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Capital Radio

Capital entertainment: The Capital Radio story

Capital Radio is one of the best-known channels in UK history. 

Like other broadcasting entities, such as BBC, Kiss, and even Virgin radio, the Capital Radio channel has evolved drastically over the years.

A network of 11 independent radio stations spread throughout the United Kingdom; the Capital Radio channel offers an eclectic mixture of local and networked programming. Nine of the stations in the Capital Radio story are owned by the “Global” brand, while the remaining two belong to the Commincorp UK group with franchising agreements.

As of June 2018, the stations making up the Capital Radio group served an average weekly audience of around 7.4 million listeners. Around 57% of Capital’s listeners are in the age range of about 15 to 34 years old.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Capital Radio station.

An intro to Capital Radio history

The Capital Radio story begins in London.

This unique station is one of the UK’s leading media groups and radio stations, holding channels like Capital FM, which currently has more than 3 million listeners across the London area. The Capital FM station, with a frequency of 95.8 has the largest metropolitan audience of any radio station worldwide.

Outside of its ownership of the London market, Capital also owns the licenses for around 20 commercial stations throughout the UK, in markets like Birmingham, South Wales, and Kent. Capital has also pursued a lot of licensees in the digital radio space since the digital market started to gain ground in the 90s.

The start of the Capital Radio history began in 1973, around 16 years after the British government banned the arrival of commercial stations and pirate radio. Despite the difficulties that pirate radio had throughout the decades, the staff and style of the stations helped to shape the BBC’s outlet for entertainment in later years – Radio 1. While BBC Radio 1 had a lot of similarities to the pirate radio stations, it still couldn’t count itself as a commercial station. Capital stepped in as a different kind of radio channel, supported by advertisements, rather than government funding. Because Capital wasn’t led by the demands of the government, it had a lot more freedom in the music and shows that it could broadcast.

As a compelling new station, Capital made huge inroads into the BBC’s listenership, creating the world’s first breakfast show with innovators like Kenny Everett and Chris Tarrant. The Capital Radio channel also nurtured talents like Roger Scott, Richard Allinson, and Nicky Campbell over the years. When the AM and FM frequencies split in the 1980s, two distinct stations emerged – Capital FM with contemporary hits and the AM Capital Gold with traditional and classic songs.

Where did Capital Radio start?

So, what year did Capital start? The official answer is 1973, although the Capital FM that you know today begun at a much later stage. Until the 1970s, the British airwaves belonged almost exclusively to the BBC. However, the British government eventually decided to open the country’s radio environment to commercial stations in 1972, and new stations emerged as a result.

The LBC, a company committed to providing London with news and information, started broadcasting in 1973. A couple of weeks later, Richard Attenborough took centre stage as the first broadcaster for Capital. As one of the first channels to introduce the UK to the concept of commercial radio, Capital had a tough couple of years initially. Buyers for Capital Radio advertising slots were challenging to find, and audiences were reluctant to tune into more low-brow broadcasting.

The biggest break for the Capital Radio channel came in 1984 when the incredible Chris Tarrant joined the business as a presenter for the lunch-time show. When Tarrant took over the breakfast slot, he gained popularity rapidly, and Capital began to develop a larger listenership. Towards the end of the decade, Capital began preparing for some crucial changes to the independent radio market, which had around 200 stations at that point. The Capital Radio station went public, which made the company the first official radio station with a listing on the London Stock exchange.

When the Broadcasting Act of 1990 emerged in the UK, the new legislation paved the way for a change in the radio broadcasting environment. Capital started to purchase other radio companies in 1993, acquiring the Midlands Radio brand. The business also purchased stakes in Metro Radio and GWR. The next year, in 1994, the Capital Radio story continued with the purchase of Southern Radio, building the brand’s listenership even further. By the end of 1994, commercial radio had taken over BBC radio for the first time, giving the industry a huge boost. Capital Radio advertising began to grow, and listeners saw a new future in radio.

The later years for Capital Radio

In 1996, the government in the UK prepared yet another new Broadcasting Act, which delivered the first licensing options for digital radio transmission. The updated act also helped to loosen some of the ownership restrictions placed on stations. The same year, Capital Radio launched its first website, making it one of the first companies to explore the online world. The company also started branching out into record production, while casting its gaze beyond radio into things like restaurant investments, and other initiatives.

The Capital Radio channel began to refocus its efforts more exclusively on radio in 1997, but its expansion ambitions were thwarted when it was unable to purchase the Virgin Radio group. Capital wanted to buy Virgin because it held one of the national commercial broadcasting licenses for the country – which was very difficult to get hold of at the time. Virgin Radio personality, Chris Evans was starting to gather investors to help him buy out Virgin Radio at the same time, making the acquisition even more difficult.

By the late 1990s, Capital’s internet investments were building more steam, allowing the brand to construct a vast network of websites dedicated to digital streaming and music content. Capital was one of the first broadcasting stations in UK history to fully embrace the idea of digital radio. By the mid-2000s, Capital had built its coverage to stretch across more than a third of the UK adult population. At the same time, the company announced its decision to pursue further buyouts and acquisitions for more coverage of the United Kingdom.

Capital Radio presenters

While there are many things that can set a radio station like Capital apart from the crowd, there are few things more important to broadcasting success than the right presenters. Capital might have been one of the first stations to really discover the true benefits of commercialism and advertising in the broadcasting world, but it was also one of the UK’s favourite stations thanks to its unique mixture of presenters. Some of the best-known Capital Radio presenters include:

  • Will Cozens: A DJ and British radio presenter currently involved with the Capital Radio station, Will Cozens has worked in multiple radio environments. Cozens joined Global Radio in 2011 as a Capital presenter, presenting the early breakfast shows that ran between 3am and 6am on a weekday. Cozens also took over the Sunday afternoon slot on Capital, and the drive-time show between 4pm and 7pm in 2011. Over the years, Cozens appeared on multiple different slots in the Capital list, including the Saturday night show between 8pm and 11pm.
  • Marvin Humes: Marvin Humes is best-known as a former member of the British boyband, JLS. He’s a disc jockey, English singer, television presenter, and radio host who currently manages the Monday to Thursday late-night shows on the Capital Radio station. In 2013, Humes also started hosting his own radio show on the Capital network on Friday evenings between 7 and 10pm. Humes also replaced Rich Clarke on the Vodafone Top 40 list which aired on Capital between 4pm and 7pm on a Sunday. In March 2016, Capital announced that Humes would also take over the Late Show between 10pm and 1am, running Monday to Thursday.
  • Roman Kemp: Probably one of the best-known Capital presenters of all time, Roman Kemp joined Capital FM in 2014. He started off presenting on Sundays between 6am and 9am and was eventually promoted to Saturdays between 5 and 8pm, and Sundays between 9pm and midnight. In 2016, Roman became the face of the Capital evening show, running between 7 and 10pm on a weekday. In 2017, Kemp started hosting Capital Breakfast between 6am and 10am with Vick Hope too.
  • Tim Westwood: Tim Westwood is a British presenter and DJ often referred to as “Westwood”. Tim presented the MTV show Pimp my Ride and hosted the Capital FM Rap Show until he eventually left the station in 1994. For a while, Westwood joined BBC Radio 1 to host one of the first national shows focused entirely on rap music in the UK. However, Westwood eventually rejoined the Capital Radio group as part of the Capital Extra channel – occupying the Saturday night slot between 9pm and 11pm.

The biggest presenters of Capital Radio history

Although dozens of presenters and disc jockeys have played a part in the Capital Radio story over the years, few have had the same impact as three primary people, Kenny Everette, Chris Tarrant, and Pat Sharp. Kenny Everett was by far one of the most controversial, but best-known presenters in UK radio history. More than just your standard disc jockey, Kenny was a comedian and unique personality known for his off-beat style and his laid-back personality.

Everett didn’t start his career with Capital. Instead, he began broadcasting as part of a pirate radio channel called Radio Luxembourg in the 60s. Eventually, Kenny became one of the first DJs to join the new BBC Radio 1 channel, where he developed the trademark characters and unique voices that he would later translate into other shows for the radio and television. Eventually, when Kenny was fired from the BBC, he joined the Capital Radio station and started to develop his reputation in this new environment instead. He was also a regular guest on numerous chat shows before he died in 1995.

Pat Sharp was another major presenter to appear on Capital over the years. Born Patrick Sharpin, Sharp is probably best known for his work on Fun House, a children’s television show in Britain. However, Pat started off in the world of radio, with an extensive career with both BBC Radio 1, Radio Mercury, and of course, Capital FM. Sharp earned a reputation as one of the most popular and best-known radio DJs in the UK over the years, helping to attract a huge number of avid listeners to the Capital Radio group.

Buy Guesswork by Lloyd Cole

While both Kenny and Pat had a huge impact on the Capital Radio story and the growth of the channel over the years, few presenters influenced the company more than Christopher Tarrant. While Chris Tarrant is probably best known for being the presenter of the popular television game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, he was an inspiring Capital Radio host first.

In the eyes of many Capital fans, it was Chris Tarrant that ensured the success of this commercial radio station. When Capital first began, it was struggling to stand out in a world where commercial stations were appearing everywhere in an attempt to overtake the BBC. Tarrant’s popularity as a presenter, with his unique style and likeable personality helped the capital station to grow drastically in the early years. Tarrant remained a host for Capital for 20 years, between 1984 and 2004 – making him one of the most significant figures in the company’s lifespan.

Who owns Capital Radio? And other frequently asked questions

Capital Radio is one of the most influential stations in the UK, transforming the way that we approached broadcasting in the UK. As perhaps one of the country’s best-known commercial stations, and most popular environments for listening outside of the BBC, Capital has earned a valuable reputation over the years. However, a lot of people still don’t know where Capital came from, who owns it, or where they can tune into the latest shows. With that in mind, let’s answer a couple of the questions that you might have about the Capital Radio channel.

Where did Capital Radio start?

Capital Radio was launched in London, although it very quickly gained ground across the rest of the UK through strategic acquisitions and other campaigns for growth. Today, Capital stands out as one of the UK broadcasting stations with the biggest metropolitan listener counts of all time.

Who owns Capital Radio?

The current owner of the Capital Radio station is Global, or Global Media and Entertainment. This leading British media company formed back in 2007, and it’s currently the largest commercial radio group in Europe, thanks to expansions through historical acquisitions. Global owns around seven core radio brands, each with a national radio strategy. Capital was originally formed by David Maule-ffinch.

What is the frequency of Capital Radio?

Capital Radio currently plays on a number of different formats. You can find the channel at:

  • FM: 95.8 MHz
  • DAB: 12C
  • Freesat Channel 719
  • Sky Channel 0109
  • Freeview Channel 724
  • Virgin Media Channel 958

It’s also possible to listen to Capital using the Capital Radio player on either your smartphone device or computer. If you go to CapitalFM.com, you’ll find a digital player at the top of every page where you can listen to the latest shows. Alternatively, you can browse back through the last seven days of broadcasting online to find one of the programmes that you might have missed.

Does Capital FM have any sister stations?

The Global Radio brand that owns Capital also owns Classic Xtra, Classic FM, Gold, Heart London, Smooth London, Radio X, LBC, and LBC News. The Capital environment is home to the Top 40 format, where you can find and listen to some of the latest songs in the latest trending music lists. Capital FM also hosts a number of daytime, breakfast and evening shows.

How does Capital Radio make money?

Interestingly, one of the things that set Capital apart from other broadcasting brands like BBC, is the fact that it doesn’t take money from the government or public schemes. Instead, Capital is a commercial station that makes money through advertising agreements with local and national companies. According to the Capital Radio advertising page on the company’s website, the average campaign on the radio station returns around £8 for every £1 spent. Direct advertising is available through every Capital Radio station, and currently businesses can advertise both regionally and nationally through Capital for some of the lowest rates in the region.

The latest Capital Radio news

Capital has evolved drastically over the years, driven by strategic acquisitions, the rise of the digital broadcasting format, and the entry of new presenters into the company’s roster. Not only was Capital one of the first broadcasting groups to go public on the London stock exchange, it was also one of the initial stations to introduce the world to the concept of breakfast shows. Because of this, Capital has drastically transformed the way that we listen to the radio every day.

In May 2011, the official bodies in the radio broadcasting environment announced that Capital is the most listened-to commercial station in London. Today, the company still has a vast number of listeners across London and the remainder of the UK, although other commercial stations have stolen Capital’s top spot from time to time.

Interestingly, in 2019, Capital announced that once again it will be changing its approach to broadcasting, by removing many of the local breakfast shows that made the group such an icon to begin with. The local shows are being removed from the roster to make way from a selection of three much larger offerings that appeal to the entire of the UK at once. This is an interesting change of pace, as many listeners enjoy the intimate experience of listening to radio shows that are tailor-made for their region or niche.

Capital isn’t the only company currently choosing to get rid of local breakfast shows, however. Smooth Radio and Heart have also taken the same approach. The owner of the stations, Global Radio, has announced that it’s aiming to create the three largest commercial breakfast shows in the UK, with an average of 4.8 million listeners for Capital, 3.7 million for Heart, and 2.7 million for Smooth. Although this might be a positive move in Capital and Global Radio’s view, it also puts 100 jobs at risk, along with the position of 95 presenters.

What do you think about Capital? Is it one of your favourite stations today? How do you feel about the changes to the station over the years, and the decision to scrap the “local” appeal from commercial broadcasting? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on social media.

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