Hits Radio Manchester

Hits Radio Manchester (formerly Key 103 and Piccadilly Radio) is a commercial radio station, serving Greater Manchester on 103 FM & DAB.

Hits Radio Manchester
Broadcast areaGreater Manchester
BrandingHits Radio
SloganThe Biggest Hits, The Biggest Throwbacks
Frequency103.0 MHz
First air date2 April 1974 (as Piccadilly Radio)
FormatContemporary hit radio
OwnerBauer Radio
Sister stationsAbsolute Radio
Greatest Hits Radio
Planet Rock
WebsiteHits Radio Manchester

The station is owned and operated by Bauer Radio and broadcasts from studios in the Castlefield area of Manchester City Centre. It provides opt-outs from Hits Radio's national service for local news bulletins, traffic updates, relevant information and advertising on its local FM and DAB platforms.[1]


Piccadilly Radio

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 Becky Want with the first jingle package 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, younger 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 brought 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

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

The station was merged with The Hits to provide a single national service across the UK on DAB, Freeview and online.[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 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 and presenters

Most of Hits Radio Manchester's output is produced and broadcast from Bauer's Castlefield studios.[8]

Apart from 6-10am on weekdays, Hits Radio's output is also simulcast on Bauer's Hits Radio Network of local FM stations in northern England and the West Midlands. Some of the network's weekend and overnight programming also airs on Bauer's FM stations in Scotland.

Notable current presenters

Notable past presenters


As of April 2019, Hits Radio Manchester airs hourly local news bulletins at five minutes before the hour - 5.55am - 6.55pm on weekdays and 8.55am - 12.55pm at weekends.[9] Headlines air at 25 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 the newsroom of Radio Aire in Leeds.


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