Classic FM goes into profit

CLASSIC FM, the commercial radio station that broadcasts classical music nationwide, has declared its first profit after three years on air.

According to annual accounts filed last week at Companies House the group's profits in the UK were pounds 281,000.

But expansion overseas sent the overall group deeper into losses - from pounds 1.2m last time to pounds 1.9m. It has invested pounds 2.1m launching sister stations in Holland, Sweden and Finland.

But the performance of the core UK radio station will be seen as a triumph for commercial radio, demonstrating that new stations in well defined niches can quickly go into profit.

Classic FM started broadcasting in September 1992. Since then it has done more than any other new commercial station to convince British industry to use commercial radio as an advertising medium.

"Sixty per cent of our advertisers had never used commercial radio before," said John Spearman, chief executive.

Since Classic FM's birth, commercial radio's advertising revenues have grown from pounds 129m to pounds 220m. More than 90 per cent of Classic FM plc's pounds 14.6m turnover last year came from UK advertising revenues.

Notwithstanding Classic FM's popularity - the most recent Rajar survey shows that it has 4.7 million listeners per week - its life could be abruptly terminated in the year 2000, when the franchise comes up for auction.