Analysis Student: Radio Stations

Simon Mayo, Alex Zane and Tory MP David Davis were all university DJs. Will Dean picks the best stations
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Cardiff University

Founded: 1995

Broadcasts: Two one-week FM broadcasts, plus internet streaming

Founded by a group of engineering students, Xpress's move to an FM licence in 1996 was provoked by a meningitis outbreak which prompted the university to pump funds into the station to "keep students informed". Strange beginnings aside, Xpress has made itself infamous on campus with shows such as Woodville Road, a soap following the lives and loves of a house of Cardiff students as they battle through a murky world of sex, drugs, murder and kebabs. Other events such as impromptu outside broadcast house parties (with free beer, obviously) make the station a favourite among locals.

Fresh Air

Edinburgh universities

Founded: 1992

Broadcasts: One month on FM and the internet

This collaborative venture has to provide all of its own funding. So, while this means it is free from the usual students' union politics, it also means it is usually skint. However, this does give the cads the chance to run fundraisers such as a fashion show, a bizarre game called Bingo Bando and even a Hollywood-inspired Dodgeball Day. They're doing something right - the Student Radio Association and Radio 1 recently named it student station of the year, meaning the team got to present its own graveyard-shift show on the BBC.

Alumna: Marsha Shandur, Xfm DJ

Demon Fm 87.7

De Montfort University

Founded: 1995

Broadcast: Two 28-day FM Broadcasts

Formed in a Portakabin in 1995, DeMontfort's station was the first part of a student media brand that now includes a magazine, a TV station and even a record label. Demon's website brazenly claims that the station provides an "alternative to all the other stations bound by public demand for inane chart piffle". Quite. But whether Keane, Moby and Stereophonics really constitute an "alternative" to said "inane chart piffle" is a matter of opinion.

Alumnus: Jonathan Brown, Smash Hits features editor

LSR 107.4FM

University of Leeds; Leeds Metropolitan University

Founded: 1998

Broadcasts: One month on FM, year-round on the internet

Proud of its reputation as a campus feather ruffler, LSR showcases everything from jazz to trip-hop to obscure Americana. Its determination to be distinct from mainstream radio is highlighted by flagship current-affairs show Newslink, a Today programme for students - ie it's on in the afternoon. Other notable achievements include earning tabloid notoriety for a game called Blind Shag, getting 500 signatures on a petition for female suffrage (in 2005) and - with the help of Popbitch - revealing the identity of John Leslie as the "mystery man" in Ulrika Jonsson's book. Good work.

Subcity

University of Glasgow

Founded: 1994

Broadcasts: One month on FM and all year on the internet.

One of Britain's most musically rich cities can be proud to have a station as edgy as Glasgow's Subcity. Although no longer on AM (people sharing the building with the station kept getting the station playing down their phones), Subcity uses its FM broadcast to cement its position as a genuinely left-field broadcaster. There are specialist grime and hip-hop shows, alongside music from Thelonious Monk to Echo and the Bunnymen to DJ Format. Although let down by its single-minded focus on music, Subcity, which funds itself through its own club nights, is adventurous and stylish and, more importantly, successful.

URN 1350AM

University of Nottingham

Founded: 1978

Broadcasts: All year on campus with internet streams

Despite sounding as if Vincent Price ought to be a star presenter, URN, as befits a city with more bars per square mile than any other in the UK, loves throwing a good party. Its highlight reel includes the live broadcast of a joint club night at Nottingham Arena (gulp) that went out across seven other student stations as well as a partnership with UK club brand Miss Moneypenny, which saw the station producing a pilot for the company.

Alumnus: Matthew Bannister, BBC Five Live presenter and former Radio 1 controller

Bailrigg FM

Lancaster University

Founded: 1969

Broadcasts: Throughout term-time

One of the oldest of the bunch. Bailrigg FM, named after the university's sprawling main campus, has now been running for 36 years, making it only two years younger than Radio 1 and one of few student stations that runs the year round. Unfortunately, the station's daytime music selection is let down by the over-zealous use of guitar music. That would be fine for a specialist show or station but overlooks the diverse tastes of most student bodies. Play some pop!

Alumnus: Richard Allinson, Radio 2 DJ

Rare FM

University College London

Founded 1998

Broadcasts: Annual 28-day broadcast across central London

Rare manages to punch above its low-budget weight by taking advantage of its plum central London location. Interviews with choice new bands such as the Magic Numbers and comedians such as Robin Ince and Stewart Lee ought to impress those in the know at nearby Broadcasting House. Rare is about to launch freshers' week in style by throwing Quadfest. No, not a festival for off-road bikes, but a huge party in the college's famous Quad area.

Alumnus: Alex Zane, MTV presenter

RaW 1251 AM

University of Warwick

Founded 1970

Broadcasts: 30 weeks a year on campus

Another oldie. Not many radio stations can boast a potential future Prime Minister among its alumni, but one of Raw's founder members is Tory leadership candidate David Davis. The team in Coventry played on this theme when, like ITV, it hosted a live election night party, complete with interviews of local candidates and voters. To cap an impressive year, Raw covered an international sporting event, with its Coventry base allowing it to cover the International Children's Games in July. Brimming with invention.

Alumni: David Davis, shadow Home Secretary; Simon Mayo, Radio Five Live presenter; Leona Graham, Virgin Radio presenter; Timmy Mallet, TV presenter and student "favourite"

Sure

University of Sheffield

Founded 1995

Broadcasts: Two FM broadcasts plus internet streaming

Naked presenters and abseiling managers? So far so L!VE TV. Perhaps, but Sure backs up its silliness with a range of specialist shows and interviews with the likes of DJ Carl Cox and local MP and former Home Secretary David Blunkett. Achieved notoriety in 2001 when zealots at Sheffield Students' Union ordered the station not to play any music by US rapper Eminem. The station gamely responded by stating: "Sure plays what students want to hear, and a non-democratic ban wouldn't dictate our music policy." In other words, "bog off".

URY

University of York

Founded 1967

Broadcasts: 24 hours a day during term times

URY is another jewel in York's student media crown. Excellent shows such as The URY Evening Selection and a website that is at least the equal of most professional stations complement the inventiveness of sketch shows and a soap opera. The URY team rose to local prominence by producing its own version of Do They Know It's Christmas. It didn't hit the number one spot (or any for that matter), but proved that the station has a keen eye for an idea and that key ingredient of student radio: a sense of humour.

Alumni: Rollo Armstrong of Faithless; Peter Hunt, BBC royal correspondent; Tim Smith, BBC Radio 2 presenter; Mark Russell, Radio 3 presenter

The Urb

University of Bath

Founded 1972

Broadcasts: All year on campus

Launched by Radio 1's Annie Nightingale in 1972, Bath University's station is also proud to have featured the likes of Dr Neil Fox. Perhaps that's where he got his PhD? The station's non-stop internet stream is gloriously eclectic. Where else would one find David Morales, Bruce Springsteen and Ultravox being played within an hour of each other? An excellent website also gives listeners the chance to vote for the songs they'd like to add to the playlist. A clever addition to an already strong station.

Alumnus: Dr Fox, TV presenter and DJ

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