Hits Radio

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Hits Radio
Hits Radio logo (2018 - ).png
Broadcast areaGreater Manchester (FM/DAB)
United Kingdom (digital)
BrandingHits Radio Manchester
Hits Radio UK
Frequency103.0 FM (Manchester) RDS: HITS_RAD
DAB (various locations)
Freeview: 711
Sky: 0188
Transmitter coordinates53°32′30″N 2°01′14″W / 53.5416°N 2.0206°W / 53.5416; -2.0206Coordinates: 53°32′30″N 2°01′14″W / 53.5416°N 2.0206°W / 53.5416; -2.0206
OwnerBauer Radio
Sister stationsKey Radio
Absolute Radio

Hits Radio (formerly Key 103 and Piccadilly Radio) is a commercial radio station, broadcasting to Greater Manchester on 103 FM & DAB and across the UK on digital platforms. It is owned and operated by Bauer Radio and broadcasts from studios at Castle Quay in the Castlefield area of Manchester.

Hits Radio is the main originating station for Bauer's Hits Radio Network, producing local and networked output from its Castlefield studios 24 hours a day for local CHR stations across Northern England and the West Midlands.

There are two versions of the station:

  • Hits Radio UK is provided on DAB in many parts of the UK and nationally on the Freeview and Sky TV platforms.
  • Hits Radio Manchester provides opt-outs from Hits Radio UK for local news bulletins, traffic updates, information and advertising on its local FM and DAB platforms.[1]

Both versions carry the same programming and are also available UK-wide via online streaming.


Key 103 logo used 2015 to 2018

Piccadilly Radio[edit]

Originally known as Piccadilly Radio, the station commenced broadcasting from studios at Piccadilly Plaza in Manchester city centre at 5am on Tuesday 2 April 1974 - the fifth Independent Local Radio station to launch and the first of its kind in northern England. The first presenter on air was Roger Day and the first song played on air was Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys.

In early 1987, due to a nationwide reorganisation of the FM band, Piccadilly moved its VHF (FM) frequency from 97 to 103 FM. A year later, the Government and the IBA began encouraging all commercial stations with multiple frequencies to provide split programming in order to increase listener choice and competition.

Key 103[edit]

Piccadilly split its services into two on Saturday 3 September 1988. Key 103 launched at midday on 103 FM while the original Piccadilly Radio service continued on 1152 AM. The first presenters on air were Tim Grundy and Becky Want with the first jingle package produced by Stowe Bowden Wilson and featuring voiceovers from Steve Coogan.[2] The first song played upon launch was Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds.

Positioning itself as Music, not music, Key 103 aimed at an upmarket, younger audience with a mix of AOR and chart music and specialist output including a nightly business programme, comedy and weekly jazz, folk and classical music shows.[3]

The station later opted for a more mainstream format with presenters from Piccadilly 1152 switching to the FM station, and in 1990, the station was rebranded as Piccadilly Key 103. The Piccadilly branding was gradually dropped during the 1990s.

In 1994, the station's owners Transworld Radio Group were brought by EMAP. Two years later, both Key 103 and its AM sister station moved from the Piccadilly Plaza studios in to new headquarters at Castle Quay in Castlefield.[4]

Hits Radio rebrand[edit]

On 18 April 2018, station owners Bauer Media announced Key 103 would be rebranded and relaunched as Hits Radio, a CHR-led music station aimed at 25-44 year olds on Monday 4 June 2018.[5]

The station was merged with The Hits to provide a single national service across the UK on DAB, Freeview and online.[6] In Manchester, Hits Radio continues to provide local news & information, traffic bulletins and advertising on its local platforms - 103 FM, DAB and online.[7]

The Key 103 branding was phased out from Friday 25 May 2018 as the station entered a transition period ahead of the launch of Hits Radio at 6am on Monday 4 June 2018. The first song played on air - decided by an online poll via the Manchester Evening News - was "Greatest Day" by Take That.

The former Key branding was retained by the sister AM station, which rebranded as Key Radio on the same day as the launch of Hits Radio.[8]


Key 103 logo used 2004 to 2015

The station broadcasts on the analogue frequency 103 FM, from a transmitter on high ground to the North and East of the region. Broadcasts started from here at the station's launch in 1974. The station also broadcasts on DAB across the region.

The DAB signal is broadcast from transmitters located at Winter Hill and City Tower, Manchester on the CE Manchester multiplex. With the addition of Sutton Common, near Macclesfield, the DAB signal has a reliable coverage area that includes Greater Manchester, South Lancashire, most of Cheshire, parts of North East Wales and Merseyside, with much better reception than the FM frequency can provide as 103.0 suffers from co-channel interference from other stations on nearby frequencies.

In May 2016, two additional digital transmitters were launched at Littleborough and Saddleworth.

The relaunch as Hits Radio in 2018 saw the station added to DAB multiplex transmissions in a number of local areas - mostly those served by Arqiva's NOWdigital multiplexes, as well as being made available on the CE Birmingham multiplex (replacing Magic Soul) and in stereo in London (replacing Kerrang! Radio and Absolute Radio 70s, which were removed on 23 May and replaced with a Hits Radio placeholder.

The Hits Radio relaunch also saw the station replace The Hits Radio on Bauer's DAB multiplexes and on the Arqiva-operated commercial Freeview multiplex. In addition, Hits Radio was provided over the Sky satellite TV platform, on a channel previously occupied by Absolute Radio 70s.


The majority of Hits Radio programming is produced and broadcast from Bauer's northern headquarters in Castlefield, Manchester. The station does not carry The Official Vodafone Big Top 40, which continues to air on other commercial radio stations, including the rest of the Hits Radio Network.[9]

The station's presenters include Gemma Atkinson, Gethin Jones and Dave Vitty (Hits Breakfast), Wes Butters (Hits Drivetime), and Sarah-Jane Crawford.[10]


In Manchester, Hits Radio broadcasts local news bulletins hourly from 6 am to 7 pm on weekdays, from 7 am to 1 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Headlines are broadcast on the half hour during weekday breakfast and drivetime shows, alongside traffic bulletins.

On Hits Radio UK, bespoke national news updates are broadcast in place of the local bulletins. Syndicated bulletins from Sky News Radio are carried overnight.

Past presenters[edit]


External links[edit]