WHEN Wave 105.2FM gained its radio licence in 1998, there were industry pundits who doubted it was worth having.
“People were calling us Grave 105 Point Who?” recalls managing director Martin Ball.
The future of radio might have seemed even more uncertain if people could have predicted the arrival of the MP3 player, downloads and music streaming – not to mention phones and tablets which enable people to take their entertainment of choice wherever they go.
But Wave 105 – which recently held celebrations of its ‘sweet 16’ anniversary – can point to its best ever audience figures.
As of the end of last year, 438,000 people were listening for an average of 10.3 hours a week.
In terms of audience share, it has become the number one regional radio station in the UK.
There were already plenty of people in 1998 who doubted whether a traditional radio licence was a valuable thing to own, but Mr Ball said the station had a clear idea of where it wanted to go.
“When we launched the business, we identified a pretty good gap in the market,” said Mr Ball.
“We targeted a predominantly BBC audience.”
He said the station had gone for a music selection that “very much reflected people’s music collection and tastes”, but with a “strong news and information service” and editorial.
Mr Ball, 47, started his career as a sales rep with the Southern Daily Echo before working for radio stations including 2CR FM, Ocean FM, LBC and Xfm.
He said one of the keys to the station’s appeal was it was run by people who knew the locality.
“Most people had a strong career prior to coming here. This was a great opportunity to come and licence a radio station in our home area,” he said.
They had the “ability to be relevant” to listeners, he said.
Wave 105 is based near Fareham and broadcasts to East Dorset, south Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and parts of West Sussex and Wiltshire.
Its team of presenters – including Steve Power at breakfast time – has become well established.
“It’s what we do between the songs that makes the difference – different personalities that have got a bit of a mind and agenda and keep the content relevant for listeners,” said Mr Ball.
The station’s approach has remained the same through its sale to the Wireless Group, then Scottish Radio Holdings, EMAP and Bauer Radio.
“Three of the main presenters have been here for 15 years which is pretty successful in terms of keeping stability,” he added.