Independent National Radio (INR) is the official term for the three national commercial radio stations currently or previously broadcasting on analogue radio in the United Kingdom, beginning in 1992. One station was allocated an FM licence, and the other two were allocated AM medium wave frequencies previously used by BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 1.


The stations came about following the Broadcasting Act 1990 which allowed for the launch of independent national radio (INR) stations in the United Kingdom.[1] The Radio Authority was mandated to award three INR licences. The FM licence (INR1) had to be for a 'non-pop' station, and one (INR3) had to be for a predominantly speech-based service. The remaining licence (INR2) was to be open to 'all-comers'. The licences were to be awarded to the highest cash bidder, providing that the applicant met criteria set down in the Broadcasting Act.[2]

Plans for a fourth station, using 225 kHz long wave, were mooted in 1996 but were abandoned by the Radio Authority after consultation with the radio industry which found that there was no interest in launching a station on that frequency due to the cost of extending coverage to the whole country. The frequency had originally been allocated to the BBC but, apart from a very brief period many decades earlier, had never been used.

INR licences come with certain privileges and responsibilities that are not shared by Independent Local Radio stations:[3]

As of 2011, the INR licence holders paid Ofcom a nominal annual fee of £10,000.[4]

INR stations

On air

No longer broadcasting on analogue radio

All three stations are also available nationally on DAB, digital TV and online.


  1. ^ "Broadcasting Act 1990". London: HMSO. Archived from the original on 28 June 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  2. ^ "Fact Sheet 3: The Radio Authority: Its licences and licensing procedures". London: Radio Authority. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  3. ^ Bowie, Adam (5 January 2023). "Absolute Radio and the End of AM". Retrieved 19 March 2023.
  4. ^ "Commercial radio deregulation consultation: Responses received" (PDF). Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 2017.
  5. ^ a b Linton, Martin (5 February 1992). "Pop hopefuls go under the hammer and over the top". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011 – via Internet Archive.
  6. ^ Branson, Richard (27 February 2015). "Virgin Radio UK – my most memorable moments". Retrieved 12 March 2024.
  7. ^ "Absolute Radio ends AM broadcasts". Digital Radio Choice. 20 January 2023. Retrieved 20 January 2023.