Free Radio Coventry & Warwickshire

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Free Radio (Coventry & Warwickshire)
Free Radio network logo.png
Broadcast area Coventry, Solihull, and Warwickshire, England
Slogan "Let The Music Set You Free"
  • FM: 97.0 & 102.9 MHz, RDS: Free C&W,
  • DAB
  • Online
First air date 23 May 1980 (1980-05-23)
Format CHR
Audience share 5.2% (July 2013,
Owner Orion Media

Free Radio Coventry & Warwickshire (formerly Mercia Sound, then Mercia) is an Independent Local Radio station serving Coventry and Warwickshire, England. The station, which is owned and operated by Orion Media, broadcasts from studios shared with Free Radio Birmingham.


File:Mercia logo.png
Mercia's last station logo

The station began broadcasting as Mercia Sound at 0700 BST on 23 May 1980, with an opening announcement by Programme Director Ian Rufus, followed by breakfast presenter Gordon Astley and a news bulletin read by Mike Henfield.

In 1987, the station moved FM frequencies, along with most ILR stations at the time to 97.0 FM. Shortly after this a new transmitter on 102.9 FM was created to serve South Warwickshire.

In 1989, along with BRMB in Birmingham, the AM frequency was split from the FM transmissions to create a new radio station called Xtra AM which played music from the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1993, the station's owners, Midlands Radio, sold the station to Capital Radio who, shortly afterwards sold it to GWR Group, who re-branded it in-line with their "Today's Best Mix" slogan from 1994 onwards. During this period numerous presenters from other GWR stations joined Mercia, including Craig Strong (Trent FM, Ram FM, Leicester Sound), Tim Gough (Trent FM), Rachael Hopper (Ram FM) and Sean Goldsmith (Trent FM). From 2002 onwards, the slogan was "Playing the best mix of the 80's, 90's and today". In 2007, it reverted to the old slogan of "Today's Best Mix".

On 8 August 2008, it was confirmed that due to competition 'conflict of interests' in the West Midlands (and in other areas), Mercia would be sold by Global Radio, along with other West Midlands owned GCap/Global stations BRMB, 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,[1] called Orion Media.

In common with many other Independent Local Radio stations, the past decade has seen an increase in networked programming shared between stations operated by the same 'parent' group. Automation and presentation techniques during these hours insert local idents, jingles and commercials. Currently, seven hours of local programming are broadcast each weekday with four hours on weekend mornings. Outside of these hours, programming is simulcast with the rest of the Free Radio network in the West Midlands.

On 8 July 2011, Orion Media announced plans to close Mercia's Coventry studios and co-locate the station to the company's headquarters in Birmingham - the move took place two months later, leaving Coventry with only one locally based station (BBC Coventry & Warwickshire) broadcasting from the city.[2]

On 9 January 2012, Orion Media announced that Mercia would be rebranded as a Free Radio station from April 2012, along with its sister West Midlands stations Beacon, BRMB and Wyvern. The Mercia brand was phased out on Wednesday 21 March 2012 in preparation for the rebrand, which took place at 7pm on Monday 26 March 2012.[3][4]


Local programming for Coventry and Warwickshire is produced and broadcast from Free Radio's Birmingham studios from 6-9am and 3-7pm on weekdays and from 7-11am at weekends. The Birmingham studios also produce the majority of the network's programming, although the former Sunday morning show with Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes that aired until 19 December 2015 used to originate from the Bauer Media studios in Soho, Central London. 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 Dalziel and Roisin McCourt (JD and Roisin) and Tom Newitt (Weekday Drivetime).


External links

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3][4] 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 [5] Planet Rock and Absolute 80s began broadcasting just a retune message loop from 18th April and the switch-off occurred on 30th April.

On 6 May 2016, Bauer announced it had brought Midlands radio group Orion Media for an undisclosed fee, reportedly between £40 and £50 million.[6][7]


Bauer City

  • 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


DAB multiplexes

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:

Score Digital

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.[8]

The ex-Score DAB multiplexes are located in:

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.

CE Digital

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:


  1. "Bauer drops Big City image", Radio Today, 14 Apr 2011 Archived 4 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  2. TFM leaves Teesside to share with Metro, RadioToday, 5 April 2013
  3. Greatest Hits Network Change request form Ofcom
  4. Magic Changes Ofcom Request Form Ofcom
  6. Bauer buys radio group Orion Media, The Guardian, 6 May 2016
  7. Orion Media sold to Bauer for £50m, The Telegraph, 6 May 2016
  8. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.

External links