MDS975
The End of
BRMB RADIO


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The End of BRMB Radio
BRMB
                            killed off and re-branded as
                            "Freeradio"

"Birmingham's BRMB rebrands to Free Radio"

That was the headline in The Guardian newspaper.

BRMB studios at Brindley Place in Birmingham
  9 Brindley Place, Oozells Square, Birmingham.
The home of BRMB / Orion Media.


RIP BRMB Radio 1974 to 2012
In January 2012 Orion Media called time on heritage radio brands BRMB, Mercia, Wyvern, and Beacon:


With 75% of all output now shared, the once separate stations were now essentially a single network in all but name - though some local peak time hours remained. Having separate local names was becoming meaningless and pointless - hampering the marketing of the group. Orion decided that it was time to kill off the name BRMB - along with Mercia, Beacon and Wyvern -  so
Phil Riley began to sharpen his sword, but would he become known as 'The butcher of Birmingham'? 


These long established heritage names were, by now, effectively dead as far as being understood as a traditional local radio station anyway, so it must have seemed logical to dispense with individual names entirely and replace them with one new network brand that could be more easily networked and marketed.


The name chosen was Freeradio which had a soft launch on 26th March 2012. Well known names BRMB, Beacon, Mercia and Wyvern merely faded inauspiciously from the airwaves, phased out between 21st and 26th March, when the new name was launched.




In hindsight it can now be seen that the writing was probably on the wall for BRMB when Capital Radio bought the Midlands Radio plc group in 1993. Although this acquisition may have been seen as a good thing for BRMB at the time - with the prospect of bright, focussed 'Capitalized' programmes - in actual fact the station had been in a relative steady decline ever since.


This decline, of course, can in part be blamed on the ever more relaxed regulation and ever increasing and almost un-checked competition. In 1992 BRMB was only essentially competeing against BBC Radio One and Radio Two for a music audience and with BBC Radio WM and Buzz FM for a local audience - which it won. In its heyday BRMB had around a 50% reach of the local audience - that would be a rather amazing figure for any station by 2012. However since then the radio market has become been flooded with many new stations, all looking for their own slice of the radio audience:


Virgin Radio, Heart FM, Capital FM (formerly Galaxy / formerly Choice FM), Kerrang Radio, Smooth Radio (formerly SAGA) have all come along looking for a piece of the important music audience;  BBC Radio Five and Talk Sport (formerly Talk Radio) have launched looking for a piece of the talk and sports audience, once so vitally important to BRMB;  Radio XL and the small scale community stations Big City Radio (formerly Aston FM), Unity FM, Switch Radio and New Style Radio could provide the community and and more minority interest programming that once appeared in the BRMB schedules.


BRMB audience
                  declineAll these new services will have had different impacts on BRMB. Dispensing with the minority interest programmes, which could be provided by BBC Radio WM and the volunteer community stations may possibly have reduced the 'reach' of BRMB, but that will have been seen as a good thing by the management, who will be more interested in profit rather than eclectic programming. With minority programmes gone, more mainstream programming could replace it which should improve hours listened by the core audience of a better focussed music led station.


However the effects of competition from the BBC's re-focussed and rejuvenated national stations Radio One and Radio Two, and the now strongly branded, narrowcast stations Heart and Capital will be the services that must have seriously squeezed BRMB's audience figures and presumably it's advertising revenues too. BRMB, being part of a group, has inevitably shared increasing amounts of programming around its network to reduce costs in the face of this competition. Heart, Galaxy (Capital), Smooth (SAGA) at one time were essentially local stations but over time all have become virtual national networks. It was inevitable that BRMB would have to follow.        The graph from Media UK demonstrates the decline.


In a market that BRMB almost 'owned' pre 1990, its audience figures had collapsed: By December 2011 BRMB's reach had fallen from the 50% of its heyday to 16% with a mere 4.7% share of listening. Almost unthinkably - Capital 102.2 (Global) had built a 20% reach with an 8% share of listening, while Heart 100.7 (also Global) had achieved a 21% audience reach with an 8.3% share of listening with their narrowcast programming networked from London.  [Figures from RAJAR and Media UK]


The other Midlands stations, Mercia Sound, Beacon Radio, Radio Wyvern all suffered the a similar fate, along with Leicester Sound, Ram FM & Trent FM - not to mention most other once local stations around the UK - under various and changing ownerships and amalgamation of various large radio conglomerations (Capital radio group; GWR group; GCap group; Glabal Radio group, Chrysalis, EMAP/Bauer etc).


The death knell for true commercial 'local' radio was probably finally sounded when a company called 'Global Radio' became the country's largest operator - the clue is in the name of course!


BRMB had, over a period of almost two decades, suffered a slow death by a thousand cuts. Over that time the station had become an almost imperceivable shadow of its former glorious self. With their words from a year or two earlier 'we'll make BRMB great again' still ringing in our ears, the final nail was driven into the coffin by Messrs Riley and Lloyd at Orion Media in March 2012.


As BRMB 'croaked it' Freeradio, with its new green frog logo, hopped onto the airwaves across the Midlands.


 
R.I.P. BRMB Radio.
Some of us will remember you for the marvelous, big-city, all things to all people community style local radio service that you once provided.



Here are some of the headlines and stories from the media and commentators concerning the demise of BRMB:




Birmingham's BRMB rebrands to Free Radio

From The Guardian newspaper:

9th January 2012

Owner Orion Media announces name change for Birmingham broadcaster along with three Midlands sister stations Beacon, Wyvern and Mercia.

Nearly 40 years of radio history will be wiped off the dial with the rebrand of Birmingham's BRMB to Free Radio.

Owner Orion Media, run by former Chrysalis Radio boss Phil Riley, announced the rebrand of the Birmingham broadcaster along with three of its sister stations in the Midlands – Mercia, Beacon and Wyvern.

Riley said the content of the stations, which currently share about 75% of their programming outside of breakfast and drivetime, would remain unchanged.

Orion is the latest commercial radio group to relaunch stations under a single brand, beginning with the rollout of Global Radio's Heart followed by sister network Capital and Smooth Radio, which is owned by GMG Radio, part of the group that publishes MediaGuardian.

Riley, the chief executive of Orion Media, said: "The decision to change the name of our stations after each one has been broadcasting in their areas under their original names for so long has not been easy or one that we have taken lightly.

"We have given this a great deal of consideration and undertaken detailed research. The original on air names of each station means a lot to all of us at Orion, and we know and understand the deep affection many people have for those names. However, the radio market has changed dramatically recently and we have to adapt and respond."

BRMB was the UK's fourth commercial radio station when it launched in 1974. It was followed by Beacon in 1976, Mercia in 1980 and Wyvern two years later.

Riley said the "Free Radio" name was chosen because it was "easy to remember, easy to spell, and is flexible enough to work in a number of different ways. It's not free as in cheap, it's free as in freedom to have a bit more character".

The four stations have a reach of 889,000 listeners between them, according to the latest official Rajar figures, with BRMB the biggest with an average weekly reach of 359,000.

Riley said the new name would make the stations a better to sell to advertisers. He said no content would be changed – or jobs lost – as a result of the rebrand.

He added: "Although the names are changing, the commitment we have to provide the best mix of music and presenters along with local news, sport, weather and traffic remains our No 1 priority.

"Even when we are in network mode on Free Radio, we will be broadcasting from and ensuring the station serves only the needs of the region."
BRMB
                          killed off and re-branded as
                          "Freeradio"
Pre launch Freeradio logo design

Orion Media also owns Gem 106 in the east Midlands and the Gold AM station in the west Midlands, which will not be rebranding.




BRMB
                        Radio Car Sticker

Birmingham radio station BRMB to be renamed
 Free Radio Birmingham


From The Birmingham Sunday Mercury Newspaper:
January 9th 2012 By Matt Lloyd

A part of Birmingham’s history is set to vanish following a re-brand of city radio station BRMB after nearly 38 years.
In a move designed to take the station in a new direction it will be re-named Free Radio Birmingham from March, waving goodbye to the iconic name it has carried since its launch in 1974.
 
The change was announced to staff today by station owner Phil Riley who insisted the line-up of shows and presenters would remain the same and staff would not be facing job cuts. “It'll be the same people, the same shows and the same sound,” he said. “It took us some time to get our heads around the enormity of losing that heritage but we’re doing it for the right reasons.

“The reasons are to be a bigger, better collection of local radio stations. People are excited about the prospect and what we’re not doing is axing loads of jobs or closing something down. “We’re going to give our stations a common name so we can promote them effectively.”
 
Sister station Mercia is also be re-branded to be called Free Radio Coventry and Warwickshire, while Beacon is to be renamed Free Radio Shropshire & Black Country.

Mr Riley said promoting Orion Media's stations across the region was difficult because they all carry individual names.
He added: “I started at BRMB on September 1, 1980. I know many people are fondly attached to the name but none more than I am. Even I recognise we have to move on.”

Mr Riley also insisted the station would continue to play its part in Birmingham’s community. He said: “I can guarantee your readers we will be a big part of the city going forward. We wouldn’t want anyone to think we’re abandoning Birmingham. “The brand is loved and cherished but all things must pass, the time has come to move on.”

Since it first began broadcasting from Radio House, Aston, in 1974, BRMB has become a piece of Birmingham’s fabric hosting the BRMB Walkathon and sponsoring last year’s Great Birmingham Run, the former half marathon.
In 1998 it moved to new headquarters in the heart of the city at Brindleyplace.

Among the first presenters on the station was Ed Doolan who later went on to host his long running lunchtime talk show on BBC.





BRMB
                        sticker



From The Express and Star newspaper in Wolverhampton:
Monday 9th January 2012

The Beacon Radio name is to disappear after more than a quarter of a century in a major rebranding move by station owner Orion Media, it was revealed today.

Beacon, based in Tettenhall Road, Wolverhampton, will be known as Free Radio Shropshire and the Black Country from early April, said Orion chief executive Phil Riley today.

The BRMB brand in Birmingham will also go as Orion renames its stations under the Free Radio banner. Also being rebranded are Orion’s Wyvern and Mercia stations in the West Midlands.

Staff were being briefed on the name change today, but Mr Riley stressed there would be no change to station output. “People who listen to Fresh and Emma in the morning will hear the same programmes, local travel and news,” he said.

Mr Riley said the move would allow for cost effective marketing of the combined brand name on TV.

It would also allow Orion to market a single station brand with one million listeners rather than four smaller brands with 250,000 listeners each, when trying to attract national advertising money.




BRMB
                        1984 to 1988



Renaming BRMB as Free Radio Birmingham a 'sad day' says ex-station chief

From The Birmingham Post Newspaper:

Tuesday 10th January 2012 - By Graham Young


Mike Owen of Mike Owen MediaThe former controller of BRMB has described the renaming of the radio station to Free Radio Birmingham as a "sad day".

The rebrand, which will take place in March, was announced on Monday by station owner Phil Riley, who insisted the line-up of shows and presenters would remain the same and staff would not be facing job cuts. BRMB was launched in Birmingham in 1974. It's former programme controller and operations director Mike Owen said:  "It is a very sad day to lose the name of a radio station that was an important part of the radio story in the UK.
 
"BRMB was the first commercial radio station in England outside London, and has been at the forefront of so many programme innovations over the years that we now take for granted. "The name itself, simply a series of letters, was unique in this country for many years. "BRMB had the first open sports forums in UK radio history, hosted by Tony Butler. It developed the phone-in format and made it wildly popular.

"It premiered other innovative content including 24-hour crime watch, 24-hour accident watch and the first sex education series on commercial radio." "The station’s audience reached over 50% of the listening population who were with the station for a massive 15.6 hours a week. "The strive to maintain the station’s image led to many high profile programming events – the most famous of which was the marriage of two Birmingham people who did not meet until they walked down the aisle in Two Strangers and a Wedding.

"The radio and media market has changed significantly since 1974 and BRMB has undergone many changes during this time. "However essential the business issues are for the owners, it is sad to see a famous name disappear." But Mr Riley said promoting Orion Media's stations across the region was difficult because they all carry individual names.

He insisted: “It'll be the same people, the same shows and the same sound." “It took us some time to get our heads around the enormity of losing that heritage but we’re doing it for the right reasons. “We’re going to give our stations a common name so we can promote them effectively.”

Sister station Mercia is also be re-branded to be called Free Radio Coventry and Warwickshire, while Beacon is to be renamed Free Radio Shropshire & Black Country.




BRMB
                        logo 1988 to 1991



Birmingham radio station BRMB to be renamed Free Radio Birmingham

From The Birmingham Post Newspaper:
Jan 10th 2012 - By Matt Lloyd


Phil Riley of Orion MediaA part of Birmingham’s history is set to vanish following a re-brand of city radio station BRMB after nearly 38 years.

In a move designed to take the station in a new direction it will be re-named Free Radio Birmingham from March, waving goodbye to the iconic name it has carried since its launch in 1974.
 
The change was announced to staff today by station owner Phil Riley who insisted the line-up of shows and presenters would remain the same and staff would not be facing job cuts. “It'll be the same people, the same shows and the same sound,” he said.

“It took us some time to get our heads around the enormity of losing that heritage but we’re doing it for the right reasons. “The reasons are to be a bigger, better collection of local radio stations. People are excited about the prospect and what we’re not doing is axing loads of jobs or closing something down.

“We’re going to give our stations a common name so we can promote them effectively.” Sister station Mercia is also be re-branded to be called Free Radio Coventry and Warwickshire, while Beacon is to be renamed Free Radio Shropshire & Black Country.

Mr Riley said promoting Orion Media's stations across the region was difficult because they all carry individual names. He added: “I started at BRMB on September 1, 1980. I know many people are fondly attached to the name but none more than I am. Even I recognise we have to move on.”

Mr Riley also insisted the station would continue to play its part in Birmingham’s community. He said: “I can guarantee your readers we will be a big part of the city going forward. We wouldn’t want anyone to think we’re abandoning Birmingham.

“The brand is loved and cherished but all things must pass, the time has come to move on.” Since it first began broadcasting from Radio House, Aston, in 1974, BRMB has become a piece of Birmingham’s fabric hosting the BRMB Walkathon and sponsoring last year’s Great Birmingham Run, the former half marathon.

In 1998 it moved to new headquarters in the heart of the city at Brindleyplace.

Among the first presenters on the station was Ed Doolan who later went on to host his long running lunchtime talk show on BBC Radio WM.




BRMB
                        logo 1991 to 1996


Ed Doolan labels BRMB name change as backwards step or publicity stunt

From The Birmingham Post Newspaper:
Wednesday 11th January 2012 - by Matt Lloyd


Broadcaster Ed Doolan of BBC Radio WMBirmingham broadcasting veteran Ed Doolan, one of the first presenters on BRMB, has spoken of his surprise at the radio station’s change of name. Orion Media has announced that BRMB will become Free Radio Birmingham as part of a marketing drive in spring.

However Ed Doolan, one of the presenters at the station when it launched in 1974, said the decision seemed like a step backwards.
He said: “It just seems we’re going back to the 1970s. We had Radio Birmingham and now we have Free Radio Birmingham.

“I am surprised they’ve done this because BRMB is a much respected brand. They’ve done some excellent projects over the years that have always been attached to that name. “At the end of the day though, whatever they call it, it is what they sound like, what comes out of the loud speakers that matters. “If what comes out is good, innovative and exciting, it doesn’t matter.”

However Ed, who spent decades on the airwaves with BRMB and later BBC WM, said the whole move could be a publicity stunt.

He said: “This could well be another stunt, get everyone talking about it, let it rumble on then eventually say the public have decided and they are going to hold on to BRMB.” Following the announcement of the name change on Monday, which Orion say will help co-ordinate marketing of their four regional stations, listeners flooded social networking sites with complaints over the change.




BRMB
                        - Capital Radio style logo from 1997 to 2001


Birmingham Post Vote:

Was the BRMB name change a good idea?
Yes = 8.3%
No = 91.7%

[results at 6th April 2012]



Capital's BRMB logo 2001 to 2007

The end of BRMB

From Mike Owen Media
March 26th 2012 - by Mike Owen


Mike Owen of Mike Owen MediaWe are on the verge of the demise of the original names of BRMB and the other stations in the Orion network, to be replaced by the creation of Free Radio!

It is not difficult to see what difference it is likely to make to the output as 75% of the programming between the various stations in the network is already shared. It is possible to predict the demise of the last 25% of focused local output as it would make logical, commercial sense.

In Graham Young’s article in the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail it is obvious that commercial imperatives have lead to the demise of some of the earliest station names in UK commercial radio history. According to boss Phil Riley: ‘Free (Radio) is designed to protect  revenues by making it easier for national advertising buyers to respond to a brand that can now be marketed right across the Central West TV region.’

Phil admits to being nervous about the ‘transfer’ period. Obviously the worse case scenario would be poor awareness, declining revenues and audiences. If it works then the opposite will be true and Phil can sleep easily – or in his words ‘I’ll be thought of as the butcher of Birmingham!’



GCap's BRMB logo 2007 to 2010



Phil Riley takes a leap of faith by losing the BRMB brand

From The Birmingham Post Newspaper:
March 23rd 2012 - By Graham Young

Phil Riley, Chief Executive of Orion
                          Media
Phil Riley, Chief Executive of Orion Media

Orion Media chief executive Phil Riley tells Graham Young why he's sacrificing the most famous name in commercial local radio.

After 38 years and one month on air, the BRMB name will be gently phased out from the airwaves next week. Despite boss Phil Riley’s former allegiances to the station’s main commercial rivals further up Broad Street, the surprise move should not be interpreted as ‘a Heart transplant’. It is simply rebranding and moving with the times in a bid to become competitive again.

And that, according to Riley, means joining a market place which increasingly demands that local commercial radio should have regional, if not national, advertising clout.

With former long-standing rivals turned sister stations Wyvern, Beacon and Mercia also under Riley’s three-year-old Orion Media umbrella – a name that few people outside of the industry are familiar with – he concluded that BRMB was literally caught between a rock and a hard place.

If, as he believed, it was no longer possible to sustain the individual names associated with bases in Worcester, Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Coventry respectively, then something had to give. In the end, the Orion chief executive has gambled his own future on creating a one-size-fits-all brand to match the likes of Smooth, Heart, Galaxy and Capital.

The new name in town, or rather right across the West Midlands and beyond, is Free. In losing a name that is as universally familiar in Birmingham as BRMB, the move is akin to Apple suddenly becoming, say, Tree Fruit. Or Coca-Cola perhaps turning itself into something like Dizzy4Fizzy. Unthinkable.

But Phil, a former BRMB DJ himself in the early ‘80s, is unrepentant. And, what’s more, he’s ready to risk falling on his own sword in order to let a new leaping frog logo prove his intuition right. The name Free was one of eight shortlisted via a process of ‘research, liking them and legalities’. Four were ditched because they would have frazzled too many expensive lawyers’ brains. Free was, amazingly enough, free. As in available.

Once the name had been approved, a creative agency spawned the amphibious logo at a business pitch. Riley admits he was the first at the presentation table to admit ‘I quite like that’. When other colleagues leaped to his side the frog got the gig, even though a persistent ‘frog in the throat’ is every DJ’s worst nightmare!

The original choice of new logo – a bird against a pink background – was then dropped in favour of the frog and the spring freshness of the colour green. Looking totally relaxed in his remarkably sparse, traffic-noisy office overlooking Broad Street, Riley recognises that “change for the sake of it is not good. “But you do have to respond to your environment.” Interesting words, given that frogs are particularly adept at such skills.

“We could have done it (changed the name) within a minute of walking in (as Orion Media in June 2009),” he adds. “But we didn’t. We thought we’d have a shot of fixing things... now the external environment has changed and we have to respect that.” BRMB’s rivals have already consolidated under brand names.

So now Orion is making its own Global to Capital-style move. “That’s a big network... and we’re becoming another one,” he explains. The move to a universal name like Free is designed to protect revenues by making it easier for national advertising buyers to respond to a brand that can now be marketed right across the Central West TV region.

These are business reasons, though, nothing to do with listeners. So where do they come in? “We’ve almost got more lapsed listeners than we have listeners,” Riley confesses, before explaining that research showed how difficult it could be to win them back without making a radical change. “There’s a bunch of people who should be listening to us who have a perception about the name BRMB.”

Riley also points out that what people also probably don’t appreciate is that his four stations already have 75 per cent shared content... “Yet (afternoon presenter) Dan Morrissey can’t name the station he’s on,” he says. “It’s crazy.”

In Riley’s view, the daily geographical migration of many potential listeners means the localness of a service is perhaps not as relevant as it once was. “At BRMB we have employees who live everywhere from Shropshire to Worcestershire,” he explains. “People can live in one area, commute to another and have family in a third bit. “It doesn’t feel like we’re sacrificing and throwing out this heritage. “We are not going to lose that sense of belonging to this area.”

BRMB pioneered the art of the phone-in through legends like Ed Doolan and Tony Butler, while Les Ross commanded breakfasts for 25 years (including his 1989-93 stint on the then new sister-service XTRA-am, which was the first station Phil launched himself in the late ‘80s after he’d returned from earning an MBA in New York).

It also became synonymous with community events like the Walkathon. This year each Orion station will have its own charity event, with BRMB/Free’s Outer Circle bus route walk returning on Sunday, May 13 to build on the legacy of the late but inspirational fundraising schoolboy Harry Moseley. “Entries were soon up 60 per cent on last year,” says Riley with great pride.

“We thought: ‘How are we going to get all of these people out?’.” Riley says the Harry link can only be truly valid for one year, but is glad to have respected the wishes of a boy who’d said: ‘Next year I want the Walkathon to be for me’.

Moving the station forward will, of course, require new jingles. Like clothes, it’s remarkable how they date. “They will be subtly different to the old ones,” says Riley. “Even the ones that are ten years old only sound OK... I wouldn’t want to put them back on the air.”

As well as having an all-new website, he acknowledges that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are also important, with up to 30 per cent of the current audience likely to communicate over the course of each month.

Free’s music policy will be to strive for the middle ground between the older Heart and the younger Capital listeners, with U2 / Oasis being about as progressive as it will get ‘within the context of a mainstream audience’.

So will the music policy be focused – or safe? “More focused I think, because every time you play something ‘risky’, somebody will switch it off if they don’t like it,” says Riley. “You can’t afford to play too many songs that people don’t like... what’s on my iPod doesn’t sound like any station!”

Football will leave FM to go on to Orion’s AM service.That’s because women in general don’t want football on BRMB /Free, while the men’s audience is fragmented according to whether they are actually at the game or if their own team is playing. “Whether a game is on AM or DAB, people will find it,” says Riley, who originally came to BRMB in 1980 courtesy of a graduate training scheme.

Manchester-born and an imposing 6ft 5in tall, he found himself working on outside broadcasts and ‘editing bits of tape’. But getting his hands dirty at everything paid dividends after he’d been put on to the overnight shifts as a DJ. One day he had 15-minutes’ notice that he’d be doing the drivetime show after a colleague ended up at the dentists. “I didn’t have time to panic, I played the songs in the right order and managed to get through that without taking us off the air or making a complete fool of myself,” he laughs.

“Interviewing Oscar-winning actors and big music stars was a fantastic experience, part of the chance to do lots of different things that you had 30 years ago.” “And, working alongside Les Ross, Butler, Doolan and Robin Valk were halcyon days.

Yet Riley was also intelligent enough to know that he wasn’t one of them. Not in the true sense of what it takes to be a great broadcaster. “People who are any good in front of a camera or microphone aren’t like us normal folk,” admits the electrician’s son. “In day to day life they are slightly different... and I’m trying to be very diplomatic here. “I was a bit too sane to be as good as guys like Ed and Les.

“I am not gifted in the way that they are gifted. “So I came off frontline presenting to be more of a producer.” As well as inheriting his mother’s clerical skills for being organised, the ambitious Riley had another realisation...

“That as one of half a dozen people in the management team, it would take forever to get to the top. “I had a friend at IMI, a chemical engineer, who went off to do an MBA in London. “I really wanted to go to the US and thought I would be a ‘master of the universe’ with a job on Wall Street. “But I ended up loving radio in the States... and had to come back here to try to make it just as exciting. “I was always looking for the next thing to do, not to be the MD or chief executive, but in order to do bigger things and get more involved you have to be the boss. “And being the boss is what I think I do best. “I feel very comfortable in the role, having great people and letting them go on air to deliver.”

Even though he prefers the big picture to details, life at the top, though, surely means having to worry about legal matters and bureaucracy? “Nothing fills me with dread more than going through legal documentation,” sighs Riley. “But I do have a good finance director! “Commercial lawyers work flipping hard. I tell my kids ‘Never be a lawyer’, though it would be fun to be a barrister if you were that way inclined.”

His children are all now teenagers – there’s Alex, 18, Jessica, 17, and Mark, 14. Wife Jean, a former BRMB marketing manager, is a full-time mother who looks after the needs of Riley and their children of whom he says: “They don’t care about radio or my job – and they keep me extremely grounded.”

Having previously run Heart’s then parent company Chrysalis and led the consortium of investors which bought BRMB for an undisclosed sum – think anywhere from £20 million to £40 million – one assumes Riley is worth a bob or two himself. But not so much that he can afford Free to be anything other than a proper job.

As much as he still loves radio, at the age of 52 he still can’t afford to be in it for pure fun. “We’re a commercial business,” stresses the man with 125 staff and 50 freelancers relying on his judgement. “We are here to make money and deliver a return for our backers. “That’s the challenge. We are not the BBC!

“I am absolutely confident we have done the right thing for the business and that it will work out for us. “But I am terribly nervous about what’s going to happen in the transfer period. “I would be mad not to be making as big a change as this. “If I can do it I will sleep easy, or I’ll be thought of as the ‘butcher of Birmingham!’




Orion's BRMB logo 2010 to 2012



Radio: After 38 years, the name BRMB will be faded away next week

From The Birmingham Mail
26th March 2012 - by Graham Young

BRMB will slip into the history books this week when the most famous name in commercial local radio is gently removed from the airwaves – 38 years after launching on February 19, 1974.

Along with former rivals turned sister stations Wyvern, Mercia and Beacon, the station will be introduced as Free Radio next week. New jingles will be played and mentions of BRMB will trickle away during the week. But Orion Media chief executive Phil Riley – a Mancunian who became a BRMB DJ in the early 80s – has admitted he is ‘terribly nervous’ about the decision.

“We’re here to deliver a return for our backers,” said Riley, who has sanctioned a leaping frog as the company’s new logo. “I am absolutely confident we have done the right thing for the business and that it will work.”

But, with 125 staff and 50 freelancers relying on his judgement, the 52-year-old father-of-three added: “I am terribly nervous about what’s going to happen in the transfer period. “I would be mad not to be making as big a change as this.

“If I can do it I will sleep easy, or I’ll be thought of as the ‘butcher of Birmingham!’.” After taking over BRMB three years ago, the former Chrysalis boss said he had been left with no choice but to change all four station names in the battle for a share of the ratings alongside major consolidated brands like Heart, Smooth, Galaxy and Capital.

Having the universal brand name Free Radio would mean being able to buy television advertising across the Central West TV region.




Freeradio Birmingham - 2012 logo



The Re brand - Does it matter?


BRMB pioneer Robin Valk comments in The Birmingham Post
April 6th 2012  -  by Garham Young

Extract:

BRMB once had Valk and rock colleague John Slater – now organising tours for the likes of The Royal Ballet for whom ‘he’s unbelievably good at what he does’.

They would sift for the golden nuggets and be eager to give people a chance, but today there isn’t a major commercial player in town with even one of their ilk.

Visit Valk’s weekly blog at www.radiotogo.blogspot.co.uk and it’s fascinating to read his thoughts on BRMB’s rebranding.

‘Does it matter?’ he writes.

‘Probably not. Does the fact that it probably doesn’t matter… matter? Yes, I think it does.

‘Once stations started the inevitable move towards becoming corporate and branded (their) rough edges were systematically filed away and smoothed down. ‘Sadly, along with that smoothing went a whole lot of relevant content.

‘But the big problem today’s commercial operations face is that there is always something bigger, flashier, and better promoted that’s going to park its tanks on your lawns.  ‘For BRMB/Free, that’s Capital and Heart’.

The blog features some stark listening figure graphs. True, each new station makes everyone’s slice of the commercial pie smaller. But no matter how many (expensive) changes the sector makes, he notes how the BBC remains relatively constant.

At least Orion has steadied the BRMB/Free ship after the station’s previous – turned rival – owners let it slide. Valk cleverly speculates about whether this was arguably in their interests to do if they knew they were not going to be running BRMB for the long term.

Orion’s chief executive made the brave decision to change the name to Free and Valk says of his former boss at BRMB’s old sister station XTRA-am that: “I’ve got huge respect for Phil Riley. “I think he’s a terrific businessman and he had to do something because of the state of radio today.”

Every time Valk talks in specifics, he wonders if he’ll shoot himself in the foot with regard to potential future employment. But, listening to his arguments, you get the impression that only those who ignore his inherent understanding of radio will miss out if they don’t listen. At 62, he bears the confidence of a man with nothing to lose. And he’s determined to stay local ready to offer help to anyone who wants it.

“I love Birmingham,” he says. “And I love most of the work I do. “It’s a brilliant city to run an international company like mine from. The airport is much easier to get in and out of than Heathrow.” Valk also adores his live music, often travelling to Moseley and Kings Heath from his home on the north side of the city to experience it first hand. “I’d rather spend £10 to be close up than spend £75 watching a corporate act from half-a-mile away,” he smiles. The name of Madonna – and her £175 tickets for the NIA this summer – doesn’t even pass his lips.

Read the full article at http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/postfeatures

In his blog, Robin Valk observes:

(extract) "BRMB was an eccentric and very local operation which had its moments. Those moments may have been accidental, infuriating to some, and pure radio gold to others, but moments there were. It was a rough-edged station with oddball mixes of programming, built out of old-school ex-BBC and British Forces thinking, with passionate specialist DJs pinballing around in off-peak hours. A lot of stations operated the same way. Weird specialist programmes at night. Lots of local content. Local music."

Robin continues: (extract)   "....to today’s sharp-eared radio executive, that sort of operation was ripe for polishing and slicking up. And there’s no question, BRMB sounds really polished and smooth compared to some of the more eccentric personality-led programming of its heyday. The music is researched to the nth degree, there’s not a nanosecond of dead air, not a single commercial opportunity is missed. There's no rough edges." ".....If you get too smooth and polished, things tend to slip past you. Rough edges are there for a reason. It’s like grit in an oyster."

Robin Valk further observes: (extract)  "Once stations started the inevitable move towards becoming corporate and branded, those rough edges were systematically filed away and smoothed down. Sadly, along with that smoothing went a whole lot of relevant content. But the big problem today’s commercial operations face is that there is always something bigger, flashier, and better promoted that’s going to park its tanks on your lawns. For BRMB/Free, that’s Capital and Heart."  "Ironically, the self-indulgent, wobbly, ego-driven and inconsistent station that BRMB used to be – of which I was a part – pulled in listening figures that the current operation would kill for." "I wish the team at Free all the success in the world. I really do. They’re going to need it, in a brutally competitive environment. At least they're broadcasting from the area they're meant to serve. I know this has been said before… but in the search for a USP to make their station stand out, I wonder, just wonder, if ticking a few old-style radio boxes might be worth a try?"






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BRMB RADIO - THE AUDIO FILES     BRMB
                                  Audio MP3 Files     Visit the BRMB Audio Page here >




We hope that these pages have brought back some great memories of some really wonderful programmes that would have been heard on the Second City's only Independent Radio station in the 1970's and 1980's - BRMB : 261 meters (1152 kilohertz) medium wave and 94.8 VHF / FM stereo

Sadly, it seems, the big corporate groups that acquired many stations in the 1990's, such as BRMB, systematically dumped the archives and jingles without giving a care about their history or heritage. The material presented on these pages is just a tiny fraction of that heritage. We hope that former employees and presenters at BRMB, its sister stations and other stations that now no longer exist, will have saved a good deal more material for the archives.


FREE RADIO

Although I still find it very sad to reflect on the BRMB era which has now passed, and have been very critical of many modern day "ILR" stations (Capital, Heart etc), I will freely  admit to listening to BRMB's replacement, Free Radio, more and more often in recent months (2014). First this was to Free Radio 80's on AM (which is more my era of music), but this has led on to listening far more frequently to Free Radio's main FM service too!

While not a replacement for the all encompassing BRMB Radio of yesteryear, I think that Free Radio has formulated a very good style of output for a modern day "ILR" radio station. Heart is too bland and repetitive. Capital is - well - far too noisy, shouty and tuneless. Free radio has (for me) a nice balance of slighter older tracks blended with a more tuneful selection of current material.

I have to say 'Well done' to Free Radio - and my teeth are not too tightly clenched either!

I still quietly long for the old BRMB, and for that matter the old Beacon and Mercia. But that will never happen again, I know. 


BRMB Radio Car Sticker

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The Main BRMB Page

BRMB AUDIO   |   BRMB SCHEDULES   |   BRMB PRESENTERS   |   PHIL HOLDEN   |   LES ROSS

  JOHN RUSSELL's INSIDE STORY   |   More BRMB Archives   |   Radio Acocks Green - 261 and a bit

BRMB in the IBA's year book "Television and Radio" 1976 to 1987

40th Anniversary of Commercial Radio in Birmingham - 19th February 2014



The MERCIA SOUND Pages

AIRWAVES        RADIO, STATIONS & MEMORABILIA

External link to the excellent -
BEACON RADIO MEMORIES  -  http://www.beacon-radio-memories.co.uk

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Free Radio, Midlands


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