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THE LAUNCH
OF
FOX FM

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Sadly FOX FM was killed off by Global Radio when it launched its mostly nationally networked Heart brand in March 2009. more

This page presents a look at FOX FM as it was when the once local radio station launched in 1989:


FOX FM


THE LAUNCH OF FOX FM

In September 1989 the new ILR station for Oxford was gearing up for launch.  Oxfordshire was one of a number of very significant areas that, even by the end of the 1980's, had been neglected by the IBA for development of Independent Local Radio.  Cambridge, Buckinghamshire, Somerset, Cornwall and Cumbria were also 'white' areas as far as the IBA was concerned.  In 1989 Cambridgeshire gained local station CN-FM, in Somerset Orchard FM went on air, and in Milton Keynes Horizon Radio was launched as part of the Chiltern Radio 'Hot FM' network.

Friday September the 15th saw the arrival of FOX FM across the whole of Oxfordshire.

THE BIG SWITCH IS ON!

FOX FM, the first commercial radio in Oxfordshire moved into an old carpet warehouse in Pony Road, Cowley and constructed new studios. The company name was First OXfordshire Radio - hence the name "FOX".  FOX FM was initially a joint venture between Capital Radio in London and County Sound in Guildford. In fact one of FOX FM's first presenters, Phil Miles, joined FOX from County Sound.

The IBA test transmissions from FOX FM started in August 1989. A
fter only four weeks of test transmissions from OXFORDSHIRE'S brand new radio station there was already evidence that FOX FM could rocket to the top - predicted Tom Hunter,    Managing Director of the radio station. He said listeners had been phoning FOX to wish it good luck and pledge their support.

"The word is out and the people of Oxfordshire want to be part of the excitement , the big switch is on," said Mr Hunter. He predicted that thousands of people would be re-tuning their radios to 102.6 on the FM dial in a rush to put FOX on top as it made its broadcasting debut on Friday, September 15, at 7.45 am.

Masterminding the station's launch was a team of radio professionals who know the dangers of over confidence and complacency. Privately, however, they admitted that so overwhelming was the response from their new listeners that there wss every reason to be optimistic about a big success.  Of course there was strong competition for radio-listening among existing services in the area and there was understandably an air of expectancy at the FOX headquarters.

Mid-morning show host, Steve Ellis, revealed his thoughts.  "Some parts of England have had commercial radio for over a decade. Demand has been building up in this area for years and now at last the choice is here. I've got t feeling that FOX will be the new Number One", he said.

"It will be some months before official results reveal the true extent of FOX's success but in the meantime as the word spreads the listeners alone will know who their favourite will be."


 
[ See the FOX FM AUDIO FILES - Below ]


THE BREAKFAST SHOW

Phil Miles


"I need a bigger clock!" That was the plea of Oxfordshire's brightest new star, Phil Miles.  As the Breakfast Show host on FOX FM he had the daily challenge of waking up at 4am to get himself ready to greet us as we stumbled out of bed, tucked into our breakfasts, and set off to work.

"Before I go on air 1 want to know everything that's happened in the world that night and everything the listeners need to know to start their day with a real fizz, That means getting up really early. I simply cannot afford to be late," said Phil.

Thousands of listeners would be depending on FOX FM for their complete morning starter pack. The news, weather, regular time cheeks, travel information and the ideal blend of music all skilfully served up by Phil.
"I've only got this little clock and no matter where I put it I just fall back  to sleep again and again," admitted Phil. "That first morning is going to be the most important of my life..  I've just got to wake up on time and what's more be as fresh as a daisy. I'm going to scour the county for a huge new alarm clock and if that's not big enough I'll just have to get two of them."

Phil would utter the very first words to be heard when FOX as it went on air at 7.45 am on Friday September 15 1989.

THE BIG SWITCH ON was was carried out by the then Home Secretary and Witney MP Douglas Hurd, who threw the switch to commence transmissions.  He was assisted by six year old Leah Byrne from Bicester.  Leah was chosen as a 'fox cub' from six finalists by giving a great performance when introducing a record on air.  She also won a £1000 holiday.

FOX FM


THE SOUND OF FOX FM AT LAUNCH IN 1989

NEWS and SPORT was an important part of the sound of FOX FM, from local events to news of global importance.  Head of News Jane Markham, who came to FOX FM from Radio One, lead a team of six reporters to cover Oxford area news and sport. National and international news coverage wass provided by a computerised link-up to the Independent Radio News Service.

"Oxfordshire is a very newsy area," said Jane "and it hasn't been covered in the past. It's a hole we're hoping to fill both the serious issues and the lighter ones."

She promised a lively approach to the news, with reports on the hour of both local and world news, Plus a daily round-up from 1 to 1. 15 pm.  From Monday through to Friday, she presented 'The Fox Report', a hour-long programme from 6pm to 7 pm that included live interviews with guests and local features as well as in-depth news reporting  News was also be an important ingredient of the weekday morning breakfast show, where a news presenter was a regular part of the show.


"One of the advantages of independent radio is its flexibility," Jane said. 'We will be having our radio car out and about - a Montego estate - a permanent radio transmitting car - so that we can broadcast directly from the car at the scene of an event or incident."  In the event of a breaking news story, the reporter could be inserted into the on air programme to bring listeners on the latest news from the scene. In most cases, however, reporters would come back to FOX FM studios, where a specially equipped editing room allowed them to edit tape and conduct telephone interviews before going on the air.

Fox FM Newsroom

Listeners were also welcome to contribute to FOX's news coverage. "We are more than happy to hear from people about upcoming events or anything newsworthy," Jane said. A "what's on" feature was a regular part of the day's programming, and there was a special telephone newsline for anyone who wants to phone in about local events.

Coverage of sporting events was also an important part of the overall news coverage, and ranged from Oxford United matches to table tennis. Emphasis was on sport of special interest to the Oxford area, such as football, ice hockey and speedway racing   Special coverage was laid on during events such as the Oxford vs Cambridge boat race, when the management warned that their usual impartial coverage may be slightly biased in favour of the Dark Blues.

Fox Leisure, a programme from 2pm to 6pm on Saturdays would be of particular interest to sports enthusiasts, with its blend of music, sport and leisure activity news. During important sporting events such as the World Cup, Wimbledon and Commonwealth Games, FOX FM could bring listeners highlights as they happen.

CLASSIC HITS on CLASSIC HIT RADIO - FOX FM

FOX FM described itself as 'Classic Hit Radio'  But what exactly did that mean?

A dictionary gives a description of "classic" as something of merit serving as a standard of excellence.  FOX FM would be hit radio with its roots in a tradition of the very best in entertainment.  Classic Hit Radio meant the classic hits of yesterday and the classic hits of today.  From the greatest to the very latest - FOX FM would aim to focus on a galaxy of stars. Classic Hit Radio would be all about the legends of pop, the creators of some of the greatest and most successful music of all time.

But the legends are born of the talent of today and FOX would also focus on these current classic hit makers.  Major contemporary talent would star centre stage with the top performers from more than twenty years of the story of pop music.  FOX FM would feature the cream of the current pop charts as well as marking some of the great milestones in music history.  FOX FM promised never forget the boy from Memphis as he burst to stardom with Heartbreak Hotel. The birth of The Beatles and the Fab Four taking the world by storm. They, of course, were joined at the top by The Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits and The Kinks to name but a few. The tragic loss of the great Buddy Holly, denying the world such a bright young talent.

Fox FM logo
Flower Power and the Woodstock generation gave rise to music that still sounds as good as ever and was the launch pad for the talents of Crosby Stills and Mesh, Joe Cocker and Joni Mitchell.  The seventies saw the explosion of Glam Rock with the unmistakable figures of T Rex and Gary Glitter bringing show biz back to rock 'n' roll. Then there's the skill and artistry of great singer songwriters, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, James Taylor,
Donovan and John Denver.

Pop fans appreciated the day that Michael Jackson stepped out of the family line-up to captivate millions by blending his dancing skills with his unique musical sttle in performances like his extraordinary epic, Thriller.  Of course, magic moments continue as established stars like Elton John and David Bowie have welcomed to their ranks the vibrant talents of the eighties.   Duran Duran Spandau Ballet, The Pet Shop Boys and Debbie Gibson and many many more.

Classic Hit Radio aimed to unite the generations under the single and shining banner of popular music. Tina Turner, Bros, Madonna, Bon Jovi, Cliff Richard, Fine Young Cannibals' Eric Clapton, Dusty Springfield, Dire Straits, Kylie Mingoue, Neil Diamond and Bobby Brown are all as one and vital parts of this most potent of influences on the modern age.

FOX FM - Classic Hits - Not  just  the power of music. Essential to its success would also be quality, news coverage, classic sporting moments and favourite radio personalities with lots of competitions and fabulous prizes. But never far away, there would always be the music. It could be Country, it could be Orchestral, it could even be a local band on its way to the top. If it was the best it was to be played on FOX FM - and that's what' Classic Hit Radio' was all about.

SPECIALIST MUSIC ON FOX FM

FOLLOWING a detailed music appreciation survey conducted in the Oxford and Banbury area, FOX FM responded positively to the four most requested music categories; namely Country, Classical, Jazz and Big Bands and Gospel.

Sunday evening was also the time that most people felt they could take time out and listen to these particular types of music. Hence at 7pm Oxfordshire's "Mr Country" Stuart Cameron hosted two hours of the latest and greatest music from Nashville and the UK.  Local jazz biographer and musician Alan Shipton presented Jazz and Big Bands from 9-10pm. Classical music interests were looked after by Mary-Jean Hasler who presented 'Hasler's Hour' from 11.00pm to midnight.  "Heaven on Earth" was a monthly window for not only the music but also its message and was presented by Gill Poole, an accomplished broadcaster and area secretary for the Church Missionary Society.

CHOSING THE MUSIC

CHOOSING the records for a hit radio station must be one of the best jobs in the world. But it is also amongst the most highly skilled and challenging. Steve Ellis, Head of Music and mid morning host, was the lucky man at FOX with the task of creating that ultimate blend of music, but it involved much more than just choosing his favourite tunes. What was really important was choosing the records that listeners wanted to hear and to judge the musical taste of over half a million potential listeners. This required experience, inspiration and a little help from some sophisticated technology.

The sales charts were a help to Steve but were by no means a definitive guide. "The charts only tell a story of success with record buyers and the singles chart in particular will reflect the tastes of the younger elements of the audience. I must judge every record on its merits, even big stars make bad records. It's a minefield, but when you get it right it sounds right, " explained Steve.

FOX FM had a basic music resource of over 10,000 records all of which passed an initial quality test. Then came the enormous job of carefully selecting the order in which they play and making sure they were played at the right time of day. "I set all the rules and make all the qualitative judgements with the help of the other DJ's at FOX. In general terms we choose which type of music will fit best in which place and at what time. It's then down to the computer to find the exact fit for my requirements," said Steve.

The computer he referred to is an ingenious piece of software called Selector. Steve said: "It appears to have an artificial intelligence, a mind of its own, but in truth it only manages and orders the vast amounts of information given to it and follows the judgements made by humans."  He was convinced that while the technology could help him apply his skills more efficiently, he and his team must have a real understanding of the FOX area and FOX FM's actual and potential audience.  Steve also said  "I want to take some risks and expose new talent and songs. I also want to encourage diversity and ensure that FOX covers the enormous variety in contemporary music. I can do this with the help of Selector because it will always remind me of the importance of context". Selector will not be involved.with featured programming such as classical, big band or jazz. These involve smaller quantities of music and will rely heavily on the personal choice and interpretation of the specialist presenter involvement.

It would take Selector about half an hour to programme a full day's music output, but it would take many hours of detailed and painstaking work to establish the system and ensure that it has the latest information at all times.


ACTION DESK - FOX FM To The Rescue

FOX FM was designed to be a local station helping the residents of Oxfordshire.  The main strength was their ability to reach an enormous audience across the county, providing publicity for local organisations and events with What's On's being mentioned on air.

The FOX Action Desk was there to help too. Perhaps a tenor was needed to play the lead in an amateur theatrical society's latest production;  or help was given in making contact with a long-lost friend or relative; maybe publicity was needed with starting up a new club, or perhaps and item would be mentioned that could be giveen to a worthwhile cause.

Whatever the query or problem, the Fox FM Action Desk was only a letter or postcard away. For the price of a stamp listeners could reach many thousands of caring listeners throughout the county.

Steve Ellis
Head Of Music Steve Ellis
with Claire Thomas

Tony James
Afternoon presenter Tony James
sorting out the record library


Fox FM Audio  FOX FM - THE AUDIO FILES  Fox FM Audio

Listen to some sounds of FOX FM !

Some of the pre-launch Test Transmission - 40kbps - 1.01MB

The Launch of FOX FM with the Phil Miles Breakfast Show 15th September 1989 - 40kbps - 1.56MB

Coverage of the storms of the Autumn of 1989 wich put FOX FM off the air - 32kbps - 3.07MB

The launch of the new 97.4 FM transmitter for Banbury and North Oxfordshire - 40kbps - 1.63MB




THE PROGRAMMES
The Initial FOX FM Programme Schedule:




MONDAY TO FRIDAY

World and national news on the hour, 24 hours a day, with local news between 6 am and 7 pm, and at 10pm and midnight.

6am THE BREAKFAST SHOW - PHIL MILES
Get up and get going with a morning mix of music, news, and information, together with the ultimate in traffic and travel news - if it's bumper to bumper or running late, you'll hear about it first on FOX FM. News and weather every half hour, plus sport updates, 'what's on's, farming news and "big win" competitions.

10am - STEVE ELLIS
Takes you through mid morning and into lunch time with classic hits old and new, advice, features, studio guests, plus chances to win major money prizes. At - one o'clock a 15 minute news update.

2pm - TONY JAMES
The classic hits continue into the afternoon. Tony will have a sparkling array of studio guests from the world of showbiz, fun on the phones, and a local guide to entertainment. The pace gets even hotter when you and 'The Fox' head for home with the latest traffic and travel information.

6pm - THE FOX REPORT with JANE MARKHAM
Jane Markham gives a complete round up of the day's news and headline hitting events, both locally and from around the world. We'll talk to the news makers and decision takers of Oxfordshire and West Buckinghamshire. Plus financial news, business focus and sporting previews.

THE RED FOX

7pm - STEVE PRIESTLEY
Steve Priestley gets into an evening of hot classic hits from Bon Jovi to The Bangles all the local gig guide info plus chats with the national and local music makers. The local chart countdown and wall-to-wall phone action with competitions.

10pm - PAUL EVANS (Fridays with ADRIAN MAUGHAN)
The Red Fox continues till midnight with hits to "hit the pillow" soft or ard.

THE GOLD FOX

12pm - PAUL EVANS
A solid gold journey through the nig t for 'stay ups' and the night shift.

2am - STUART CAMERON (FRIDAYS, CLAIRE THOMAS)
Stuart Cameron lays solid gold from the 50's, 60's, and 70's, with your phone-in - dedications.


SATURDAY

NEWS  World  and  national news on the hour, 24 hours a day, with local news following between 8 am and 4 pm.

6am--STEVE ELLIS
Your weekend. of classic hits starts here with a comprehensive what's on guide, a bouquet of flowers for the "bride of the week', birthday mentions in the 'Fox Club' for the under 12's, and weekend travel reports.

10am - TONY JAMES
Saturday morning hits, competitions, and the Fox Team could be out at a shopping centre near you.

2 pm - FOX LEISURE with PHIL MILES
An afternoon of music and reports from the "Fox featured games", together with spotlights on sporting pastimes from soccer to Aunt Sally. Plus the classified pools. check at 4.55 pm.

THE RED FOX

6pm THE AMERICAN TOP 40
From the heart of Hollywood Shadoe Stevens counts 'em down

10 pm - ADRIAN MAUGHAN
Adrian Maughan with music for Saturday night.

THE GOLD FOX  - ADRIAN MAUGHAN
Adrian Maughan plays solid gold from the 50's, 60's, and 70's for the Saturday night cruise.

2 am - PHIL ANGELL
Phil Angell goes for gold until dawn.


SUNDAY


World and national news on the hour with local news following between 8 am and 3 pm.

6am - PAUL EVANS
Eases you gently into a Sunday morning with music and a review of the Sunday newspapers.

10am - HENRY AUBREY-FLETCHER
For smooth Sundays tune this way. Henry will give away champagne and roses for whatever reason you give.

2pm - THE DAVID HAMILTON MUSIC SHOW Classic hits from 3 decades, plus your chance to play and win on the "Music Game Challenge".

4pm - FOX FUTURES
Steve Priestley plays the hits of tomorrow from the music bubbling under the Top 30.

5pm - THE NETWORK CHART WITH DAVID JENSEN
First with the nation's Top 30.

7pm - FOX COUNTRY with STUART CAMERON
Stuart Cameron looks to Nashville past and present, and you'll hear the local country gig guide.

9pm - JAZZ AND BIG BANDS with ALAN SHIPTON
Alan Shipton shares the cream of all that's old and new, and lets you know what's, on and where.

10pm - THE FOX REVIEW
Highlights of the past week on FOX FM.

10.30pm - LOCAL DOCUMENTARY / THE LIVE DEBATE / NATIONAL RAILWAY ROUND UP / HEAVEN ON EARTH GOSPEL music with GILL POOLE
These programmes appear on a four week  basis

11pm - HASLER'S HOUR
Mary-Jean Hasler with the classic hits from the classical world of music. (A programme produced by Robert Symes and in association with County Sound Radio in Guildford)

THE GOLD FOX
12pm - CLAIRE THOMAS
(Mon)    Claire Thomas with a solid gold start to a new week.

2am - STUART CAMERON
Stuart Cameron plays solid gold rom the 50's, 60's, and 70's, with your phone-in dedications.



Steve Ellis

Paul Evans


Henry Aubrey-Fletcher

Steve Ellis Paul Evans Henry Aubrey-Fletcher




SUMMING UP THE LOCAL SOUND OF FOX FM

Approaching launch time in September 1989 the FOX FM team summed up the sound of the station in this way:

ONE of the first questions FOX FM listeners will be asking is what the new station will sound like. And the answer, according to managing director Tom Hunter is "local and lively."  "Oxfordshire is a very disparate place where people have varied interests and aspirations," Tom said. "What we're trying to do is to sum up the sound of the county."

Identifying that sound was the object of in-depth research during the past two years, as listeners throughout Oxfordshire were asked what they wanted to hear from, a radio station. And once FOX FM is on the air, ongoing surveys will try to make sure listeners are still hearing what they want.  Musically, the emphasis will be divided between a blend of oldies and current hits during the day, chart hits during the evening and classics from the 1950s to 1970s through the night. Country, jazz and classical music lovers will have their own programmes at the weekend.

"We did extensive research before the franchise was awarded, taking samples of what our listeners would like to hear," Tom said. "We found that the most popular music was oldies from the '60s and '70s, and contemporary hits. Fifteen to 24-year-olds really like '60s music, too. So we'll be playing classic hits from the '50s to the '80s, as well as hits of the moment and future hits. We have The Network Chart Show on Sundays hosted by David Jensen, but we won't play a single just because it's in the charts unless it has what we call 'Fox appeal'.

Breakfast-time audiences will be hearing cheerful but not frenetic music and daytime audiences will get a more "mature" blend of old and new. The Red Fox programming in the evening is livelier and is aimed at a younger audience, while nightowls will hear Gold Fox oldies through the night.  Of course, music is not the whole story. "We want to provide -the most comprehensive service possible, based on a music bed," Tom said. "We're not just a pop station - we're a lot more."

"News will be a main feature, with hourly reports of local, national and international news and sport, highlighted by the nightly 'Fox Report'.

The breakfast show will have up-to-the-minute weather news, and current travel information provided by a direct link to the AA in London. Reflecting the mobility of Oxfordshire listeners, travel news will cover not only the roads, but train's buses and aeroplanes as well."

Regular "what's on" spots will keep listeners informed about local events, and Tom said that the station also hopes to get involved in local issues such as the environment and charitable projects.  There will also be live interviews with guests, phone-ins and competitions - in short, something for just about everyone.

The Fox sound will be coming to listeners from the station's new premises on the Horspath Industrial Estate, Cowley.  Although it appears to be purpose-built, the studio is in fact a former furniture warehouse, re-named Brush House and decorated inside and out in the Fox colours of red and grey.  The heart of the station is the double studio, fitted with the latest state-of-theart broadcasting equipment by Oxford company Elliott Bros. A window opens onto the reception area, so anyone visiting the station can watch the presenters at work.

The studios are equipped not only with compact disc and tape players but also traditional turntables, since some older records, aren't yet available on the newer technology.  Upstairs are offices for the sales, news and music departments, plus a large boardroom that can be converted into an "emergency centre" in the event of, say, a major snowstorm.

Fox will initially broadcast only on its 102.6 FM frequency, which will provide good reception for most Oxfordshire listeners.  A separate transmitter near Banbury will improve reception for north Oxfordshire and west Buckinghamshire.



FOX FM



WORKING BEHIND THE SCENES


When the new FOX FM wents on the air on September 15 1989, it was as a result of years of planning and careful research.

The work started back in 1987 when a consortium was formed to submit an application for an independent Oxfordshire radio station to the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA).  The consortium, representing Blackwells, Oxford & County Newspapers, County Sound Radio and Capital Radio, put together a detailed 156 page application covering every aspect of the proposed station, from sources of finance to an hour-by-hour programming plan.

Jane Markham
Jane Markham

Tom Hunter
Tom Hunter

John Manley
John Manley

It was this application that apparently convinced the IBA that the First Oxfordshire Radio Company or 'FOX' should be the one to provide the Oxfordshire and West Buckinghamshire area with a new alternative sound.

The six directors of the new station brought with them a blend of experience in professional broadcasting and local business - a combination that wouldl benefit FOX FM both during its launch and for the future.  In choosing the directors, Nigel Walmsley of Capital Radio said, "The idea was not to stuff the board with useless figureheads - Professor This and Lady That, but to create a small team that all had something real and positive to offer."

The directors were: Julian Blackwell, chairman of The Blackwell Group. Born and raised in Oxfordshire, he joined the family publishing and retailing business in 1953.  John Hemsley, managing director of Oxford and County Newspapers, with more than 30 years in newspaper publishing management.  Helen Turner, secretary to the Oxford Preservation Trust, who has been active in consumer affairs in the Oxford area for many years. She chaired the Fox FM Advisory Panel, which contributed greatly to the original  application and wich would subsequently evaluate and offer suggestions on the station's programming once it went on air.

Mike Powell, managing director of County Sound Radio in Guildford, Surrey. He had been with the Surrey based radio station since it began broadcasting six years earlier in 1983.  Jeremy Loyd, general manager of Capital Radio had produced some of Capital's most successful shows and has built up several years experience in station management.  Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, a local farmer and long-time champion of independent radio in Oxfordshire. He would be heard hosting the Sunday mid-morning programme on FOX FM.
 
After the franchise was awarded, FOX FM set about finding the key people to run it. Managing director Tom Hunter came to FOX from London radio station LBC where he had been head of publicity and promotions. He was previously general manager of Independent Radio Sales and worked for Capital Radio for three years. Tom started his career in advertising agencies.

Steve Ellis, the Head of Music, helped establish Severn Sound in Gloucestershire in 1980 and had been the Deputy Programme Controller there for the past four years. He previously worked for the BBC and a broadcast consultancy in the Middle East. FOX listeners could hear Steve on the air from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays and on the Saturday breakfast show.,

Jane Markham was put in charge of FOX FM's news team, covering news and sport in Oxfordshire, as well as providing national and international news from the Independent Radio News Service. She spent four years reporting and reading news for Radio One's Newsbeat and was also a newsreader for the BBC's now defunct London Plus programme.

This was the third radio station launch for John Manley, FOX FM's sales director. He helped Mercia Sound in Coventry and Radio Wyvern in Hereford when they started up, and comes to Oxford from Essex Radio where he was sales controller.

Once the key people were in place they set about recruiting their teams, which totalled 28 people, plus several freelancers.


RECEIVING THE FOX

TOP quality stereo is what the station promised.  Fox FM, unlike many ILR stations preceding it, would have to broadcast exclusively on the FM (VHF) radio band.  Previously ILR stations had been allowed to broadcast on both VHF / FM and AM / Medium Wave simultaneously.  A change in the broadcasting act encouraged better use of frequencies and existing ILR stations had to broadcast different prgrammes on their FM and AM transmitters.

For a new music station like Fox FM old fashioned medium and long wave broadcasts, which can suffer interference and mono sound, could not really do justice to the sound and a new demand for quality has come with the compact disc-and hi-fi audio.

Fox Map
The FOX FM Transmission Area

Fox FM logo

FOX FM's Richard Lawley explained   "FM is easy to find on the radio dial because if, for instance, you know that FOX is on 102.6, your radio will have that number on its dial and by simply turning to that exact spot you can enjoy the full texture and quality that is the hallmark of the new technology.  But make sure its the station you want" insisted station engineering consultant, Richard Lawley.

"Poor quality signals from spill-over stations serving other areas may be on joining positions on the dial.  Fix you radio tuner on 102.6 precisely and you won't be disappointed.  All over the world radio listeners now recognise FM as being the best choice for music radio.  There have been some notably successful attempts to breath new life into the medium waveband and where innovation and flair are abundant it will continue to survive, but its FM that will dominate music radio into the 1990's."

The FOX FM principal transmitter was sited at the main Oxford television and radio transmitting station at Beckley near Oxford.  FOX FM used 102.6 MHz VHF / FM from day one with a 9 kilowatt transmitter that was at least as powerful as the existing BBC local radio station which guaranteed excellent reception over most of the county.

The IBA engineers and FOX FM had established that an area of poorer reception would exist in the north of the county, around Banbury, and provision was made to install a 0.3 kW relay station at Farthinghoe on 97.4 MHz which was opened a few months after the initial launch. The new relay station provided very good reception to the town of Banbury, surrounding villages in north Oxfordshire and additionally the nearby town of Brackley.

Fox Tuning Dial
Fox FM Tuning Guide


THE PRE-LAUNCH MESSAGE FROM FOX FM's CHAIRMAN
September 1989


AT the head of the new radio station is chairman Julian Blackwell. As with other local partners his involvement gives the company firm foundations in the local life of the area.  The firm of Blackwells, of which Julian Blackwell is also the chairman, has more than 100 years of association with Oxford and now employs in excess of 2,000 people worldwide.  Media is a natural direction for this enterprising family and Julian Blackwell did not hesitate to become involved in such a significant development.

The launch of FOX FM is one of the single most important media opportunities since the arrival of the Oxford Times back in the 1860s" said Julian Blackwell. "We must welcome the dawn of commercial radio as a stimulus to the business community. It places a really effective new device in the hands of local companies that should help to underpin their continued growth."

Sales already indicate that local businesses, some of them new to the world of advertising, are keen to embrace this new opportunity. However, for Julian Blackwell being a  major shareholder in FOX FM has deeper significance. "We have an opportunity to exercise power and not just the power to make profits.  I'm also taken by the power we have to add something really worthwhile to our community and forge a partnership with our listeners. This is one of the major attractions for me". Julian Blackwell summarised his perspective by adding "FOX will be 'your' station, whether at home, work or on the move. If you just want to enjoy yourself FOX will be fun. If you need news and information FOX will provide a fast and efficient service and if you just need a friend FOX will be there."
Julian Blackwell

Chairman - Julian Blackwell

THERE is a glorious tradition of public service in British broadcasting that stretches back to the days of Lord Reith at the BBC in the 1920's. However the advent of independent commercial radio may have required a re-examination of that time honoured view.  From the ranks of Britain's newest and brightest local radio stations have come some of the great innovations of public service broadcasting.  Long gone are the days when the duty of the guardians of our - airwaves was seen as providing a diet of high minded ideals.  Today's local radio stations reach deep into the heart of their communities and create lasting bonds with their listeners by- pursuing inventive and effective programming ideas.

Fox FM Competition


FOX FM will find its own style of community involvement. "Once the station is up and running we will start to make contact with key figures and organisations in the FOX area to determine where we will best fit into its elaborate jigsaw," announced Tom Hunter, FOX FM's new managing director.  Tom said, "Our resources will be limited but we have a unique opportunity to act as a catalyst in this community.  Social projects and promotions often address serious need but can equally as often be dealt with on radio in a popular way by encouraging listeners to take part in something rewarding in conjunction with the radio station."

Charity appeals, fun days, and other sponsored events are just some of the ideas under consideration at FOX FM. Tom Hunter resists the temptation of detail at this stage preferring to leave the options open. "I'm not going to claim to do things and then let people down" he said, "We must deal in the art of the possible and stay responsive to need as it arises. The FOX Family can be a reality. I want to see FOX being a real force for good as well as a source of great entertainment".


Underlying the concept of the Fox Family the station's chairman, Julian Blackwell, added, "When I first looked at commercial radio I was struck by the way it combined the pursuit of profit with a genuine sense of belonging to an area. For FOX FM to succeed it has to find a place in both our individual and collective lives. FOX FM will be successful if it retains favour with its listeners and that means appealing to and satisfying a whole range of aspirations and instincts".

However, Julian cautions "Don't expect to see FOX FM's public service activities in the headlines. For many people FOX will just be a source of great music, news and useful information. But I hope where it really matters FOX will also be a friend".



Left:  Name The Fox Competition in which FOX FM listeners were invited to name the station's cute foxy mascot.  The eventual name chosen was FREDDY THE FOX!


THE CHANING OWNERSHIP AND SOUND OF FOX FM


In the 1990's FOX FM became fully absorbed into Capital Radio plc. Later Capital Radio plc merged with GWR to form the GCap group. As time progressed all the, once local, radio stations in the GCap portfolio gradually lost their local identity - a national corporate image was imposed on the stations. Station logos and websites all looked the same and the on-air station sound was homogenised as part of GCap's "One Network".

By the mid 2000's FOX FM sounded completely different as, like so many commercial radio stations, the output was formulated not by creative producers and presenters - but by the corporate accountants and bean counters. All the specialist programmes are gone of course - they disappeared in the 1990's and localness has been relentlessly eroded by ever increasing amounts of national networking while news gathering and output was cut to the bone.

By 2008 FOX FM was barely even a shadow of its former self.  The final death knell was sealed in during 2008 when Global Radio UK took over the GCap company, owners of FOX FM.



THE DEATH OF FOX FM

Freddy The Fox - FOX FM OxfordshireAs a station logo, Freddie The Fox, had been killed off by Capital Radio plc years earlier, but once the (later) GCap group had been bought by Global Radio UK in 2008 it ensured that FOX FM itself was finally killed off on 23rd March 2009.


Global ditched FOX-FM and replaced it with their national "Heart" brand. The majority of local programmes were cancelled, continuing the steady decline of local output from the station that had already been decimated in preceding years by the cost cutting measures of the Capital Radio and GCap groups.

Heart networks most programmes from its London station and news output has been cut to the bone with bulletins of bearly one minute duration and even those are nationally sourced, rather than containing local news from Oxfordshire, during the nationally networked Heart output.

All in all a very sad state of affairs for local radio and in particular for the people of Oxfordshire.  

If you can remember one of the first FOX FM jingles from 1989 - the one that started "You've found us, you've found the FOX...." - then this newly re-written version might fit the tune!

"You've lost us,

You've lost the FOX,
The station that played
All your favourites,
Is no more"

(To almost quote a well known saying: It's passed on, it's ceased to be, it's expired and gone to meet it's maker,
it's bereft of life,  it rests in peace, it has left this motal coil, it's kicked the bucket, it's pushing up the daisies,
it is deceased, it is no more, it is an ex-radio station.)

R.I.P. FOX FM

Jack FM marks the death of FOX FM
MARKING THE PASSING OF FOX FM

The competing local commerical station in Oxfordshire, JACK FM, marked the death of FOX FM in a rather amusing way.

Jack FM announced
:  "Fox Killed By Heart Attack".

Sad - but very clever.


The JACK FM team of pallbearers carried a symbolic coffin in their funeralprocession through the streets of Oxford, passing by the former FOX FM building on Pony Road.  
JACK fm, a local competitor, had been talking about the loss of Fox Fm for several weeks on-air.





 Jack FM marks the death of FOX FM

Jack FM marks the death of FOX FM

Jack FM marks the death of FOX FM   
 



106.8 and 106.4 JACK FM holds a 'funeral' for the departed FOX FM


So there you have it - a very sad end to a very good local radio station. However we hope that you have enjoyed this insight into how FOX FM  was initially established and launched. 
(Indeed this pattern could apply to the way many other ILR stations were launched)

Also see our BRMB RADIO page and our MERCIA SOUND page.


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THE DEATH OF LOCALCOMMERCIAL RADIO

Since the aquisition of GCap by Glabal Radio many familiar and once loved local stations have been killed off and re-branded as the national "Heart" network:

The list includes: FOX FM; GWR Bristol; GWR Bath; GWR Wiltshire; Orchard FM; Plymouth Sound; Gemini FM; Hereward FM; Chiltern; Horizon; Broadland; Q103; Broadland; Northants 96; 2-TEN FM; Lantern FM; SGR-FM; SGR Colchester; South Hams Radio; Severn Sound and more will follow.

Power FM has also gone in Southampton - re-branded under the national Galaxy network.


This is an extract by Martin Kelner writing in The Guardian newspaper concerning the death of commercial local radio in the UK:

Martin Kelner writes: "Will there be much wailing and gnashing of teeth if local commercial radio dies out, as predicted by industry analyst Claire Enders at the Guardian's recent Changing Media Summit? Will it weaken local democracy in the way that the death of local newspapers might?

The answer, of course, is no and no. There will be one less place where we can hear the latest from Nickleback, and Phil Collins's back catalogue, and we may be deprived of the breakfast guy's insight into the story on page six of that morning's Sun, but beyond that it will be a very small earthquake.

I have no idea how well-founded Enders's forecast will turn out to be, but I do know the only strategy any of the big radio groups has come up with in the last few years of struggle has been to reduce costs by networking - broadcasting the same programme on several different stations - sacking journalists, and cutting news and features content to the legal minimum. This started way before the recession. If commercial radio does die, it will be death by a thousand cuts.

One does not wish to pick on Global, but their latest bout of networking - beaming Toby Anstis's morning show on London's Heart to stations in outlying areas of the capital such as Plymouth and Bristol - has had the ludicrous result of Anstis going round the country pretending his show is local.

He told the Oxford Mail he had "an affinity with Oxford", because his father met his mother there, while readers of the Plymouth Herald will have been impressed to learn he holidayed in the area. "I feel like a semi-local," he said. He felt similarly, according to the local press, about Exeter, Reading and Bristol. "I love Bristol," Anstis gushed to the Evening Post, "I've had a few heavy nights on the town when my brother was at uni here. I can't wait to start broadcasting here."

He told the Post that doing the show from London meant attracting a higher calibre of guest. "We've got some big names coming up over the next few weeks, including guests like Lionel Richie, who listeners simply would have missed out on before the switch over to Heart." I am sure the radio listeners of Bristol would be devastated to think they might have missed out on that.

It would be funny if it were not so sad...."



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