Hits Radio Manchester
Broadcast areaGreater Manchester
FrequencyFM: 103.0 MHz
DAB: 12C
BrandingManchester’s Hits Radio
The Biggest Hits, The Biggest Throwbacks
NetworkHits Radio
OwnerBauer Media Audio UK
Hits Radio UK
Hits Radio Pride
Greatest Hits Radio Manchester & The North West
Greatest Hits Radio North West
First air date
2 April 1974
Former names
Piccadilly Radio (1974–1988)
Key 103
Former frequencies
FM: 97.0 MHz
AM: 1151 kHz
1152 kHz
WebcastHits Radio Manchester Player
WebsiteHits Radio Manchester

Hits Radio Manchester, formerly Key 103, is an Independent Local Radio station owned and operated by Bauer Media Audio UK as part of the Hits Radio network. It broadcasts to Greater Manchester.

As of March 2024, the station has a weekly audience of 289,000 listeners according to RAJAR.[1]


Piccadilly Radio

Further information: Greatest Hits Radio Manchester

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 ILR stations with multiple frequencies to provide split programming in order to increase listener choice and competition.

Key 103

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 Rebecca Want. Other presenters included Peter Baker, Adrian Bell, Tony Michealides, Stu Allan. The first jingle package was 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 audience with a mix of AOR and chart music and high-end specialist output including arts and business programming, comedy and weekly jazz, folk and classical music shows.[3]

The station later opted for a more mainstream format with presenters from Piccadilly 1152 (later Piccadilly Gold) 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 bought by EMAP. Two years later, both Key 103 and its AM sister station moved from the Piccadilly Plaza studios to new headquarters at Castle Quay in Castlefield.[4]

Hits Radio Manchester

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

The station was merged with The Hits Radio to provide a single national service across the UK on DAB, Freeview and online - as Hits Radio UK[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 Manchester.[8] The following January, the Key branding was retired when the station rebranded as Greatest Hits Radio Manchester.


The station broadcasts on the analogue frequency 103 FM via a transmitter at Saddleworth, from where broadcasting commenced upon the launch of Piccadilly Radio on 2 April 1974.

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.


Programming airs via Bauer’s London headquarters or studios in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.[9]

Hits Radio UK opts out from Manchester's local service for national news bulletins, traffic updates, relevant information and advertising on its national DAB and TV platforms.[10]


As of April 2019, Bauer's Manchester newsroom airs hourly local news bulletins on the hour from 6am-7pm on weekdays and 7am-1pm at weekends.[11] Headlines air at 30 minutes past the hour during Hits Radio Breakfast on weekdays, alongside regular traffic bulletins at breakfast and drive.

Syndicated national bulletins from Sky News Radio in London are carried overnight. Bespoke networked bulletins also air on weekend afternoons, produced from Bauer's Leeds newsroom.


Notable current presenters

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Notable past presenters

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  1. ^ "RAJAR". www.rajar.co.uk. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  2. ^ A History of Piccadilly Radio Jingles (Part One): 1974 – 1990, East of the M60, 15 July 2015
  3. ^ From the Heart of Manchester for 25 Years: Key 103, East of the M60, 22 August 2013
  4. ^ The soundtrack to Mancunian lives - Key 103 is a Manchester institution with a fascinating history, Manchester Evening News, 18 April 2018
  5. ^ Bauer to launch new national radio station Archived 2018-04-19 at the Wayback Machine, Bauer Media, 18 April 2018
  6. ^ Key 103 to become Hits Radio as part of major rebrand, Prolific North, 18 April 2018
  7. ^ Key 103 to rebrand as Hits Radio and go national, Radio Today, 19 April 2018
  8. ^ Key 2 on AM and DAB rebrands as Key Radio, Radio Today, 4 June 2018
  9. ^ Hits Radio - Public File - Manchester
  10. ^ Bauer to launch new national radio station Archived 2018-04-19 at the Wayback Machine, Bauer Media, 18 April 2018
  11. ^ Hits Radio Manchester public file