Sounds Like You Want To Hear

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Nostalgia’s a thing of the past. Right?

Well, not always – because in the next few weeks not one, but two attempts are being made to try and relaunch one of the best known names in radio. And it’s creating quite a fuss for the very reason that the name is so well known. It all started thirty five years and eleven months ago today.

What's in a name? Radio Trent is about to be revived.

For many people reading this blog, there’ll be no need for a history lesson. But for those not in the know, Radio Trent was one of the biggest brands in Nottingham – and beyond – for the best part of 35 years. It was the city’s first commercial radio station – and the name remained until January this year, when Trent was rebranded to Capital FM East Midlands. Such was the interest in the story of Trent that the BBC’s Inside Out programme commissioned a film charting its history. It also consistently made money for its owners, being one of the best performing stations in the GWR, GCAp and Global radio groups. Advertisers bought airtime on Trent because they knew people listened.

But enough of history, because right here and now two different groups are vowing to bring back Radio Trent – at least in name. And although they’ve gone about it in very different ways, it hasn’t stopped the threat of possible legal action from those who own the brand.

First, radiotrent.co.uk, run by former Trent presenter Jeff Cooper. The station is launching on 3rd July 2011 – Radio Trent’s 36th birthday. And it’s test transmissions are hugely entertaining for anyone who remembers the glory days of the original station. Jingles singing “three-oh-one” punctuate a playlist covering 1975 to 1988 – the year that Radio Trent officially disappeared (to become Trent FM, alongside Gem AM). A disclaimer points out:

We have owned the website name ‘RadioTrent.co.uk’ since 1999.
We have applied for the trademark ‘Radio Trent’.
‘Radio Trent’, as a radio station name in the UK, ceased to be used in 1988.
We have no connection with the owners of the ‘Trent FM’ trademark and name. 

The website promises other Trent names from days gone by. John Peters – who hosted the breakfast show from day one is back, albeit on a slightly later slot starting at 10am. Afternoons feature Guy Morris, who was also there in 1975, and at the weekends you can hear Tim Rogers – host of the long running country show and an advertising salesman to boot.

Radio Trent's original studios in Castle Gate, Nottingham

Secondly, we have Trent Sound, a social enterprise company which claims that it will:

focus on the core concepts that originally underpinned the launch of independent local radio in the UK. Our service will broadcast FROM Nottingham, TO Nottingham, FOR Nottingham. We don’t need money, just your support and ideas of what you’d like us to do and how we can create a truly local radio station to serve Nottingham city and county.

Interestingly, Trent Sound was approached by Global Radio, the owners of Capital, who persuaded the station to change its name. The website’s currently carrying “test transmissions” which also use the original “sounds like you want to hear” jingles from 1975. It’s planning to launch the online service on 13th July.

So why the fuss over a name? After all, Radio Trent technically no longer exists.

Well, Radio Trent Limited is still technically trademarked to Global, as are a whole host of other names up and down the country. And it’s only right that a big company should look after its brand names – at least as far as intellectual property goes. But some might question how much Global valued the name when it dropped it in January this year.

Former Trent presenters gather for a reunion at Nottingham Castle - December 2010

The most recent listening figures cover the overlap period between Trent and Capital, so it’s far from clear whether audience numbers have been significantly affected.

But I don’t believe that either radiotrent.co.uk nor Trent Sound pose a significant or serious threat. For me, one is simply playing on the name’s nostalgia factor and the other is a well meaning group of volunteers who also happen to enjoy sticking two fingers up to the big boys. No harm done.

Except for one nagging fact – people in Nottingham still remember the Trent name, and associate it with quality, fun and localism. Both of these projects could provide all three. Only time will tell.

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