (as was the trend in British commercial radio at the time) and listening figures were not improving.
GWR Radio began splitting frequencies as required by the government - which declared its desire to end simulcasting
on both FM and AM. GWR Radio launched Brunel Radio
on 15 November 1988
, a "golden oldies" station on 1260 kHz in Bristol, and 936/1161 kHz AM in Wiltshire
. In the early 1990s Brunel started networking programming to 2CR Radio
and Radio 210
in Reading, Berkshire
. Each station had Classic Gold appended to the end of their names (eg Brunel Classic Gold, 210 Classic Gold). Local news and shows were combined with networked programmes in each of its areas.
After the lifting on sanctions restricting the time spent playing music (so-called 'needle time') in 1988, GWR FM became more and more music-led, playing Top 40 chart music during the daytime, and specialist music (big band music, rock, rap etc) was over time eliminated. The local element of the station especially its news coverage had progressively become briefer and reduced in length, then moved onto Brunel Classic Gold, before being dropped altogether. GWR FM at last become popular, with the rise in listening figures confirming this.
A Bath ILR licence was awarded by the IBA in 1986. GWR Radio Bath debuted on 22 May 1987 as a separate station, now know as Bath's GWR FM. Although there was still some programming being shared from GWR Bristol, local programming was put out during peak listening hours. However for official licencing purposes GWR Bath and Bristol are listed as one station and audience figures from RAJAR are combined with GWR Swindon. All programming for GWR Bath comes from studios in Bristol.
The Mix Network
In 1992 a re-launch of the station saw The New GWR-FM become the hub of what was The Mix Network
, a network of radio stations owned by the GWR Group
(now GCap Media
) covering southern England
. The radio station's (and the group's) long held philosophy of heavily researching the average person's listening habits and tastes led by Group chairman Ralph Bernard created a tightly formatted sound where popular Top 40 chart hits ex-Top 40 songs are blended in with older hits. This led to its "Better Music Mix" format which spread to other radio stations within the GWR Group, including Essex FM
, Trent FM
and Beacon Radio
creating a mini national network.
The practice for the Mix Network stations was for each station to play a centrally produced playlist (from GWR FM itself). Songs were broadcast at the same time as neighbouring group stations and each station adopted the "Better Music Mix" tagline, to be said by local disc jockeys in between songs. Fans of the previous guises of some stations bought by the GWR Group, notably Essex FM
and Beacon Radio
were unhappy at the sudden re-branding of the stations, accusing the new management of reducing local content such as news reports and cancelling local shows in place of programming from the Mix Network, such as Late Night Love
and The Request Fest
, which originate from the Bristol studios.
Despite protests from outside Bristol, GWR FM continues to be popular with RAJAR listening figures showing an average 18% listening share of all radio broadcast in the area.
In 2002 the Radio Authority
renewed GWR FM's licence. It was due to expire in October 2009, but will now expire on 28 of October 2013 according to GWR FM licensees page (link below) however it is expected to be automatically renewed because it provides a DAB
simulcast signal. This is the same scenario applies to its sister stations GWR FM Bath and Classic Gold 1260
In late 2007, GWR FM launched a relay of their Bristol service to the Weston-super-Mare area on 103.0 FM, as for many years Weston had been officially covered by the station, but had suffered from a poor 96.3 FM signal in many parts of the town. The programming on this relay is identical to the Bristol service, aside from jingles and sweepers saying 'GWR Weston', and separate advertisements for North Somerset
listeners. This leads to the somewhat confusing situation that although the station branding says 'GWR Weston', all DJ links reference 'GWR Bristol' and feature Bristol orientated news, event guides and competitions.
- The Bush and Troy Show with Andy Bush, Paris Troy and Paulina Gillespie
- Phillipa Collins(Daytime 1000-1300 & Sunday 1200-1600)& Sam York with Traffic
- Stu Elmore (Afternoon 1300-1600)
- Gareth James (Drivetime 1600-1900)
- The Evening Show with Kevin Hughes (Mon - Thurs 1900-2200)
- Saturday Breakfast (0800-1200)
- Pat Sharp (Saturday 1200-1500)
- Mark Dennison (Saturday 1500-1900)
- Party Anthems with Gaz Wesley (Fri & Sat 1900-0000)
- The Night Shift with Dan Wood/Andy Henly
- Sunday Breakfast (0800-1200)
- hit40uk (Sun 1600-1900)
- Jason Donovan (Sunday 1900-2200)
- The Wind Down with Cat James (Sun - Thurs 2200-0100)
- Live at the Local
- 1982 Radio West- "We got a good thing going"
- 1985 GWR- "Listen, we're talking about you!"
- 1989 GWR Radio "The West number one", "Good Music, Great Talk"
- 1992 The New GWR FM- "No rap, less chat"
- 1994 "A mix of the 70s, 80s and the best of today"
- 1995 GWR FM - "A better music mix - from the 70s, 80s and today"
- 1997 "Today's better music mix"
- 2000 "Today's best mix, today's best variety" "More music, less talk" "From the world's best city"
- 2005/6 "Good Music is Back"
- 2007 "Today's Best Mix"
- 2008 "More Music Variety" as of June 30th.
What GWR stands for
The initials GWR have an association with the Great Western Railway
especially in the South West of England, and there is a popular misconception with listeners that the station stands for Great Western Radio
. Indeed neighbouring GWR Wiltshire was called Wiltshire Radio
(WR) before its merger with Radio West. However according to Group management, the letters GWR do not stand for anything.
It should also be noted that GWR's oldies service was originally called Brunel Classic Gold, after the Great Western Railway's founding father Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The GWR Group
The company which formerly owned GWR, the GWR Group
, expanded from the late 1980s / early 1990s onwards to purchase other stations throughout the country. Many UK stations now follow the GWR format. It became the largest radio company in the UK, before merging with its competitor Capital Radio
to become GCap Media
on May 9
Past and Previous Management
- Chairman: Stella Pirie
- Programme Controller
- 1994-1995: Steve Orchard (former GCap Media Local Operations Director)
- 1995-1997: Dirk Anthony (former GCap Media Group Programme Director)
- 1997-1998: Vaughan Hobbs
- 1998-2000: Mark Beever
- 2000-present: Paul Andrew
- Managing Director
- 2007-present: Steve Jones
- The Radio Companion by Paul Donovan, ISBN 978-0-586-09012-1
- Commercial Radio Pocket Book by Commercial Radio Companies Association
- Radio Authority Pocket Book 1992-2003 by the Radio Authority
- Transdiffusion http://www.transdiffusion.org