Just a week after Top of the Pops bowed out after 42 years on air, Channel 4 has unveiled plans to ressurrect its own fondly remembered music show The Tube.

But the programme, which helped define the channel in the 1980s as a radical alternative to the BBC and ITV, will not be on television, nor broadcast from its original home in the north-east. Instead it will return as a radio show on Channel 4's recently launched "virtual radio" service.

The web-based service is a statement of intent for Channel 4's digital radio licence bid, which could mean the launch of up to five stations competing with the BBC. The Tube will go out live and be available for download afterwards.

"The original Tube was not only enormously popular. It broke new bands and established Jools Holland and Paula Yates as household names," said Nathalie Schwarz, Channel 4 director of radio. "It was fresh, unpredictable and edgy. These are the qualities we wish to emulate."

The original programme ran for five series between 1982, the year Channel 4 was launched, and 1987. It took its name from the distinctive entrance to Tyne Tees studios where it was filmed, and was seen as edgier than Top of the Pops, which was going through a particularly cheesy stage.

Aalternative comedians appeared as light relief - there was a regular turn by Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. The roll call of bands was a who's-who of eighties music, from doyennes of the alternative scene such as Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure and The Smiths, to New Romantic pop stars such as Duran Duran and Ultravox, as well as REM and U2.

Holland caused a national scandal during the fifth and final series when he swore during a live teatime trailer for the programme. The show was taken off the air for three weeks amid a tabloid storm.

The Tube will be the highest profile of several new musical offerings from Channel 4. It has also promised a heavyweight alternative to Radio 4's Today programme if it wins a digital licence.