BBC Essex

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BBC Essex
BBC Essex.png
Broadcast areaEssex
SloganWhere Essex comes to talk
Frequency95.3 FM, 103.5 FM, 729 AM, 765 AM
DAB: 12D
Freeview: 734
First air date5 November 1986
FormatTalk / News / Music
OwnerBBC Local Radio,
BBC East
WebsiteBBC Essex

BBC Essex is the BBC Local Radio service for the English county of Essex. It broadcasts from its studios on New London Road in Chelmsford on 95.3 (South Benfleet) and 103.5 (Great Braxted) FM, and on 729 (Manningtree), 765 (Bakers Wood).The station also broadcast on 1530 (Rayleigh) AM until 15 January 2018, when transmissions ceased. It is also available on DAB, Freeview TV channel 734 (in Essex, East Anglia, the south east and London) and live streaming via the internet.

According to RAJAR, the station has a weekly audience of 178,000 listeners and a 8.5% share as of December 2018.[1]


BBC Essex launched on 5 November 1986. It broke from the naming convention of "BBC Radio (county name)" so as to avoid confusion with Essex Radio (later Essex FM, now Heart Essex). There had also been a pirate station called Radio Essex in the 1960s, and currently there is an independent radio station called Radio Essex.

BBC Essex set out to be different from existing BBC local stations, which were often perceived as rather "stuffy" and "worthy". It launched with a more up-beat sound, an almost "tabloid" news style and younger presenters than most stations; the BBC Essex symbol also did not feature the traditional BBC logo. However, over the years the style has been toned down and the format is now more in line with the rest of the BBC local radio network.

The station has also employed a number of high-profile presenters including James Whale, Jonathan Overend (BBC Radio 5 Live), Tim 'Timbo' Lloyd (twice winner of Best Local DJ at the Sony Radio Awards), Mark Pougatch (ITV Sport), Dermot O'Leary (National radio & TV presenter)[2] and music promoter Eric 'Monster' Hall.[3]

A revised programme schedule at the station occurred in September 2015 following the appointment of Lou Birt as Managing Editor in April 2015,[4] following the departure of predecessor Gerald Main, who held the role from 2007 until February 2015.[5]


The strongest signal is 103.5 FM, which comes from a small transmitter between Witham and Tiptree. It reaches into Hertfordshire. The 95.3FM signal is heard in most of the southern Thames Estuary as well. The South Benfleet transmitter also provides Heart Essex on 96.3FM and DAB. The 500 ft Manningtree tower, the highest of all five, also has national radio frequencies, Absolute Radio, BBC National DAB and Digital One. It is the main FM transmitter for Radio Suffolk. The Bakers Wood transmitter also has Heart Essex on 102.6FM, and is one of the DAB transmitters. DAB signals, since 20 May 2002, have come from the Essex 12D multiplex, which has transmitters at Maitland House (Southend-on-Sea town centre), Colchester, Sudbury (in Suffolk), and Rye Hill (south of Harlow - on a water tower). Rye Hill also has Heart Essex on 101.7FM.

Pirate BBC Essex[edit]

From 10 to 17 April 2004, BBC Essex marked the fortieth anniversary of offshore radio in Britain by launching their own ship-based radio station, Pirate BBC Essex. Broadcasting from an old light vessel, the station transmitted sixties music and memories twenty-four hours a day all week. This was followed in August 2007 by another broadcast marking the anniversary of the closing of the pirate stations by the Marine Offences Act.

Over the Easter Weekend in April 2009, the popular Pirate Radio Essex programme was resurrected by popular demand from listeners,[6] occurring five days after the release of the comedy movie The Boat that Rocked.[6] This was broadcast on the AM frequencies, as well as on the Internet, which resulted in many calls from as far away as New Zealand. Presenters included Johnnie Walker, Tony Blackburn, Dave Cash and Keith Skues as well as three of the station's presenters: Steve Scruton; Ian Wyatt & Ray Clark.[7]

BBC Essex presenter Ray Clark authored a book called 'Radio Caroline: The True Story of The Boat That Rocked' which was published in early 2014.[8] Clark retired from BBC Essex on 20 June 2014 after leaving his award-winning breakfast show in February that year.[9][10] Clark returned to BBC Essex in September 2015 to present a new, regular, Saturday morning show.[11]

Pirate BBC Essex took to the airwaves for one final time on 13 and 14 August 2017. Starting at 10pm on 13 August 2017 Keith Skues presented his regular, 3 hour regional Sunday night show from the LV18 studio, and on 14 August 2017 programmes were broadcast commencing at 9 am, with the eventual closure at 3 pm, marking the 50th anniversary of the Marine Offences Act which closed most pirate radio stations. Guest presenters included Johnnie Walker, Roger ‘Twiggy’ Day, Tom Edwards and Norman St John.[12]


Most of BBC Essex's programming is produced and broadcast from its Chelmsford studios.

During off-peak hours, the station carries regional programming for the East of England, produced from sister stations BBC Radio Norfolk, BBC Radio Suffolk, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and BBC Radio Northampton. During the station's downtime, BBC Essex simulcasts BBC Radio 5 Live overnight.


  1. ^ "RAJAR". RAJAR. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  2. ^ "BBC Born To Win | The Mentors | Meet Dermot O'Leary". BBC News. 24 May 1973. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  3. ^ "BBC Essex - Eric Hall's Monster Memories". 30 December 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  4. ^ "New managing editor joins BBC Essex". Essex Chronicle. 18 April 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  5. ^ Martin, Roy (23 February 2015). "BBC Essex's Gerald Main leaves after 35 years". RadioToday. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  6. ^ a b Ship ahoy, it's Tony Blackburn! (20 February 2009). "Essex - Local Radio - Ship ahoy, it's Tony Blackburn!". BBC. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  7. ^ "Essex - Local Radio - Pirate Present". BBC. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  8. ^ "Radio Caroline 50 years on: The man who pressed the 'on' button - BBC News". Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  9. ^ Martin, Roy (19 November 2013). "Ray Clark moves to daytimes at BBC Essex". RadioToday. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  10. ^ Martin, Roy (13 December 2013). "James Whale takes on BBC Essex Breakfast". RadioToday. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  11. ^ Martin, Roy (11 September 2015). "Ray Clark returns to BBC Essex schedule". RadioToday. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  12. ^ "Pirate BBC Essex 2017 - Radio from the LV18".

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