Key Radio (Manchester)
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|Broadcast area||Greater Manchester|
|Slogan||The Greatest Hits for Manchester|
MW: 1152 kHz|
|First air date||2 April 1974|
|Sister stations||Hits Radio|
It began broadcasting in 1974 as Piccadilly Radio, the first commercial radio station in Manchester. The station was later renamed Piccadilly Magic 1152, and later, Key 2.
The station began broadcasting at 5am on Tuesday 2 April 1974 as Piccadilly Radio on 261m (1151 kHz then) AM/MW and on 97.0 MHz FM (from the same transmitter in Saddleworth that is used by Key 103 today). The station was named after Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester, and Piccadilly Plaza was home to the station's first studios until 1996, when Piccadilly 1152 and Key 103 were relocated to the Castlefield area of Manchester.
Piccadilly's founding managing director was Philip Birch, who previously ran the highly influential pirate station Radio London until it closed down ahead of the Marine Offences Act in August 1967. The first presenter on air was Roger Day - himself an ex-pirate radio presenter - and the first song played on air was Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys.
Many of Britain's best-known broadcasters started their careers at Piccadilly, including Chris Evans, Mike Sweeney, Steve Penk, James H Reeve, Andy Peebles, Gary Davies, Tim Grundy, Timmy Mallett, Pete Mitchell, Geoff Lloyd, Mark Radcliffe, James Stannage, Stu Allan, Nick Robinson and Karl Pilkington.
Journalist Paul Lockitt joined Piccadilly in 1979 and became the station's longest serving on-air employee, working as a producer, presenter and newscaster until his departure in 2017.
Piccadilly Radio split into two services in 1988, with Key 103 broadcast on FM with a contemporary format, while Piccadilly Gold broadcast on AM with a Gold format. In the mid-1990s Piccadilly Gold became Piccadilly 1152 as the playlist moved away from "golden oldies" to a mix of classic and current easy-listening music. The late-night phone-in with James Stannage became the most listened-to talk show outside London, whilst the Dave Ward and Umberto breakfast show helped the station to become one of the biggest broadcasting on AM.
In 1994, a rival station, Fortune 1458 (later renamed 1458 Lite AM, today broadcasting as 1458 Capital Gold) commenced on the old BBC GMR AM frequency. Despite heavy marketing, and many ex-Piccadilly presenters on the new station, Piccadilly 1152 remained Manchester's most popular station, other than sister station Key 103, until the late 1990s when new smaller FM stations in Oldham, Warrington and Bury began to erode away Piccadilly's audience base.
In 1994, Piccadilly (Key 103/Piccadilly 1152) were part of the Transworld Radio Group, which was bought by present owners Bauer Radio (then EMAP). In 1999/2000, parent company EMAP re-branded the station as Magic 1152, to fall in-line with the other nine Magic Radio stations they owned across London and the north of England.
The idea of a "Magic brand" of stations was seen to be beneficial when selling air time to national advertisers. This change in name also coincided with the 25th birthday of Piccadilly Radio. The station was branded as "Piccadilly 1152 - the magic of Manchester" during the transition. Except for a short spell in 2000 - when Key 103 was briefly renamed Piccadilly Key 103 - the Piccadilly brand finally disappeared from the airwaves.
In December 2001, EMAP decided that it was more economical for the Magic network to share off-peak programmes. Magic 1152, in line with the other seven Magic AM stations in northern England, began networking 10 am – 2 pm, and 7 pm – 6 am with the London station Magic 105.4 providing the programmes - during these hours it was simply known as Magic, although there were local commercial breaks, and local news on the hour.
In January 2003, after a sharp decline in listening, the station ceased networking with the London station, Magic 105.4, and a regional northern network was created with Magic 1152 at the hub at the weekend and the Newcastle station of the same name during the week. During networked hours, local adverts were aired, as well as a local news summary on the hour.
From July 2006, more networking was introduced across the Northern Magic AM network which meant only 4 hours a day was to be presented from the local studios, between 06:00 and 10:00am. In April 2012, Magic 1152, inline with the majority of other Magic North stations, dropped local weekend breakfast shows.
On 5 January 2015, Magic 1152 was rebranded as Key 2, as Magic FM in London went national on DAB. The station is now part of the Bauer City 2 network. All programming is networked with the other Bauer AM stations in the North although local news, weather and travel continue to be broadcast as opt-outs during the day.
Much of the networked output is produced by the station, with other programming originating from Clyde 2 in Clydebank, Forth 2 in Edinburgh, Metro Radio 2 in Newcastle, Tay 2 in Dundee and Bauer's headquarters at Golden Square, Soho.
Key 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.
The Manchester newsroom also produces bespoke networked bulletins for northern England at 7pm weekdays and weekends at 7am, 8am and from 1pm to 6pm every hour with Sky News Radio bulletins at all other times.