Free Radio Birmingham
|Birmingham and the West Midlands
|"Let The Music Set You Free"
|First air date
|19 February 1974
|5.3% (March 2014, )
Free Radio Birmingham (formerly BRMB) is an Independent Local Radio station serving Birmingham and owned and operated by Orion Media. The station broadcasts on 96.4 FM, DAB Digital Radio in Birmingham and the surrounding areas, as well as online. The station is part of the Free Radio network, which broadcasts a mix of chart, contemporary and classic hits alongside local news and information.
- 1 History
- 2 Station Information
- 3 Past presenters
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
- 7 History
- 8 Radio
- 9 DAB multiplexes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Launched on 19 February 1974, on 261 metres medium wave, (1152kHz) and 94.8 MHz FM, BRMB was the fourth independent local commercial radio station to begin broadcasting in Britain after Capital Radio, LBC and Radio Clyde. Broadcasting a mix of popular music with local news, live football coverage, information and specialist output, the station became popular amongst residents in Birmingham and later changed its main FM frequency from 94.8 to 96.4 in 1986.
The original station name, BRMB, was not an acronym (contrary to popular belief - some believed it stood for Birmingham Radio, Midlands Broadcasting). Instead, the original company, Birmingham Broadcasting Ltd., wanted something that combined a US-style call-sign with the company name - e.g. Birmingham - (BRM) and broadcasting - (B); equalling BRMB.
Presenters such as Ed Doolan, Les Ross, Phil Upton and Tony Butler became regulars on the station - Les Ross was the UK's longest-serving breakfast presenter, presenting BRMB's flagship weekday breakfast show from March 1976 to March 1989, followed by a second stint between August 1993 and September 2002. Orion Media's head of sport Tom Ross also found fame on the station when it began broadcasting live commentary of West Midlands football matches every Saturday afternoon. Ian Crocker was also involved in the coverage early on.
In 1988, as a response to government disapproval of the simulcasting of programmingon both FM and mediumwave, a sister station was launched on the 1152 kHz frequency. Xtra AM became BRMB's 'gold' service, playing classic hits, while BRMB itself began to cater for a younger audience. At this stage, BRMB was part of Midlands Radio plc, which was bought out along with Radio Trent, Leicester Sound and Mercia Sound by Capital Radio in 1993. However, they sold the other stations to the GWR Group whilst Capital kept hold of BRMB and Xtra AM. Xtra was on the air for nine years until the majority of its programming was switched to London, where it was simulcast with Capital Gold.
On 8 August 2008, it was confirmed that due to competition 'conflict of interests' in the West Midlands (and in other areas), BRMB would be sold by Global Radio, along with other West Midlands owned GCap/Global stations Mercia FM, Wyvern FM, Heart 106 and Beacon Radio. In July 2009, the station was sold officially to a company backed by Lloyds TSB Development Capital and Phil Riley which was named Orion Media.
On 9 January 2012, Orion Media announced that BRMB would be rebranded as Free Radio Birmingham, along with its sister West Midlands stations Beacon, Mercia and Wyvern. The BRMB brand, together with neighbouring stations Mercia, Beacon and Wyvern, were phased out on Wednesday 21 March 2012 in preparation for the rebrand, which took place at 7pm on Monday 26 March 2012. Live football commentaries on Aston Villa and Birmingham City matches continued to broadcast on Free Radio 80s on AM and DAB until the end of the 2014-15 season.
BRMB was originally based in Aston Road North, in the Aston area of Birmingham, near the Spaghetti Junction. These were the former Alpha Television Studios, the home of ATV and ABC Weekend Television until 1970.
The current Free Radio headquarters are based in the Brindleyplace development, off Broad Street in Birmingham city centre. The Birmingham station is also the network hub for its sister Free Radio stations in the West Midlands. Since August 2011, local programming for the Coventry and Warwickshire station has been produced and broadcast from Birmingham.
The majority of programming is produced and broadcast from Free Radio's Birmingham studios, including local output from 6am-9am and 3-7pm on weekdays and 7-11am at weekends.The Vodafone Big Top 40 is produced by Global Radio at its Capital studios in London for broadcast on 145 commercial radio stations in the UK.
The station's main presenters include John Fox and Guiliano Casadei (Foxy and Guiliano - weekday breakfast) and Ben Burrell (weekday drivetime).
Free Radio in Birmingham organises a number of annual public events including the Walkathon and the annual Live concerts at the LG Arena. The station also sponsors the Bupa Great Birmingham Run and the Acorns Midnight Walk.
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- Ed Doolan (now at BBC WM)
- Phil Upton (now at BBC Birmingham/BBC Coventry & Warwickshire)
- Graham Torrington (now at BBC WM and BBC Devon)
- Elliott Webb (now at BBC Hereford and Worcester and Heart Gloucestershire)
- Margherita Taylor (now at Classic FM and Heart Network)
- Carlos (now at Smooth Radio)
- Harriet Scott (now at BBC London 94.9)
- Charlie Jordan
- Paul Hollins (now at Smooth Radio)
- Jeremy Kyle (now at ITV)
- Tom Binns
- Tim Shaw (now at 97.4 Rock FM)
- Mark Crossley (now at Absolute Radio)
- Graeme Smith (now at Real Radio North West)
- Robin Banks
- James Merritt (now at Heart Network)
- Ed Nell (moved to Hallam FM, recently returned)
- Sam and Mark
- Free Radio Coventry & Warwickshire
- Free Radio Herefordshire & Worcestershire
- Free Radio Shropshire & Black Country
- Gem 106
- Orion Media
Bauer Radio is a UK-based radio division of the Bauer Media Group.
The Bauer network is divisible into two main groups, the Bauer City & Bauer National portfolios, with Place consisting of locally focused services primarily broadcast on FM/AM and local digital platforms, and Passion consisting of national and quasi-national music-genre services delivered nationally and quasi-nationally, mainly through digital platforms.
Bauer's The Place network was originally known as the Big City Network. In 2006, many of the former Scottish Radio Holdings stations were added to the network and branded as Big City Network Scotland and Northern Ireland, although all stations kept their original logos, with the exception of CFM. West Sound was the only AM station in the network although it did not carry any of the networked programming carried by the FM stations.
In April 2011 Bauer Radio announced it would be restructuring its radio portfolio into two divisions: locally focused and heritage stations, including many of the Big City stations, South Coast station Wave 105 and London station Magic 105.4 FM would also become part of the "Bauer Place" division, with branded music-category stations such as Kiss and Kerrang Radio forming a second sub-brand, "Bauer Passion" - the Big City Network identity was dropped as part of the restructuring.
In April 2013, Bauer announced it would merge its two North East England stations, Metro Radio and TFM. Both stations broadcast shared programming from Newcastle and Manchester while carrying separate branding, news bulletins and advertising.
In September 2014, Bauer announced it would be restructuring its radio portfolio as from January 2015. Magic AM in England was dropped in favour of the stations reverting to their heritage station names. The stations now form part of the new 'City 2' network serving both Scotland and Northern England. A 'City 3' network on DAB replacing The Hits Radio (in most areas) launched on Monday 19 January 2015.
At the beginning of March, 2016, Bauer moved two of its popular stations, Planet Rock and Absolute 80s onto the Sound Digital multiplex, meaning that many thousands of people were no longer able to listen to those stations. East Anglia, the South West, most of Kent, Cumbria, most of Wales and Scotland and many areas in between had none of these transmitters at all. A Change petition for Planet Rock was started on 4th March and numbers increased as people learned that they would no longer be able to listen to what had been the only nationwide DAB rock station. The issue was reported in local press in some areas  Planet Rock and Absolute 80s began broadcasting just a retune message loop from 18th April and the switch-off occurred on 30th April.
- Bauer City 1 – 16 Hot AC local radio stations on FM and DAB in Northern England and Scotland
- Bauer City 2 – 15 AC local radio stations on DAB and AM in Northern England and Scotland
- Bauer City 3 – 12 CHR local radio stations on DAB in Northern England and Scotland
- Free Radio - 4 CHR local radio stations on FM and DAB and 3 80s-themed stations on AM and DAB in the West Midlands
- Bauer National – 7 national radio stations available across the UK, including Absolute Radio and Kiss
- Radio City Talk – a speech and light music radio station Liverpool
- Cool FM – CHR local radio station on FM in Northern Ireland
- Downtown Radio – Hot AC local radio station on AM in Belfast and FM in the rest of Northern Ireland
- Downtown Country – Dedicated country music station on DAB in Northern Ireland
- Gem 106 - Hot AC regional radio station in the East Midlands
- Wave 105 – Hot AC local radio station in Solent
Bauer operates twelve wholly owned DAB multiplexes and also six jointly owned multiplexes with other operators (three with UTV Radio and three with Global Radio). Bauer operates the following DAB multiplexes:
Bauer Digital Radio
Bauer's wholly owned digital multiplexes are primarily located in areas where the firm operates local FM stations; the original group of Bauer (formerly Emap) DAB multiplexes are located in the following areas:
- Central Lancashire - Bauer Central Lancashire
- Humberside - Bauer Humberside
- Leeds - Bauer Leeds
- Liverpool - Bauer Liverpool
- South Yorkshire - Bauer South Yorkshire
- Teesside - Bauer Teesside
- Tyne and Wear - Bauer Tyne & Wear
As part of Emap's takeover of Scottish Radio Holdings, the firm gained control of Score Digital, the DAB multiplex operator owned by SRH. Competition guidelines required the merged firm to divest of one of the multiplexes obtained in this deal, and so the Ayr multiplex formerly run by Score was sold on to Arqiva. The remaining Score multiplexes have since been relabelled as Bauer multiplexes.
The ex-Score DAB multiplexes are located in:
- Dundee - Score Dundee
- Edinburgh - Score Edinburgh
- Glasgow - Score Glasgow
- Inverness - Score Inverness
- Northern Ireland - Score Northern Ireland
UTV Bauer Digital
The Wireless Group and Emap entered into a venture to run the following three DAB multiplexes. These multiplexes were initially branded as TWG-Emap multiplexes; following the sale of TWG to UTV (creating UTV Radio), the multiplexes were relabelled as UTV-Emap, and following the sale of Emap's radio assets to Bauer, the blocks were renamed again as UTV-Bauer. Bauer owns 30 per cent of the UTV-Bauer venture, with UTV holding the remaining 70 per cent.
- Stoke-on-Trent - UTV-Bauer Stoke-on-Trent
- Swansea - UTV-Bauer Swansea
- West Yorkshire - UTV-Bauer West Yorkshire
Bauer and Global Radio jointly own CE Digital Ltd, each holding 50% of the venture. The CE operation was established by Emap in partnership with the Capital Radio Group, which through mergers subsequently became part of GCap Media and later Global Radio. The 'CE' multiplexes take their name from the initials of Capital and Emap, and have not been renamed despite the identity changes of both operators.
CE Digital operate the following DAB multiplexes:
- Birmingham - CE Birmingham
- London - CE London (also known as Greater London I)
- Manchester - CE Manchester
- "Bauer drops Big City image", Radio Today, 14 Apr 2011 Archived 4 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- TFM leaves Teesside to share with Metro, RadioToday, 5 April 2013
- Greatest Hits Network Change request form Ofcom
- Magic Changes Ofcom Request Form Ofcom
- Bauer buys radio group Orion Media, The Guardian, 6 May 2016
- Orion Media sold to Bauer for £50m, The Telegraph, 6 May 2016
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