Free Radio Birmingham
Broadcast areaBirmingham
Frequency
RDSFree_BHM
BrandingAcross Birmingham
Programming
FormatCHR/Pop
NetworkHits Radio
Ownership
OwnerBauer Media Audio UK
Free Radio Coventry & Warwickshire
Free Radio Herefordshire & Worcestershire
Free Radio Black Country & Shropshire
Greatest Hits Radio Birmingham & The West Midlands
History
First air date
19 February 1974; 49 years ago (1974-02-19)
Former names
BRMB
Technical information
Licensing authority
Ofcom
Links
WebsiteFree Radio

Free Radio Birmingham is an Independent Local Radio station based in Birmingham, England, owned and operated by Bauer as part of the Hits Radio network. It broadcasts to Birmingham and the West Midlands.

As of September 2023, the station has a weekly audience of 190,000 listeners according to RAJAR.[1]

History

The first BRMB logo. Variations were used through the 1980s.

The station was launched as BRMB on 19 February 1974, broadcasting 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 LBC, Capital London 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 1987.

In 1988, as a response to government disapproval of the simulcasting of programming[citation needed]on 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, 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 Development Capital and Phil Riley[2] 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.[3] Live football commentaries on Aston Villa and Birmingham City matches continued to be broadcast on Free Radio 80s on AM and DAB until the end of the 2014–15 season.[4]

On 6 May 2016, the station's owners, Orion, announced they had been bought by Bauer for an undisclosed fee, reportedly between £40 and £50 million.[5][6]

In February 2017, most of Free Radio's off-peak networked output from Birmingham was replaced by programmes originating from Bauer's Manchester studios.

In May 2019, following OFCOM's decision to relax local content obligations from commercial radio, Bauer announced Free Radio's Birmingham breakfast show would be shared with the sister station in Shropshire and the Black Country from 8 July 2019, presented by Dan Morrissey.[7] The localised weekday drivetime shows were initially replaced by a single regional show, presented by Andy Goulding.

Regional weekend afternoon shows were axed in favour of additional network programming.[8] As of 2 September 2019, further networked output replaced the weekday drivetime show.[9]

On 23 November 2021, Bauer announced the two Hits at Breakfast shows would be merged into one regional show across all four Free Radio licences, following the departure of Dan Morrissey.[10] The merger was permitted under OFCOM's local content guidelines.

The new Hits at Breakfast show for the West Midlands, presented by John Dalziel and Roisin McCourt, began on Monday 29 November 2021.[10] The Birmingham station retains opt-outs for local news, traffic updates and advertising.

Bauer also announced it would move Free Radio from its Brindleyplace studios in the city centre to a smaller facility at 54 Hagley Road in Edgbaston at the end of 2021.[11] and for a short period between the closure of Brindleyplace and the move to Hagley Road, the service was moved out of Birmingham to the Signal 1 studios in Stoke-on-Trent.

Hits Radio rebrand

On 10 January 2024, station owners Bauer announced Free Radio would be rebranded as Hits Radio Birmingham from April 2024, as part of a network-wide relaunch involving 15 local radio stations in England and Wales.[12][13]

The station's local news and regional output will not be affected as a result of the relaunch.

Programming

All networked programming originates from Bauer's Manchester studios.

Regional programming, under the Hits at Breakfast banner, is produced and broadcast from Bauer's Birmingham studios weekdays from 6-10am, presented by John Dalziel and Roisin McCourt.[14][7][9]

News

Bauer's Birmingham newsroom broadcasts local news bulletins for the city hourly from 6am-7pm on weekdays, from 7am-1pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Headlines are broadcast on the half hour during weekday breakfast and drivetime shows, alongside traffic bulletins.

National bulletins from Sky News Radio are carried overnight with bespoke networked bulletins on weekend afternoons, usually originating from Bauer's Leeds newsroom.

Station Information

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 studios after moving into new studios in 2023, are based at the 54 Hagely Road development in Birmingham city centre. Since August 2011, local programming for the Coventry and Warwickshire station has been produced and broadcast from Birmingham. Sister Station GHR West Mids share the same studio. JD and Roisin 6-10 am weekdays (Free) Andy Goulding (GHR) 1-4 pm Weekdays

The FM signal – 10kW ERP – is broadcast from the Sutton Coldfield transmitter, and can be received throughout a large part of the West Midlands.

Events

Free 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.

Notable past presenters

See also

References

  1. ^ "RAJAR". www.rajar.co.uk. Retrieved 15 August 2022.
  2. ^ "Radio Today". Radiotoday.co.uk. Archived from the original on 13 March 2012. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  3. ^ Feature: Orion's Phil Riley on Free, RadioToday, 11 January 2012
  4. ^ "Free – All the Biggest Hits – All Day Long". Free Radio. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  5. ^ Bauer buys radio group Orion Media, The Guardian, 6 May 2016
  6. ^ Orion Media sold to Bauer for £50m, The Daily Telegraph, 6 May 2016
  7. ^ a b Free to reduce local breakfast and drive shows, Radio Today, 30 May 2019
  8. ^ Hits Radio Network stations to drop local weekend programmes, Radio Today, 30 May 2019
  9. ^ a b Bauer to network drivetime across 11 licences in North and Midlands, Radio Today, 5 August 2019
  10. ^ a b Bauer ends separate Hits at Breakfast shows on Free Radio, Radio Today, 23 November 2021
  11. ^ Bauer to move Free Radio out of Brindleyplace in Birmingham, RadioToday, 23 November 2021
  12. ^ "Fifteen local stations get set for Hits Radio rebrand". Bauer. 10 January 2024. Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  13. ^ "Bauer to rebrand heritage FM stations in England and Wales to Hits Radio". RadioToday. 10 January 2024. Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  14. ^ Free - Public File
  15. ^ Sheila Tracy (1983). Who's Who on Radio. Worlds Work Ltd. ISBN 0-437-17600-2.