The 1990 Broadcasting Act allowed for the launch of three Independent National Radio (INR) stations in the United Kingdom. The Radio Authority (previously the IBA) was mandated to award these licences, one of which (INR1) had to be a ‘non-pop’ station (which was awarded to Classic FM) and one which had to be a predominantly speech-based service (this would be advertised later as INR3 and would be awarded to Talk Radio). The remaining licence (INR2) was to be open to ‘all-comers’ and was to be awarded to the highest cash bidder, providing that the applicant met criteria set down in the Broadcasting Act.
This second national licence, INR2, would take over the 1197 kHz and 1215 kHz AM (Medium Wave) frequencies, which were to be surrendered by BBC Radio 3. The station, known as Virgin 1215, launched at 12.15 pm on 30 April 1993 with Richard Branson opening the station from a Virgin Megastore in Manchester. Former Radio 1 DJ Richard Skinner was back in London and was the first presenter on the air.
On 1 September 2008 it was announced that Virgin Radio would be rebranded as Absolute Radio at the end of the month (28 September). The Virgin Radio brand, however, relaunched via DAB and online at 11:00am on 30 March 2016, following a new partnership with the Wireless Group and its digital terrestrial commercial radio licence was approved by Ofcom in March 2015.
Virgin Radio at 10
The Radio Ark has compiled a short montage from Virgin Radio’s 10th Birthday on 30th April 2003 and includes an inteview with Richard Branson during the Pete and Geoff Breakfast Show. You can also hear Russ Williams celebrate the 10th Birthday at exactly 12:15 on the day the station was born.