First air date
16 March 1976
FM: 96.4, 96.6, 97.1, 102.3, 102.4, 103.1, 103.4 MHz MW: 1026 kHz DAB: 12D
10.5% (7 June 2015, )
Downtown Radio is an Adult Contemporary music radio station based in Newtownards, County Down, that serves all of Northern Ireland using a network of FM and AM transmitters.
The station, also known as DTR or simply Downtown, began broadcasting on 16 March 1976 - the same day as Prime Minister Harold Wilson resigned. The station had a mini-coup, breaking the news over an hour before BBC Radio Ulster.
Downtown Radio has very much become part of the broadcasting landscape of Northern Ireland. Many of its presenters, such as Trevor 'Big T' Campbell and Candy Devine are household names - Campbell and Devine have been with Downtown since it began broadcasting.
Downtown was initially only contracted to broadcast to the Greater Belfast area, on 1026 kHz AM and 96FM (later 97.4 FM). However, following the collapse of plans for a station in the Londonderry region (Northside Sound) in 1983, Downtown applied to the former Independent Broadcasting Authority to extend its coverage. Transmitters covering the North West, the Causeway Coast and Fermanagh/South Tyrone were opened between 1985 and 1987, and the station briefly rebranded itself as 'DTRFM' to reflect its new audience reach.
The station reverted to Downtown Radio again in 1990 following the introduction of its sister station, Cool FM, although the latter only broadcast on the 97.4 frequency in the Greater Belfast area. Other transmitters remained with Downtown.
New FM transmitters in South Down/Armagh, and Mid and East Antrim opened in the 1990s to improve reception in those areas.
The station has been very highly regarded in the past for its news output, and has been a regular stop-off point for radio journalists covering Northern Ireland's Troubles over 30 years. It was the first radio station in Ireland to offer news bulletins, hourly on the hour. Changes in management made in 2007, as well as the success of the peace process, have led to Downtown reducing its news output somewhat. It is notable for being one of the few Independent Local Radio stations to still cater for minority tastes such as gospel and jazz. The country music programmes broadcast several times a week are among Downtown's highest listenership ratings. In December 2012 Downtown opened a small studio in Londonderry ahead of the UK City of Culture Year situated in the Food Quarter within Foyleside Shopping Centre. It remains open in use, mainly at the weekend with presenters Kevin McNally on a Saturday afternoon and Paul Francis each Sunday covering a wide range of events in the region.
Notable past presenters
Past presenters include Eamonn Holmes and Frank Mitchell.