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Fresh Air (Edinburgh)
Broadcast area Edinburgh, UK
Slogan Edinburgh Student Radio
First air date 3 October 1992
Format Alternative contemporary
Owner n/a (student society)

Fresh Air is an alternative music student radio station serving Edinburgh, Scotland. Launched on 3 October 1992, Fresh Air is one of the oldest surviving student radio stations in the UK. The station won the "Student Radio Station of the Year" award at the Student Radio Association awards in 2004 & was Scottish Station of the year 2011 (Scottish New Music Awards).

Fresh Air is a registered student society with Edinburgh University Students' Association, but remains an independent body entirely funded by sponsorship and membership subs. It broadcasts at The current station manager (2014/5) is Emma Glicher.


  • History 1
    • T In the Park 1997 1.1
    • 2000-2 Financial difficulty 1.2
    • 2004 - Station of the year 1.3
    • 2006-8 - The transition to Internet Radio 1.4
  • Current activities 2
    • Fresh Air at the Festival 2.1
    • College Radio Day 2.2
    • Rebranding, and a studio makeover (2015) 2.3
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


In the autumn of 1990, Edinburgh University student Robert Barrow conducted a survey to gauge support for a student radio station within the university.[1] In the course of the survey Barrow met fellow student Eric Wilkinson, and soon partnered with him to form the Edinburgh Student Radio society, with the initial aim to set up a permanent radio station. By the beginning of the following academic year, they realized that this was perhaps overly ambitious as a starting point, and instead focused on the idea of a short term broadcast, taking advantage of the Radio Authority's new Restricted Service Licence scheme.

With support from the Edinburgh Enterprise Centre, ESR recruited prospective presenters and ran a training course with the help of John Gray, formerly of BBC Scotland. The team also identified a site from which the broadcast could be run and, eventually, a name for the station: Fresh Air FM (other suggestions included Outburst Radio, UFM and plain old Edinburgh Student Radio). The final hurdle, finance, was cleared by the procurement of a grant from the Edinburgh University Development Trust to supplement advertising income: together this represented sufficient funding to cover the costs of a two-week RSL broadcast.

Fresh Air FM was launched on 3 October 1992. As one of the first wave of student Restricted Service Licence stations in the UK, the initial broadcast generated a lot of media interest, not all positive: numerous incidents involving the use of bad language on the air drew criticism from both the media and the Radio Authority. This initial broadcast was followed by a shorter one in December of that year to coincide with the European summit. The first broadcast to make full use of the time restriction imposed by the station's RSL - 24 hours a day, for 28 consecutive days - occurred in October 1994, and Fresh Air FM successfully conducted biannual 28-day broadcasts thereafter, typically in the months of October and May.

T In the Park 1997

At the invitation of Glasgow sister station Subcity Radio, Fresh Air FM ran the Edinburgh end of an ambitious three-site RSL broadcast for the T in the Park festival in the summer of 1997. Together the two stations mounted a major outside broadcast operation at the T in the Park site near Perth. With generous sponsorship from Philips Consumer Communications, Fresh Air was able to record interviews on minidisc, edit them in the on-site editing suite and send them via ISDN to the Glasgow and Edinburgh studios. There, interviews and features were blended with a playlist showcasing the extraordinary diversity of music at featured at the event.

2000-2 Financial difficulty

Aside from the initial grant opportunities, company and council sponsorships, Fresh Air remains to this day an entirely self-funded station. It is purely reliant on self-procured advertising and sponsorship money instead of university funding.

With the costs of a 28-day FM RSL just managing to stay within the four-figure mark, Fresh Air FM barely managed to break even, and often ran into debt. The situation came to a head in 2002, where debts reached a level that was unsustainable. This forced the committee to make the difficult decision to suspend any future broadcast until all debts were repaid.

Notably, the university's students association proved unsupportive of the society's efforts, suggesting the society disband and start from scratch, operating under the association's umbrella organisation. Bravely, the society declined.

The refinancing process took two years, but the society was successful in its efforts, and returned with a positive bank balance to broadcast on FM in April 2004. The broadcast kicked off with an hour-long outside broadcast from the city's renowned venue called The Venue, and featured a set by local band The Hustlers. As this was the first broadcast to be simulcast on the Internet, the decision was made to drop the "FM" from the station name. Thus, Fresh Air was henceforth the way in which the station was branded, with the website still live today.

2004 - Station of the year

Fresh Air's successful turnaround and preparations for the April 2004 broadcast were documented in full. The station sent these along with a 20-minute compilation tape as part of the station's entry in the "Station of the Year" category at the annual Student Radio Awards. A 40-strong delegation from the station attended the awards ceremony in November of that year, where it was announced that Fresh Air had won the top prize of the night for the first and, so far, only time.[2]

The prize included the chance to pre-record a freeform, two hour music-based show for BBC Radio 1, to be broadcast on Christmas morning. Four society members were flown down to London: two to act as the show's presenters, and two to act as producer and production assistant. Music that was chosen for the show consisted of a number of Fresh Air favourites, but also featured music from, and interviews, with some up-and-coming Scottish bands including the popular Scottish dance producer Mylo.

2006-8 - The transition to Internet Radio

2004 proved to be a bittersweet year for Fresh Air, as changes to Edinburgh University's academic calendar that autumn forced the station to fall back to an annual 28-day broadcast schedule, usually conducted in February or March.[3]

In February 2006, the launch of the local talk radio station Talk 107 forced Fresh Air off the air again, when Ofcom refused to issue any short-term licences surrounding the station's launch to discourage competition, citing section 1.7 of its notes for applicants document.[4] The society opted instead to broadcast exclusively over the Internet for two months. In order to broadcast on-line legally using the required licences issued by the MCPS-PRS Alliance and Phonographic Performance Limited, significant finances still had to be raised to support the broadcast.

The 2007 Fresh Air FM RSL application was once again denied by OfCom, due to the imminent launch of local community station Leith FM.[5] However, changes to online licencing laws have enabled the station to broadcast all year round on the Internet via its web site, allowing over ninety hours of live programming to be broadcast during each week of term-time.

For the 2007/2008 broadcast, the blueprint from the previous year was followed and Fresh Air continued to be an internet radio station. It was one of the first Student stations to be placed in the College tab of iTunes Radio.

The addition of a second studio meant Fresh Air could begin pre-recording shows so that content could be aired after studio access hours. The addition of the Magic Button in 2006 meant that an automatic playout system could cycle playlist tracks between the hours of midnight and 10am.

Current activities

Various on-air and other fundraising events have been held in the past few years, including Radio Day on 22 February 2007, a 24-hour radio show fronted by the station manager Tim Johns in order to raise funds for Comic Relief. That term's broadcast also featured Indie Club Together, bringing several of Edinburgh's DJs and record-label runners together under one roof.

Since 2007, the main social event has been the regular Twist and Shout night.

For the 2007/2008 broadcast all live events underwent a rebranding. All club nights, gigs and other fundraisers were to come under the brand 'Fresh Air Live Presents'. In that year, around fifteen live events been hosted under that brand since September 2007.[6]

The society organises a number of fundraising events at local venues around Edinburgh, and provides training to third parties, most notably as part of the European Union Vienna Project. Recent events fundraising for other causes raised the profile of the station, from its involvement in John Peel Day 2006 to its participation in Hearing Aid 2007, in aid of Comic Relief.[6]

Fresh Air continues to raise funds for Waverley Care, notably through two 24-hour broadcasts over the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

On 25 February 2011, hosted the world's first bicycle-powered radio show. The hour-long outside broadcast was powered by two mounted bicycles with attached dynamos. The event was to raise awareness for climate change, and was done in collaboration with Transition Edinburgh University.

The 2014/5 broadcast is currently in session, with an eclectic schedule and great playlist.

Fresh Air at the Festival

The successful broadcast of 2006/2007 meant that Fresh Air was in a position to start covering the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2007, the only Internet radio station to do so.[7] Fresh Air at the Festival operates as a separate entity from the normal term time station, with its own dedicated committee and separate sources of funding. The broadcast in 2007 focused on interviewing comedians at the festival rather than presenting music and building unique shows, and subsequent broadcasts have revolved around creating more opportunities for creating a variety of shows and allowing the presenters more freedom.

Notable guests have included Isy Suttie, Arj Barker, Boy with Tape on his Face, Reginald D Hunter and Mark Watson. In 2012, Watson stopped off at Fresh Air studios on a mammoth day to promote his book The Knot. Scott Hutchinson from Frightened Rabbit performed an exclusive session in the studio as part of the 2012 24-hour broadcast.

College Radio Day

On 2 October 2012, Fresh Air took part in the second College Radio Day. Between 11am and midday (GMT) Fresh Air hosted an hour of the 24-hour global radio show. The show was played out on 585 stations in 29 countries as well as the dedicated College Radio Day stream. Fresh Air's portion of the broadcast was a live show from The Pleasance theater, presented by Eve Livingston and Alex Rata and featured a live performance from Scottish band Paws.

Rebranding, and a studio makeover (2015)

As of 2010, the station rebranded to resemble its entirely internet-based status, and officially became The slogan 'Edinburgh Student Radio' was used for all its advertising and branding purposes.

In 2015, helped by a generous donation from the University, Fresh Air's Pleasance studio was redecorated. Old flyers were removed, a new sound desk was installed, and a new sense of optimism emerged for the start of the 2014/5 Spring Term broadcast!

There are plans for an Oral History of the station, featuring the voices of alumni and alumnae, for the end of 2015.

See also


  1. ^ "The History of Fresh Air", last retrieved on 27 February 2010.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Edward, Rhiannon; "New all-talk radio hopes to get tongues wagging", The Scotsman, 15 February 2006.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^

External links

  • Official website
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