Orion Media

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Orion Media
Industry Media
Founded 2009
Headquarters Birmingham, England, UK
Key people
Phil Riley, Chief Executive
David Lloyd, Director of Programming & Marketing
Adrian Serle, Commercial Director
Website www.orionmedia.com

Orion Media is a UK commercial radio group run by radio veteran Phil Riley and backed by Lloyds Development Capital. It was created from the enforced sale of several radio stations in the English Midlands owned and operated by Global Radio.


Following Global Radio's acquisition of GCap Media in 2007, it was deemed that Global had an unfair advantage in the West Midlands market as they owned the vast majority of stations.

The OFT wanted to re-install competition in the Midlands area, causing Global to sell some of their stations. In May 2009, Riley purchased BRMB, Mercia, Wyvern, Beacon in the West Midlands and Heart 106 in the East Midlands from Global Radio for a total price of £37.5 million, beating off competition from several other interested parties [1] These stations accounted for around three per cent of the total commercial radio audience at the time.

In June 2009, the new group was named Orion Media.[2]

In January 2011, Orion's East Midlands station Heart 106 was rebranded and relaunched as Gem 106, following the end of a franchise agreement with Global Radio allowing the station to use the Heart branding and carry networked programming from London.

In January 2012, Orion Media announced that its four FM stations in the West Midlands region were to be renamed 'Free Radio' - replacing the individual names BRMB, Mercia, Wyvern and Beacon.[3][4] The rebranding took place at 7pm on Monday 26 March 2012.[5]

On 24 May 2012, Orion Media announced it would relaunch its Gold West Midlands stations on AM frequencies and DAB as Free Radio 80s later in the year.[6] The station, which aired networked programming from London with opt-outs for sports programming, switched to locally produced output playing 1980s music alongside news and information and live football commentaries on Monday 4 September 2012, ending a franchise agreement with Global Radio which allowed the station to carry Gold branding and output.

File:BRMB studios -Broad Street -Birmingham -UK.jpg
Orion Media Headquarters on Broad Street, Birmingham


Station name Former name Based in Broadcast Areas Frequency & Multiplex Format Transmission Date
Free Radio Birmingham BRMB Birmingham Birmingham 96.4FM, CE Birmingham Hot AC 19 September 1974
Free Radio Coventry & Warwickshire Mercia Birmingham Coventry and Warwickshire 97.0, 102.9FM, NOW Coventry Hot AC 23 May 1980
Free Radio Herefordshire & Worcestershire Wyvern Worcester Herefordshire and Worcestershire 97.6, 96.7, 102.8FM, MuxCo Herefordshire and Worcestershire Hot AC 4 October 1982
Free Radio Shropshire & Black Country Beacon Wolverhampton Shropshire and Black Country 103.1, 97.2FM, NOW Wolverhampton Hot AC 12 April 1976
gem106 Heart 106 Nottingham East Midlands 106.0FM, NOW Nottingham, NOW Leicester Adult Contemporary 23 September 1997
Free Radio 80s Gold Birmingham West Midlands 990, 1017, 1152, 1359AM, CE Birmingham, NOW Wolverhampton, NOW Coventry 1980s music 4 April 1989, 15 January 1989


  1. Bauer beaten to the punch in radio deal Timesonline News - Accessed 26 May 2009
  2. Midlands radio sale cleared Radio Today - Accessed 5 July 2009
  3. Birmingham's BRMB rebrands to Free Radio Guardian Online - Accessed 9 January 2012
  4. Free Radio Will Launch in Spring 2012 Free Radio web page - Accessed 9 January 2012
  5. BRMB, Mercia, Beacon, Wyvern to be Free, Radio Today, 9 January 2012
  6. Gold to be Free Radio 80s in West Mids, Radio Today, 24 May 2012

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
  5. http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/digital_radio_listeners_in_east_anglia_miss_out_on_18_dab_stations_1_4506913
  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