Classic FM
Broadcast areaUnited Kingdom
FrequencyFM: 99.9–101.9 MHz
DAB+:11D (England/Wales/N. Ireland)
DAB: 12A (Scotland and Channel Islands)
Freeview: 731
Freesat: 721
Sky (UK only): 0106
Virgin Media: 922
RDSClassic
Programming
Language(s)English
FormatClassical music
Ownership
OwnerGlobal
Capital FM
Gold
Heart
LBC
Radio X
Smooth Radio
History
First air date
7 September 1992; 31 years ago (1992-09-07)
Links
Websiteclassicfm.com

Classic FM (styled as CLASSIC fM) is one of the United Kingdom's three Independent National Radio stations and is owned and operated by Global Media & Entertainment (Global). The station broadcasts classical music and was launched in 1992.

Classic FM was the first national classical music station to launch since the opening of BBC Radio 3 25 years earlier on 30 September 1967 and 46 years since the opening of Radio 3's predecessor of The Third Programme on 29 September 1946.

As of December 2023, the station has a weekly audience of 4.6 million listeners, according to RAJAR.[1]

Overview

Classic FM broadcasts nationally on FM, DAB+, Freeview, satellite and cable television and is available internationally by streaming audio over the internet. It is the only Independent National Radio station to broadcast on FM alongside BBC Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4. In addition to playing a wide, traditional classical repertoire, the station also features more modern pieces such as film scores and video game music.[2]

History

Further information: Timeline of Classic FM

The idea for a national, commercial FM network devoted to classical music originated with the management at GWR group, an entrepreneurial group of UK commercial radio stations. It had been operating a trial programme on its AM frequencies in Wiltshire and Bristol, testing audience reaction to a regular drive-time programme of popular classical music. It proved successful, and the company's CEO, Ralph Bernard, and programme director, Michael Bukht, drew up the plans for a national station.[3]

Meanwhile, Brian Brolly, formerly the CEO of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, had a similar idea in 1990. After failing to raise sufficient funds for the project, Brolly's consortium was approached by the GWR Group, and the two merged. The UK Government had decided to award several new national radio licences, and invited tenders. Brolly had brought the idea to Rick Senat, the long-serving head of business affairs in London for Warner Bros. and current owner of Hammer Films. Initially rejected by Warner Bros., Senat showed the project to the President of Time Warner International Broadcasting, Tom McGrath, a former classical musician and conductor. Time Warner agreed to back the project, but was prohibited under then current UK law from owning more than a 25% interest.

The Radio Authority had granted an exemption so that Time Warner could hold more than 25%, provided a UK citizen/corporation was larger in the shareholding group.[citation needed]

The station launched at 06:00 on Monday 7 September 1992, after two months of test transmissions using a recording of birdsong.[4] Nick Bailey presented the first programme, and Zadok the Priest by George Frideric Handel was the first piece to be played.[5][6] Other launch presenters included Henry Kelly, Susannah Simons, Petroc Trelawny and Adrian Love.

Global, the UK's largest radio station ownership group, now owns the station.[7] Classic FM has broadcast from its current studios, on the second floor of 30 Leicester Square in central London, since March 2006. The first programme to be broadcast live from there was Mark Griffiths' programme on 26 March 2006.

In April and May 2017, High Score, the first series on UK radio dedicated to video game music, was first broadcast on Classic FM. According to the station's website, it became "the most popular programme on 'Listen Again' in Classic FM’s 25-year history". It was presented by composer Jessica Curry.[8]

On 2 January 2024 Classic FM switched from being broadcast in 128kbps stereo DAB to being broadcast in 64kbps stereo DAB+.[9]

Current notable presenters

[10]

Regular presenters[edit]

Occasional presenters[edit]

Hall of Fame

Main article: Classic FM Hall of Fame

Classic FM's "Hall of Fame" is broadcast annually over the four days of the Easter weekend. First broadcast in 1996, the show counts down the 300 most-popular pieces as voted for by listeners, culminating in the number one on the evening of Easter Monday.

The number one spot was occupied until 2001 by Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1,[11][12] and then by Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2.[13][14][15] In 2006 the top spot was taken by Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.[16] From 2007 to 2010, the top place on the Hall of Fame was taken by Ralph Vaughan Williams's The Lark Ascending.[17][18] The 2011 "Hall of Fame" saw Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 return to the top spot, ending Vaughan Williams' four-year run, and held the position again in 2012 and 2013. In 2014 The Lark Ascending replaced Rachmaninov, which slipped back to number 2 and remained number 1 through to 2017.[19]

In 2018, the top spot was taken by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 was a non-mover in second place, and Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending descended to third place after a four-year run at no. 1.[20]

In the 2019 Hall of Fame, Vaughan Williams's The Lark Ascending reclaimed the top spot, followed by Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations at second and third respectively. 2020 and 2021's Hall Of Fame also saw The Lark Ascending voted the most popular piece by Classic FM listeners.

Nation's Favourite Christmas Carol

Classic FM broadcasts the "Nation's Favourite Christmas Carol" in a similar format to the "Hall of Fame". The show counts down the thirty most popular Christmas carols every Christmas Day between 13:00 and 15:00, as voted for by listeners. It began in 2001, with "In the Bleak Midwinter" winning the first vote.[21] The following year, "Silent Night" was voted the nation's favourite.[22] The vote has been won by "O Holy Night" in almost every year since then,[23][24] with the only other winner being "Silent Night" in 2014 and 2015.

Classic FM chart

From the station's launch in September 1992 until the end of 2019, Classic FM broadcast a weekly classical chart show. Initially transmitted on Saturday mornings, the programme later moved to Sunday evening. The final chart show was aired on 21 December 2019.

Playlist

At the heart of Classic FM's identity from the start was its playlist of popular classics. It was compiled over the first few years by Robin Ray, who drew up a list of more than 50,000 classical music pieces and rated them for popular appeal, which forms the basis for the Classic FM playlist.[25][26] Selector software developed by RCS Inc in the United States, which had previously been used only for pop music, was adapted for classical music by Howard, Ray and others to include many more fields and categories, and deal with many more rotation rules to create a playlist from the 50,000 listed tracks;[27] the first "officially broadcast" track was "Zadok the Priest".[28]

Composer in residence

Classic FM named a composer in residence in 2004, Joby Talbot. Talbot composed a piece, scored for up to five instruments, each month for the year of his residence. The compositions were also premiered on Classic FM. The twelve compositions form part of a larger piece, released on a CD entitled Once Around the Sun on 23 May 2005.

Talbot was succeeded by Patrick Hawes as the new composer in residence in 2006 and composed the piano album Towards the Light during his residency.[29] In May 2008 Howard Goodall, the composer and television presenter, joined Classic FM as the station's latest composer in residence. Goodall also presented a new programme on the station, Howard Goodall on..., beginning on 7 June 2008.[30]

Debbie Wiseman was named composer in residence in 2015. Her first album commissioned for Classic FM was The Musical Zodiac, which was released the following year.[31][32]

Sponsorship

Classic FM were sponsors of Queens Park Rangers Football Club between 1992 and 1994.[33]

Charity: The Classic FM Foundation

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The Classic FM Foundation is a grant giving charity which raises money to fund music education and music therapy projects working with children and adults throughout the UK. It was founded in 2006 as Classic FM Music Makers, and was renamed in 2010.

Hayley Westenra is an ambassador of the charity, which also receives support from many famous faces from the world of classical music and entertainment.

Throughout the year The Classic FM Foundation holds fundraising events including concerts, sponsored treks and an annual appeal.

Other media

Jazz

On 25 December 2006, Classic FM opened "theJazz", a station devoted to jazz music. The station closed in March 2008, and Classic FM itself then took on the broadcasting of a jazz programme every night between midnight and 02:00, until September 2008.

References

  1. ^ "Huge audience increase for Classic FM, as 5.6m people listen every week". Classic FM (UK). 1 August 2019. Archived from the original on 5 August 2020. Retrieved 26 October 2023.
  2. ^ Erica Webber, Jordan (3 September 2018). "How video game music waltzed its way on to Classic FM". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
  3. ^ Harris M. Lentz III (10 January 2014). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2011. McFarland. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-7864-9134-6. Archived from the original on 31 October 2021. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  4. ^ "The Story of Radio Birdsong". RadioBirdsong.com. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  5. ^ Trelawny, Petroc (September 2017). "Radio: 'Smile, segue and shut up'". The Spectator. Archived from the original on 4 August 2019. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  6. ^ "Superbrands case studies: Classic FM". Campaign. 4 January 2004. Archived from the original on 2 August 2019. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  7. ^ "Classic FM – Global". Global Media & Entertainment. Archived from the original on 9 April 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  8. ^ "High Score with Jessica Curry will return to Classic FM in November". Classic FM. 16 October 2017. Retrieved 7 April 2022. This new run follows the success of the first series of High Score, broadcast in April and May 2017, which has become the most popular programme on 'Listen Again' in Classic FM's 25-year history.
  9. ^ Collins, Steve (6 July 2023). "Classic FM is changing to DAB+ across the UK". Radio Today. Retrieved 6 July 2023.
  10. ^ "Shows and Presenters". Classic FM (UK).
  11. ^ "Bruch and Beatles top radio polls". BBC. 6 April 1999. Archived from the original on 11 January 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  12. ^ "Gladiator soundtrack joins classics". BBC. 17 April 2001. Archived from the original on 31 October 2021. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  13. ^ "Rachmaninov tops classical survey". BBC. 28 March 2005. Archived from the original on 31 October 2021. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  14. ^ "Rachmaninov tops Classic FM poll". BBC. 12 April 2004. Archived from the original on 8 January 2006. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  15. ^ "Rachmaninov tops classical poll". BBC. 2 April 2002. Archived from the original on 18 May 2004. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  16. ^ "Mozart 'UK's favourite composer'". BBC. 18 April 2006. Archived from the original on 21 March 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  17. ^ "Vaughan Williams tops radio vote". BBC. 24 March 2008. Archived from the original on 29 March 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  18. ^ "Lark rises to top of classic poll". BBC. 10 April 2007. Archived from the original on 31 October 2021. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  19. ^ "Hall of Fame 2017". Classic FM. Archived from the original on 16 May 2017. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  20. ^ "Hall of Fame 2018". Classic FM.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Vasagar, Jeevan (24 December 2001). "Robbie and Nicole claim pop crown". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 8 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  22. ^ "Nation's Favourite Carol Revealed". Sky News. 24 December 2002. Archived from the original on 7 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  23. ^ "What is the UK's favourite Christmas carol?". BBC News. 15 December 2009. Archived from the original on 31 October 2021. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  24. ^ "Vote for the Nation's Favourite Christmas Carol". Classic FM. Archived from the original on 7 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  25. ^ "Robin Ray v Classic FM Plc". Bailii. [1998] FSR 622. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  26. ^ "Is Classic FM really a cause for celebration?", The Telegraph: "People have this idea that it’s all done by a computer ... but that’s not true at all. We use a database of more than 50,000 pieces which our presenters and producers work with. It’s a way of making sure we have a variety of mood and style and artist."
  27. ^ Robin Ray v Classic FM Plc "Selector software was in wide use for programming popular music, but required substantial adaptation for use in respect of classical music. After careful examination of alternatives offered by competitors, [Classic FM] in fact in January 1992 chose Selector and it was adapted through the joint efforts of the defendant and RCS. The choice of an automated selection system meant that the tracks to be played had to be categorised by way of certain pre-determined computer fields."
  28. ^ "What are the lyrics to Handel’s ‘Zadok The Priest’, the coronation favourite?": "Since Handel composed the piece, it’s been a perennial favourite (it’s actually the first piece we ever broadcast on Classic FM)..."
  29. ^ "Composer in Residence – Patrick Hawes – Classic FM – A Decade in Pictures – Classic FM". Archived from the original on 26 June 2020. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  30. ^ "Composer Howard Goodall Joins Classic FM". Classic FM. Archived from the original on 31 October 2021. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  31. ^ "Debbie Wiseman appointed Classic FM's new Composer in Residence". Classic FM. 8 July 2015. Archived from the original on 1 April 2018. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  32. ^ Doherty, Rosa (6 October 2016). "The classical star inspired by astrology". The Jewish Chronicle. Archived from the original on 1 April 2018. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  33. ^ Hilditch, Nathan (27 June 2018). "7 of the Most Weird & Wonderful Shirt Sponsors in Premier League History". 90min.com. Archived from the original on 3 August 2019. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  34. ^ "Case Notes Podcast". Classic FM. Global 2019. Archived from the original on 13 July 2019. Retrieved 22 August 2019.