|Broadcast area||Cork City and County|
|Slogan||The Biggest Hits, The Best Variety|
|Frequency||FM: 95.8–96.8 MHz|
|First air date||10 August 1989 (as Radio South)|
|Sister stations||C103 (dual franchise)|
96FM is one of three local radio stations licensed by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland for Cork City and County in Ireland (the other two being its sister station C103 and youth music station Red FM). It broadcasts from studios at Broadcasting House, St. Patrick's Place in Cork City.
96FM is operated as a dual franchise with C103 by County Media Limited which is owned by Wireless Group. The station's sound broadcasting contract (and thus its broadcasting licence) is advertised together with that of C103 and one company is required to operate the two stations, in a similar situation to that of Shannonside FM and Northern Sound Radio in the north-west of Ireland.
Founded by four former Cork Examiner journalists, with backing from a number of Cork business people, Cork's 96FM launched as "Radio South" at midday on Thursday 10 August 1989. However, that name lasted for less than a year. Radio South was the third of the newly licensed commercial stations to come on air in the country (Dublin's Capital Radio and Mayo's Mid West Radio being first and second respectively).
The first voice heard on air was the station's first Head of Programming Frank Murphy who introduced the new station in both Irish and English. This was followed by Neil Prendeville's first show, the first song played was "A New Flame" by Simply Red – a chart hit at the time. The then Lord Mayor of Cork – Councillor Chrissie Aherne, who had been flown by helicopter to the station's studio (located just to the north of the city at Whites Cross), then officially opened the station for business.
The first day's broadcasting featured several outside broadcasts from across the coverage area. Local dignitaries, were invited by the station to an event that night in Cork's Imperial Hotel which was attended by several hundred people. The attendance included the then chairman of the IRTC (now the BCI) former Supreme Court Judge Seamus Henchy.
Many of the original voices on the new station were familiar to Cork listeners; Tadgh Dolan was formerly of RTÉ's local radio service, RTÉ Radio Cork, while Neil Prendeville, Tony Magnier, Joe O'Reilly, Gerry McLoughlin, Paul Byrne, Rob Allen and others had formerly been heard on now defunct local pirate stations, such as ERI, the major pirate station in the area which closed around midnight 30 December 1988.
The initial Radio South provided a wide ranging format, and a number of special interest programmes, including an hour-long country music show at 18:00 every weeknight presented by local country music authority Roger Ryan. Joe O'Reilly presented the 'Oldies and Irish' show on Sundays, a vestige from Radio ERI. Radio South broadcast 24 hours a day from the outset, unlike many other of the new local stations who closed overnight in their early days.
Unlike independent local stations elsewhere in the country, Radio South faced competition from the RTÉ Radio Cork opt-out, which was well regarded for its coverage of current affairs and sports, especially by older listeners. However the audience for the RTÉ service dwindled with time, as its local output was limited by Dublin, and it eventually closed in 1999.
Print media constituted major competition to local radio in Cork, with the then Cork Examiner and Evening Echo daily newspapers based in the city. There was also competition for advertising from a (now defunct) local TV service, available on the Chorus cable TV service in the city. 96FM now houses the studios of a TV studio owned by its parent company Wireless Group.
Kieran McGeary, Chief Executive, Station Manager and Programme Director of Cork's 96FM and C103 wrote an article in Radio Today in January 2013 saying that 96FM had a "very strong line-up" but that finding new younger talent was a major challenge for the whole radio industry. Yet 96FM does not promote training. Unlike Radio Kerry it does not have a training course in-house.
Hits and Memories 96FM
Mediocre listenership figures for Radio South, lead to a relaunch in July 1990 and a name change to 'Hits and Memories 96FM'. The station was now under a 'Classic Hits' format imported from Australia, similar to that of the by then successful 'Classic Hits 98FM' in Dublin. By this stage the original special interest programmes of Radio South were gone (except the 'Oldies and Irish' show on Sundays which, thanks to public support, survived the upheaval). The programme,presented since 1991 by Derry O' Callaghan, is the most listened to show on local radio in Ireland.(source:IPSOS/MRBI 2015)The new format lead to a gradual increase in listenership.
Merge-over with County Sound and Relocation to Patricks Place
In 1991, a 'merge-over' took place between 96FM and the Mallow-based County Sound 103FM coming under a common ownership and combined JNLR figures. Some years later, the station moved premises from the rural Whites Cross (the former Radio ERI studios) to a city centre location at Patrick's Place, in a building which was formerly the location of St Finbarr's College and then Christian Brothers College. The station named its new premises 'Broadcasting House', but this building name is rarely referred to on air, except by Emmett Kennedy in the evenings.
The late 1990s
The late 1990s led to the complete discarding of the 'Hits and Memories' moniker, and some programming changes, with night-time programmes to appeal to younger listeners (not heard in Cork since the Radio South days) being introduced. The late 1990s and early 2000s also saw the introduction of new transmitters to provide practically full coverage of the county (the original licence was for Cork city and part of the county, but this was later extended to allow the whole county to be covered, although to this day it can be difficult to receive 96FM in parts of West Cork, while C103 is available everywhere).
In 2014 the stations flagship presenter Neil Prendeville departed 96FM for rival station RedFM. Consequently, in August 2015 96FM's listenership figures slid behind those of RedFM for the first time in the history of the stations.
- 95.6 Fermoy-Mitchelstown area
- 95.8 West County Cork
- 96.0 Carrigaline-Cobh
- 96.1 North County Cork
- 96.2 (a) Macroom (b) Clonakilty
- 96.4 (a) Cork city and surrounding county areas (b) Bantry
- 96.8 (a) Youghal (b) Kinsale
(mains in bold)
96FM News known as "The Word on News" plays without back ground music (no bed). The sports section has a light bed.
Bulletins run for five or six minutes throughout the day, and the flagship 1 pm and 6 pm runs for ten minutes.
The focus is on Cork stories, although, the number of hours of local news was cut back in September 2013, with more bulletins coming from a Newsreader based in a sister company in Dublin.
In October 2014 it was announced that the UTV Radio News Network would cease operation meaning that 96FM will take its evening feed from competitor Newstalk. This placed 96FM in an unusual situation among local radio stations. It meant that 96FM's News bulletins after the hours of 7 pm in the evening are now identical to those of its supposed local competitor RedFM. The change also meant that News created by Reporters for both 96FM and RedFM is available to the other, via the National Newstalk Network. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland did not raise any concerns about this change, neither did the Competition Authority.
RTÉ's John Murray was Head of News from 1990 until 1992.
- Radio in Ireland#Cork ILRs
- "Local Radio Services: Cork's 96FM". Broadcasting Commission of Ireland. Archived from the original on 7 May 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- "Licensed Operators – Local Radio Services". Broadcasting Commission of Ireland. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- "96FM – Contact Us". 96FM. Archived from the original on 28 August 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- "ABOUT UTV – Corporate Structure – UTV Radio – Ireland". utvmedia.com. Archived from the original on 31 July 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
- Jason Deans (23 November 2000). "UTV moves into radio by acquiring County Media". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
- "VIEWPOINT: Where is the next generation?". 31 January 2013.