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Indie music stations slug it out for Manchester FM licence

LONDON – Emap, Capital and GWR are going head to head to win Manchester's 'neglected' alternative and rock audiences, as they submit their bids for the new FM licence to Ofcom.

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All have already made trial broadcasts in the city on the restricted service licence: Emap with its Kerrang! format, which won the West Midlands FM licence last year; GWR with The Storm; and Capital with Xfm.

Emap already runs Manchester stations Key 103 and Magic 1152 and said it is committed to supporting live music in the city, including using Manchester City's stadium as a venue.

Alistair Macintosh, chief executive of Manchester City Football Club, and Mike Unger, former editor of the Manchester Evening News, are non-executive directors of the board behind the bid.

Emap has lined up bands including The Beastie Boys, The Killers and Kasabian in support of the format. Its proposed shows include new alternative music such as Interpol, skate rock such as The Offspring, and goth music such as Sisters of Mercy.

GWR's The Storm's playlist will feature classic and contemporary rock from the Rolling Stones and Inspiral Carpets to Travis and Oasis to Razorlight and The Killers. Half the station's output will be less than 12 months old and Manchester music, unsigned local bands and live sessions will feature strongly.

GWR has tied community involvement into its proposals, promising to build its new station at the Central Park business park in the new East Manchester regeneration area, as well as providing radio training in partnership with MANCAT college.

Its board includes former Communique PR managing director Paul Carroll, former Galaxy 102 chairman Howard Sharrock and former director of Manchester's libraries and theatres Lis Phelan.

Xfm promises a "slew of bands, whose influences can be traced back to the likes of The Smiths and Joy Division, Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, as well as current big hitters Oasis, Elbow and Badly Drawn Boy and newcomers Nine Black Alps".

The Wireless Group is providing an alternative with its speech-based format, allTALK FM, with its bid chaired by John Stalker, the former deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police.

Guardian Media Group Radio recently pulled out of the running, claiming that its talk format was not commercially viable with the licence's coverage.

Ofcom is due to announce the winner in May or June.

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