After 1990: the airwave revolution

The 1990 Broadcasting Act established the Radio Authority and its remit to extend listener choice. The authority has overseen the creation of Classic FM, Virgin 1215 and TalkRadio UK.

Classic FM's greatest hits approach attracts 4.8m listeners each week (more than Radio 3). Like Atlantic 252, which broadcasts to 5m listeners from Ireland, Virgin 1215's staple diet of Dire Straits and Phil Collins has provided a haven for thirtysomethings left out by Radio 1's shift down the age scale. Nearly 4m a week tune in.

The third national commercial station, TalkRadio UK, is due on air next month and could spell more trouble for Radio 1. Targeted at 25- to 45-year-olds, it has hired the likes of Terry Christian and Jeremy Beadle in its bid to lure 3m.

Having plugged the gaps in the commercial radio map the authority has moved on to stations that offer a distinct musical style, such as jazz, or ethnic or religious programming.

In London, 19 commercial stations are licensed to operate and account for 63 per cent of all listening. Easy-listening Melody reaches 871,000 listeners a week, while dance-based Kiss FM draws 815,000.

With Crystal FM, an adult contemporary station, Viva,pitched at women, London Christian Radio and an FM licence for Virgin all due in London this year, the future looks competitive.

But could radio in the capital be spoilt by choice? While national listening has remained constant, London listeners have dropped from 8.8m to 8.2m

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