Free Radio Birmingham
|Broadcast area||Birmingham and the West Midlands|
|Slogan||"Let The Music Set You Free"|
|First air date||19 February 1974|
|Audience share||5.3% (March 2014, )|
Free Radio Birmingham (formerly BRMB) is an Independent Local Radio station serving Birmingham and surrounding areas. It is owned and operated by Bauer Radio and station broadcasts on 96.4 FM and DAB Digital Radio, 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.
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. Former 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 programming 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 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 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.
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.
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 Dan Kelly and Naomi Kent (weekday breakfast) and Andy Goulding (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.
- 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)
- Simon Davies (now at Dee 106.3)
- 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