Following the sale of the radio division by Guardian Media Group, we take a look at Guardian’s involvement in our industry over the last 13 years.
The purchase by Global Radio brings to a close a period of the industry which saw investment in personality-led music commercial radio and documentaries aimed at rivalling the BBC.
The Guardian Media Group’s radio division started life in early 1999 when former GMG Chief Executive Sir Robert Phillis enlisted the services of John Myers after being impressed by what he saw on the BBC programme ‘Trouble At The Top’. Myers had featured in one episode of the series which followed him as he prepared to launch Century 105 in the North West for Border Radio Holdings. John had left the Century stations and, after a brief spell in charge of Radio Investments Ltd, created GMG Radio Holdings Ltd and became its Managing Director.
Here’s a timeline of major milestones in the group’s history.
August 1999 – Radio Authority opens applications for South Wales regional FM licence.
23rd November 1999 – Closing date for applications for South Wales.
6th April 2000 – GMG wins first radio licence – Real Radio South Wales.
22nd August 2000 – GMG’s Variety FM is among the bidders for the West Midlands regional FM licence.
October 2000 – Real Radio goes on air in Wales.
23rd January 2001 – Unsuccessful in West Midlands regional licence application – won by Saga.
6th February 2001 – Variety FM is among the bidders for the West and South Yorkshire regional FM licence.
June 2001 – Buys Scot FM from The Wireless Group for £25.5m
6th July 2001 – Wins West/South Yorkshire regional FM licence.
8th January 2002 – Scot FM relaunches as Real Radio Scotland.
25th March 2002 – Real Radio Yorkshire launches.
2002 – Buys JAZZ FM in Manchester and London for £44.5m
March 2004 – Jazz NW rebranded as Smooth FM
16th December 2004 – Application for Edinburgh licence under Smooth name is turned down, won by Dunedin FM (which launched as Talk 107)
March 2005 – GMG rejects a £115m bid from Chrysalis for its radio division
7th June 2005 – Smooth FM replaces Jazz FM in London. Website ejazz.fm rebrands as jazzfm.com and goes on digital radio multiplexes around the country.
5th September 2005 – Application for Solent licence under Smooth name is turned down, won by Original 106.
31st January 2006 – John Myers is appointed to the GMG plc board of directors.
13th April 2006 – Two GMG applications for North East regional licence – RockTalk and Smooth – are turned down as Ofcom give it to Saga.
August 2006 – GMG sells its stake in digital rolling news service DNN. Chrysalis replaces it on DAB multiplexes with LBC.
1st October 2006 – Buys Q96 in Paisley from UTV.
18th October 2006 – Buys Century North West and Century North East from GCap for reported £60m.
9th November 2006 – Loses bid for Liverpool FM licence under RockTalk format. Won instead by Emap’s CityTalk.
18th December 2006 – Buys four Saga stations in West Midlands, East Midlands, Glasgow and not-yet-launched one in North East for a reported £70m.
8th January 2007 – Q96 relaunches as 96.3 Rock Radio.
8th February 2007 – GMG wins Manchester FM licence with RockTalk application.
11th January 2007 – Loses Aberdeen licence bid – applied as Real Radio – to Original 106.
26th March 2007 – Saga stations rebrand as Smooth, with London and NW stations also changing from Smooth FM to Smooth Radio.
8th May 2007 – Loses second South Wales licence bid – applied as Variety FM – to XFM South Wales.
11th June 2007 – Stuart Taylor joins as Group Commercial Director and Managing Director of Smooth London
8th Jan 2008 – Smooth Radio North East launches.
5th May 2008 – 106.1 Rock Radio Manchester launches.
1st April 2008 – Rock Radio launches on DAB in the North East.
23rd April 2008 – Ofcom refuses request from Smooth to drop jazz music requirement from formats in North West and London.
3rd June 2008 – Announces plans for Tony Blackburn’s Smooth London breakfast show to be shared across other Smooth stations.
1st July 2008 – Announces Chris Tarrant is to join GMG Radio to do a networked Saturday morning show on Real and Smooth stations.
6th October 2008 – jazzfm.com relaunches as Jazz FM on DAB multiplexes under TLRC’s brand licence agreement with GMG.
23rd October 2008 – GMG announces that John Myers will step down as CEO of radio division in April 2009, to be succeeded by Stuart Taylor.
9th December 2008 – Real Radio wins licence for North and Mid Wales – last FM licence to be awarded by Ofcom.
2nd February 2009 – Appoints Brand Programme Directors – Jay Crawford for Real and Steve Collins for Smooth.
12th February 2009 – Announces John Myers is to leave the group a month earlier than planned to work on a report for government about future of local radio.
16th February 2009 – GMG plc announces pay freeze across whole company, including GMG Radio.
March 2009 – Stuart Taylor becomes CEO of GMG Radio.
30th March 2009 – Century stations rebrand to Real.
16th April 2009 – John Myers’ report is published, recommending major changes to programme sharing for regional commercial radio licences and allowing merging of licences to create ‘national’ stations.
11th May 2009 – Ofcom’s report for Digital Britain includes most recommendations from the Myers Report on future of local radio.
5th June 2009 – Former CEO John Myers gets the Arqiva Special Award at the Commercial Radio Awards.
9th February 2010 – GMG sells Manchester Evening News and regional newspapers in the North West to Trinity Mirror for £7.4m cash and a further £37.4m saving by GMG being released from a printing contract with the buyer. Trinity doesn’t buy Channel M television, which instead becomes part of GMG Radio.
11th June 2010 – GMG annual report shows Stuart Taylor took a £90k bonus last year, on top of his £245k a year salary.
5th August 2010 – Smooth Radio London appears on the Digital One multiplex for the first time.
6th August 2010 – Ofcom gives permission for new Real Radio North and Mid Wales licence to share all programmes with Real Radio South Wales.
17th August 2010 – Announces signing of Simon Bates from Global’s Classic FM to host new national Smooth Radio breakfast show from January.
September 2010 – Tony Blackburn leaves his Smooth Radio weekend breakfast show in favour of Radio 2.
4th October 2010 – Smooth goes national as it drops regional programmes, except on the Glasgow licence which has two local shows each day.
11th December 2010 – Smooth announces signing of David ‘Kid’ Jensen from Global Radio.
January 2011 – Real Radio North Wales goes on air, joining with the original Real Radio licence to create national station Real Radio Wales.
4th January 2011 – Simon Bates starts on Smooth Radio breakfast across all Smooth stations except Glasgow.
25th May 2011 – Group News Editor James Rea becomes Deputy Group Programme Director.
4th July 2011 – Announces James Rea is to leave the group to join Global Radio as Group Head of News and Managing Editor of LBC.
28th July 2011 – Announces plans for 106.1 Rock Radio to be rebranded as Real Radio XS, while the Glasgow Rock Radio station could be sold.
11th August 2011 – GMG Radio North West Managing Director becomes GMG Radio Group MD after departure of other group executives including Billy Anderson and Shaun Bowron.
5th September 2011 – 106.1 Rock Radio relaunches as 106.1 Real Radio XS.
26th September 2011 – Chris Stevens announced as new Deputy Group Programme Director to replace James Rea who is leaving for Global Radio.
27th September 2011 – 96.3 Rock Radio in Glasgow will also now rebrand as Real Radio XS after talks to sell the station fall through.
October 2011 – Major reorganisation of senior execs in group leads to departures of Real Radio NW Programme Director Dave Shearer and North East Managing Director Martin Healy.
October 2011 – 96.3 Rock Radio relaunches as 96.3 Real Radio XS.
1st November 2011 – Smooth Xmas launches nationally on digital radio.
23rd December 2011 – Smooth 70s is to replace Smooth Xmas later this week on Digital One.
23rd January 2012 – Announces cuts of around a third of posts in news teams.
26th March 2012 – Unveils new logos for the Real Radio brand and a major marketing campaign.
17th April 2012 – Announces the closure of Manchester TV station Channel M.
12th June 2012 – After months of rumours about possible sales, an article in The Guardian suggests three offers have been made for GMG’s radio division, including one by Global Radio.
25th June 2012 – Sale of GMG Radio confirmed – to Global Radio.