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50 years of Manx Radio

This weekend we can wish happy 50th birthday to the longest-running commercial radio station in the British Isles.

Manx Radio went live on 29 June 1964 with just a low power transmitter on a single FM frequency. Its pea shingle-surrounded studio caravan wouldn’t have been out of place in a Carry On movie.

Manx Radio in 1964

Manx Radio in 1964 via Simon K on Flickr

Today it still occupies its original frequency of 89 MHz plus a few others and it occupies better studios.

Manx Radio serves the whole population of the Isle of Man (around 85,000 people in the TSA) and is available digitally to the world thanks to its presence on the UK RadioPlayer.

Listening in, the station fulfils a curious double role of being good company local radio and official national broadcaster. What other station can give you a breezy morning DJ, ferry crossing news, a broad music policy plus ten hours of continuous live coverage of Parliamentary debates punctuated by sung jingles?

It’s old fashioned at times yet aggressively commercial – every on-air mention of its website is accompanied by a sponsor’s credit. The website is “Powered by Millichaps of Douglas” and the news bulletins contain ads too.

In part, this strangeness reflects the Isle of Man’s own peculiar independent situation: a nation within the British Isles with Queen Elizabeth its head of state but firmly outside the Unitied Kingdom and definitely not in the European Union. It has its own government and a flag that looks like a Terry Gilliam creation.

Isle of Mann flag

When the debate over an independent Scotland forced me to explain Britain to a visiting American recently she was thrilled to have grasped the difference between England, Scotland and the UK but when I threw the Isle of Man into the mix she thought I was pulling her leg, especially when she saw the flag.

There are some who would say such a strange radio station ought not to work, but it does, it can be an interesting and rewarding listen and after the Myers report it’s assured of a properly-supported future serving the people of its Nation…. and that’s worth celebrating at any age.

Happy Birthday Manx Radio.