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Manchester Radio Online

Sarah Tierney tunes into a radio station that's taking the sound of Manchester way beyond the M60

Published on April 17th 2009.


Manchester Radio Online

When Manchester Radio Online first broadcast in September 2007, it got 120,000 hits on one night. They were expecting about 300, says station founder Dave Foran, but they underestimated the pull of their star DJ, even though he'd been off-air since he was fired by Key 103 back in 2005.

James Stannage, famous for courting controversy as a straight-talking phone-in host, presents two shows on Manchester Radio Online, including their 10pm-midnight slot. For their pre-launch publicity, they sent him up and down Market Street on a Saturday afternoon wearing a sandwich board and handing out flyers for the station. It wasn't the most sophisticated marketing campaign ever, but it got them noticed.

“On launch night, the system went into meltdown,” says Dave. “We were getting five emails a minute. It was absolutely stupid. So for something that we started as a laugh, it turned into a bit of a monster.”

Phil Wood

Since then, listener figures have kept growing: Dave says that the station had over 352,000 hits in January 2009, from more than 76 countries. They've got listeners in the Ivory Coast, Russia, America and Spain – with the latter two countries accounting for the greatest number of their foreign fans. So why are all these far-flung listeners tuning into a Manchester station? And what's attracting MRO's growing local audience? They can't all be tuning in for Stannage.

MRO's advantage over commercial radio in Manchester is obvious: there aren't loads of ads between the songs. The cost of internet broadcasting is relatively low compared to FM broadcasting, and MRO is staffed by volunteers (even their top DJs, which include ex BBC presenter Phil Wood and Mike Joyce from The Smiths, turn up for free) so it's not under so much pressure to make money.

But MRO believes it stands-out from the commercial crowd not just because of its largely ad-free content: its website describes itself as the opposite of 'burger stations'. These are stations that are 'superficially local but owned by national or international corporations. They do for radio what the burger chains do for high streets, i.e. create a national “averageness” void of local character. Whichever city you’re in, the burger stations have the same playlists, the same logo, same style websites, even the same content.'

If you tune into MRO, you're in no doubt that this is Mancunian to the bone. The DJs have that Manc twang, they talk passionately and knowledgeably about the city, play its music, and are very vocally “Proud to be Mancunian”. For homesick ex-pats in the Costa del Sol, this is heaven; they can listen in on Manchester without actually having to live here.

Mike Joyce

For locals, it's a station that feels very much part of the city – it's not the regional arm of a big organisation like the BBC, it's a group of volunteers in Harpurhey, broadcasting for the fun of it.

But while this home-grown feel is part of MRO's strength, it could put people off as well as attract them. Some of the broadcasts are far from slick, some of the comedy is, frankly, rubbish, and the Manchester self-regard can get a bit much, even if you're from here. They've also got some jingles in that Americanised, film trailer accent. People don't talk like that in Manchester. I don't think they even talk like that in the US.

But these are just little niggles. Thanks to the volunteering opportunities they give to aspiring presenters and producers, proper funding is in the pipeline. And Foran admits that they've got more professional as they've gone along. You can't expect BBC quality from a station ran on a tiny fraction of the BBC's budget, and independence has its plus sides: the music policy is refreshingly relaxed.

It's doubtless why Phil Beckett and Mike Joyce made it their home after Steve Penk's homogenizing takeover of Oldham's Revolution. Their evening shows (Beckett's The Wall of Noise is on Wednesdays, 7pm-10pm, while Joyce's Alternative Therapy is on Thursdays, 7pm-10pm) are where you'll hear the most adventurous selections of tunes.

It's also good to see a station that unashamedly aims for a diverse audience, rather than limiting itself to a particular niche or age-band. MRO's Radio Face show (weekdays, 5pm-7pm) is designed for teenagers logging onto social networking sites, whereas Phil Wood's Sunday evening show is aimed at the silver surfers. It includes a regular interview slot with a Manchester celebrity and 'The Witching Hour' feature with appearances from mediums, ghost hunters, and healers.

With more people turning off the TV to spend their free time online instead, internet radio is set to grow in popularity. And the absence of borders in cyberspace means that they can choose whether they listen to a station broadcasting from down the road, or from the other side of the globe. MRO offers a decent option for those Mancunians, exiled or otherwise, who want to surf close to home.

Listen to Manchester Radio Online by clicking here.

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40 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

MarleyboyApril 17th 2009.

I got to listen to Rock Radio all the way to Wrexham and back, not bad for a small time radio station :D IT ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!

AnonymousApril 17th 2009.

*Burger Station: The opposite of ManchesterRadioOnline.com - burger stations are superficially ‘local’ but are owned by national or international corporations. They do for radio what the burger chains do for high streets, i.e. create a national ‘averageness’ void of local character. Whichever city you’re in, the burger stations have the same playlists, the same logo, same style websites, even the same content.

the 66April 17th 2009.

MRO is the most listened to station in the temple of the 66 (not just because they play us) Local Bands, Local Chat, a true champion of all things Manc and the surrounding (stretching to us in wazz, tameside etc)Love the station, Love all the guys at the station, most importantly... it's a REAL STATION with REAL PEOPLE!God bless MRO...(off to collect our tenner!)

DAVID HUTCHISONApril 17th 2009.

not everyone wants to be FM not everyone are sheep do you really want to be bombarded with more by this buy that.MRO are self promotional artists they play a track you like you might go out of your way to purchase the track/album with that track on meaning they're doing what they love to do play songs that give the listeners what they want.its a bit like being@their house chilling out and listening to the compilation that was made only hours before you got there or is this me recalling my youthful days where making compilation tapes for friends as birthday/christmas presents some with meessages of stories related to forthcoming track(a dj).MRO are only doing what john peel/tony wilson did before the big radio station in the sky said'come work for me'.so keep the faith you never know it could be you they ask advice from ,then will you be stuck for words.....

JoelleApril 17th 2009.

MRO would love to be FM radio! It's full of people that used to be on the radio, they're not anymore and this is the closest they can get to getting their voices heard again... they pretend they don't want to be on FM anymore when in reality it's probably what they're striving for. MRO would love to be selling ads and making loads of cash but nobody is going to spend their money there, that's the only reason there's no ads! DO people really believe they're turning advertising revenue away for the benefit of their listeners? If MRO's operators don't care about making money why do they have so much advertising info on their site? I agree most radio isn't worth listening to because it pretends to be based in Manchester when it isn't, but why do people feel the need to celebrate second rate rubbish like this? Can't we aim abit higher? The only reasons those DJs do it for free is so they can promote the stuff that they're trying to make money out of like their records and club nights. Why don't people tell it like it is for once?

the 66April 17th 2009.

MRO is the most listened to station in the temple of the 66 (not just because they play us) Local Bands, Local Chat, a true champion of all things Manc and the surrounding (stretching to us in wazz, tameside etc)Love the station, Love all the guys at the station, most importantly... it's a REAL STATION with REAL PEOPLE!God bless MRO...(off to collect our tenner!)

Jenny LawApril 17th 2009.

Hi,Love the show keeps me intouch with my Manchester roots!!!!!!!!!! Keep up the good work... Love from us all in Biddulph Stoke-On-Trent xxxxxxxxxxxx

Meat Pie AnneApril 17th 2009.

Stannage is a legend! Long live MRO - the future of Radio is right here on our doorstep. Long may it continue!

PinkieApril 17th 2009.

Manchester Radio Online is the future!! LONG LIVE STANNAGE! He's back and better than ever!I've always got it running in the back ground, no ads, no distractions, top tunes and top presenters! They listen to the listeners...something most other stations pretend to do but don't!

Mozza MoApril 17th 2009.

Manchester Radio On Line is refreshingly full of REAL people - what a refreshing change! No egos, great banter and people willing to help each other! The atmosphere is warm and infectious! The listeners are great too! Discerning, witty and intelligent! Recipe for long term future successes - watch this space - coz I recon they will soon be collecting awards! Hope they have a big class cabinet ready!

linda-sApril 17th 2009.

and so say all of us, for evva, and evva mro rocks like no one else, !!!! congrats on mag layout and content , luvvin it , xxxx

KellyApril 17th 2009.

MRO is a unique station with a unique team! Not to mention it being the home of our boy Stannage!MRO have got something new, exciting and very right and that is being more approachable and having lots of interaction with the listeners. This allows the DJ's and presenters to give the listeners a feeling of a personal touch. Too many radio stations forget it's the listeners who actually make them! The shows are brilliant and off course not governed by twitcom :) Long live MRO!

SusanApril 17th 2009.

A fantastic Radio Station to work for. Unique, quirky and refreshing. The MRO family rock...and rule!

AnonymousApril 17th 2009.

How many of the people posting work at MRO?

AnonymousApril 17th 2009.

Top presenters and good music!What more can you want?

BlueSteApril 17th 2009.

Manchester Radio Online is needed. The Manchester music scene needs a voice and someone willing to give them a chance and thank god MRO has the balls to do that instead of playing all the usual bland muck.

scottApril 17th 2009.

MRO Is not just a fantastic idea, But a fantastic radio station.A station where presenters are not obliged to pretend respect for bands they hate.A station where the presenters know the listner has an IQ higher than a fish finger and will not suffer fools gladly.A station that is genuinly all about the music, But more imporantly a station that not only puts the listner first but also lets the listner be a genuine part of the show.

Frank from the chatsworth estate M9April 17th 2009.

I was recommended MRO to listen to last year and have made it my regular station ever since. It's so great to hear genuine people giving it a go and making an excellent listening experience into the bargain. I love the blend of presenters and the music is so better than your run of the mill FM 'burger stations'.Keep up the great work Frank

hayleyApril 17th 2009.

manchesterradioonline.com is not only a refreshing in it's approach to radio..but takes on the added concept of modern interaction between the studio and it's listeners, via msn, social networking sites, email.. not to mention the good old phone...and it's very own chat room! Working in conjunction with many charities, the team also offer young people and those of whome would never get a chance to be on radio, a chance to do so! And as for oldies such as James Stannage and Phil Wood...well..need we say anymore! Keep up the great work guys..love you all! x

lizApril 17th 2009.

I love this radio station! great selection of music, funni presenters and no adverts! awesome radio station!!! x x x

sarah-sillApril 17th 2009.

its a good station. i haven't heard of half the presenters but thats half the fun.i just have a listen when i'm on and you find some good stuff. i put it on on a sat last week and heard some stupidly funny prank call to some supermarkets lolglad its around and they are making an alternative to other stations.x

MagnetarsApril 17th 2009.

Three cheers from Chicago to MRO Manic Mondays for offering an opportunity for up and coming bands to be heard by a worldwide audience! In fact, tune in to hear my band Magnetars on Monday May 11!!!

bigchrisApril 17th 2009.

I've been listening to Manchester Radio Online for a while now and find it quite refreshing! The younger, new talent on there throughout the week is particularly impressive! And some Stannage of an evening can't be beaten. Makes a change from the non-Manc presenters on Key and the odd ramblings of the Galaxy presenters.

AnonymousApril 17th 2009.

...as opposed to borderline obscene rants about teenage parents from James Stannage in mid-morning?

DERBOApril 17th 2009.

MRO is a refereshing change from the mundane, allowing listeners to interact on a more personal level. It provides a great platform for new and established local bands to promote their music to a worldwide audience. The introduction of the "MANIC MONDAY" live gig in the MRO bar allows bands to show off their talents to an appreciative crowd. Demand for taking part in this gig is astounding, with some acts lined up from the USA in coming weeks. It's not often you can see such good bands live for FREE on a regular basis. Love it!

foolish apeApril 17th 2009.

Radio remains very relevant; Radio 6 is on constantly in our office. 7 million tune in to Moyles every morning. Imagine how many that'd be if it were somebody better ;o)

PhilApril 17th 2009.

Rock Radio?? It's all about Manchester Radio Online... You can actually pick MRO up anywhere in the world!

AnonymousApril 17th 2009.

how do you know 7 million listen to radio one? is that the Rajar figures? they are fake.radio is rubbish thank god for manchester radio online- about time manchester had an alternative radio station...smooth FM, bbc manchester, XFM and steve Penk are all the same- bland and boring and no listeners...

AnonymousApril 17th 2009.

Great station!

Daniellle Marie PorterApril 17th 2009.

What can i say me loves it! MRO forever!

Dan ShawApril 17th 2009.

This station is very in touch with what the listener wants. People are at the heart of the station. Presenter and listener together are making a huge difference to radio for the future. MRO is refreshing, independent (not dictated to by big profit orientated media companies) and is setting the benchmark for internet radio. Ooh and MRO doesn't have American film trailer style jingles, I slipped up and played 'one' on my show! The station idents are professionally mixed by Mark Gale who has a youthful, upbeat and energetic sound. Long live MRO! It's an absolute joy to work for!Dan Shaw.

paulApril 17th 2009.

I have listened to this Station since its launch,due to Stannage coming back on air (or should i say online) I have seen this station grow and felt a part of it, as it really involves its listeners and you feel you are in a family. Yes it has its faults (some dodgy jingles for one) But where else would i get live music, get to hear local bands some great chat. I for one am now a huge MRO fan and and proud that some mancs came to gether to fight the machine. now thats what I call a real revolution

CHARLIE WALDUCKApril 17th 2009.

I love listening to Manchester Radio Online. I also enjoy presenting my own show. Behind the scenes everyone makes you feel a big part of the team. I especially enjoy listening to Radio Face, James Stannage and Tony Filer.

AaronApril 17th 2009.

i stumbled upon Manchester Radio Online totally by accident, but i'm sure glad I did. it's a fantastic station with some brilliant presenters, and is always a lot of fun to listen to!x

Forever ManchesterApril 17th 2009.

As it says on the tin - proper entertainment for discerning Mancs!

Mr SaneApril 17th 2009.

I think mancheterradioonline.com is the shizz !!! It Rocks !! For the people by the people!! NO advertising or corporate agenda Its Real !!Its free range organic goodness for the mind and soul !!Pesonally I think it could be improved by making Mr James Stannages evening show longer !!! :D

AnonymousApril 17th 2009.

I think there's definitely a place for radio. Maybe even more so. As more people turn to the internet, it works as a great distraction alongside other social sites. Easy to listen to actively or in the background. I think people feel more in touch with radio, like they have more of an influence in what they lsiten to.The world of TV is and probably always too removed. Even if they try WAY too hard with crap like X-Factor.

AnonymousApril 17th 2009.

Interesting that nobody has ranted on this article. I'm sure Manchester Radio Online is a brilliant operation, but even as a bit of a fan of The Revolution (pre-Penk!) I haven't got round to tuning in. Is radio still relevant in this day and age, or have we all moved on?

London boyApril 17th 2009.

Radio is alive and kicking - and it's as relevant as ever. It wasn't killed off by the arrival of the box in your sitting rooms, and it has only been strengthed by the ever growing popularity of Internet radio. From the youth-engaging Radio Face to Classic FM, there everything you need, something for everyone at the flick of a dial. Keep making movements Manchester Radio Online. Peace

TerryApril 17th 2009.

On a local level Manchester Radio Online is one of most exciting and effective volunary projects I have come across. Broadcasting legends and local radio icons alongside new and exciting talens and some very raw recruits all giving it their best shot. Theres something very Mancunian about that in itself. Good on yer, let the world be your audience and let Manchester be your stage!

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