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There are over 250 radio stations in the United Kingdom. For a more comprehensive list see List of radio stations in the United Kingdom.


BBC Radio

The most prominent stations are the national networks operated by the BBC.

  • BBC Radio 1 broadcasts mostly current pop music output on FM and digital radio, with live music throughout the year
  • BBC Radio 2 is the UK's most listened-to radio station, featuring presenters Terry Wogan and Jonathan Ross, and playing popular music from the last 5 decades as well as special interest programmes in the evening
  • BBC Radio 3 is a classical music station, broadcasting high-quality concerts and performances. At night, it transmits a wide range of jazz and world music
  • BBC Radio 4 is a current affairs and speech station, with news, debate and radio drama. It broadcasts the daily radio soap The Archers, as well as flagship news programme Today
  • BBC Radio 5 Live broadcasts live news and sports commentary with phone-in debates and studio guests

The introduction of digital radio technology led to the launch of several new BBC stations:

The BBC also provide 40 local radio services, mainly broadcasting a mix of local news and music aimed at an older audience.

Commercial radio

Also available nationally are three national commercial channels, namely Absolute Radio, Classic FM and talkSPORT. As with the BBC, digital radio has brought about many changes, including the roll-out of local stations such as Xfm, Kiss 100 and Kerrang Radio.

Commercial radio licences are awarded by Ofcom, a government body which advertises a licence for an area and holds a so-called beauty contest to determine which station will be granted permission to broadcast in that area. Stations submit detailed application documents containing their proposed format and the outcome of research to determine the demand for their particular style of broadcast. Original 106 (Aberdeen) was the last radio station to be granted a licence by Ofcom.

Most local commercial stations in the United Kingdom broadcast to a city or group of towns within a radius of 20-50 miles, with a second tier of regional stations covering larger areas such as North West England. The predominant format is pop music, but many other tastes are also catered for, particularly in London and the larger cities, and on digital radio.

Rather than operating as independent entities, many local radio stations are owned by large radio groups which broadcast a similar format to many areas. The largest operator of radio is Global Radio which bought the former media group, Gcap Media. It owns Classic FM and London's most popular commercial station, 95.8 Capital FM. Other owners are Bauer Radio and UTV Radio, which mainly own stations that broadcast in highly populated city areas.

Many of these stations, including all the BBC stations, are also available via digital television services.

Community radio

Community radio stations broadcast to a small area, normally within a 3 mile (5 km) radius, and are mostly not-for-profit organisations, owned by local people, on which the broadcasters are volunteers. They are recognised under the Communications Act 2003 as a distinct third tier of radio in the UK. The community radio movement in the UK was founded in the mid-1970s, broadcasting through Restricted Service Licences, the internet and cable.

An Access Radio pilot scheme gave fifteen stations, including Resonance FM and ALL FM, full time licences, and this has blossomed into a lively sector, directed by the Community Media Association.

The broadcasters are predominantly based around an easily defined racial community such as Asian Star FM in Slough, or a geographically defined community such as Speysound Radio & The Bay Radio.

See also



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