Local radio in Manchester has a captivating history, reflecting the city’s growth and cultural shifts. From early community-focused stations to today’s diverse and influential platforms, Manchester’s local radio journey mirrors the city’s resilience and adaptability.
1960s and 1970s
In the mid-20th century, Manchester experienced a surge in independent radio stations. Piccadilly Radio, launched in 1974, became a prominent voice, catering to a broad audience with a mix of music, news, and entertainment. These stations fostered a sense of local identity among the city’s diverse population. They also played a crucial role in broadcasting local events and connecting residents in unprecedented ways. The first presenter on air was Roger Day and the first song played on air was Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys.
During the 1960s and 1970s, pirate radio stations, such as Radio Caroline Manchester, challenged traditional broadcasting norms. These stations, though operating outside legal boundaries, played a role in promoting alternative music, youth culture, and countercultural movements in Manchester.
BBC Radio Manchester
Founded in 1970, BBC Radio Manchester emerged as a beacon of information, entertainment, and community engagement. The first voice on air was Alan Sykes. Other presenters included Roy Cross, Sandra Chalmers, Mike Riddoch and Alex Greenhalgh.
Local programming is produced and broadcast from the BBC’s MediaCityUK studios in Salford, but initially it broadcasted from studios at 33 Piccadilly overlooking Piccadilly Gardens.
The late 20th century saw the rise of community radio in Manchester, exemplified by stations like ALL FM, emphasising grassroots initiatives and local news. These stations provided a platform for diverse voices and community stories, enriching the local radio landscape. An abundance of these stations relied (and still do!) on volunteers from their community.
With the onset of the 21st century, digital technology reshaped local radio. Stations like Unity Radio embraced online platforms, reaching broader audiences and offering interactive experiences. Podcasts, streaming services, and online platforms further diversified the content, expanding the scope of local radio in Manchester.
RadioAlty, a station in South Manchester, says it “can reach a lot of our audience without using the traditional ways of outputting”. Using online radio is a cheaper way of broadcasting, and for community stations with little money it is an ideal way of reaching an audience.
Today, Manchester’s local radio scene thrives across various platforms. Stations like XS Manchester and Hits Radio continue to broadcast on traditional FM frequencies, while others, like Reform Radio, find success through online streaming and podcasts. Content has diversified to include local news, events, music, and cultural discussions, reflecting the city’s dynamic spirit.
The history of local radio in Manchester is a tale of evolution and community resonance. From Radio Manchester’s early broadcasts to the digital era’s diverse platforms, local radio has shaped Manchester’s narrative. Stations like Piccadilly Radio, ALL FM, and Unity Radio, among others, have left an indelible mark on the city’s cultural fabric. As technology advances, the future promises continued innovation, ensuring local radio remains an integral part of Manchester’s dynamic and diverse identity.