BUZZ FM announced its impending arrival in 1989, it was to be the new
name in town - the fourth radio station based in Birmingham - to
complement BRMB FM, Radio WM and XTRA-AM.
Unlike the IBA's ugly duckling description - "incremental station" -
the name is short and sweet and loaded with potential puns.
there was one pun its directors didn't want you to think of, and that
was BUZZ-off - one reason why it would operate round the clock.
The, on-air target date was January, 1990, but the top priority was for
the Department of Trade and Industry to approve a site. Two were under
consideration and both "within a mile of New Street" in a bid to become
the city's most physically accessible radio station.
BUZZ FM would recruit about 20 staff from October 1989 - including
presenters, engineers and sales staff.
right: Director - Dennis Howell; Managing
Chairman - Zia Mohyeddin; Music Director - John
Director - Dame Jill Knight
The seeds for BUZZ FM were first sown in 1971 when music director John
Henry and managing director Lindsay Reid met at BBC Radio
Birmingham*. They both thought local radio could be
After months spent quietly doing their' homework, in the event of
Birmingham being offered a new station, the dream finally began turning
to reality in April 1989 when they were able to formally apply.
[* John Henry joined BBC Radio Birmingham when the station opened in
1970 to present the Ross and Henry show on Saturday mornings
Les Ross. John went on to work for the new Birmingham
station, BRMB, is 1974 as commercial and jingle producer for six months
before joining Radio City to present a very successful six day per week
music programme from 7pm to 10pm. After this John went on to
Hawkins and Henry's wine bar. It was the connection with
that led into the formation of Buzz FM.]
'We didn't. want to spend our time flag-waving'," said John. "The
station is to serve the people of Birmingham. It is all very
exciting - radio is beginning to change. Everybody would have liked it
to have happened ten years ago, but maybe it wasn't the right
Lindsay said one reason for BUZZ FM's success in being offered the
licence was that it was the only applicant of the 15 to commission
extensive market research - NOP surveyed 1,000 people on their
behalf. We asked people what they would want more of and less
and everything we said in our application was backed up by figures." he
Buzz FM cost £500,000 to set up and would serve 650,000
its prime service area of central Birmingham, but Lindsay estimated
that 1.1 to 1.2 million will be able to tune in, even though the
centrally located transmitter would be very weak.
Forecasts suggested that just under ten per cent of that 650,000
population needed to tune in regularly for the station to break even,
but Lindsay believed 20 per cent would be listening at least once a
week by the end of the first year creating a healthy safety net.
"The common core is Birmingham; Birmingham, Birmingham, Birmingham," he
added. "If you live in Birmingham this is the station for you because
it is all about Birmingham!
"Birmingham people are not interested in Redditch and vice versa.
People want to know more about what is going on in their own area."
Researcher and presenter Pogus Caeser said: "The music will become
familiar. The charts are dominated by black music, but that is not
reflected by the type of music we hear at the moment. We want to give
music respect." BUZZ FM was hoping to tap the "disgruntled
market" - people who currently drive along listening to cassettes in
preference to the radio.
The station could have up to nine minutes of advertising per hour, but
the average will probably be around half that. Lindsay said
general advertising rates would be about a quarter of the BRMB rate, to
reflect the smaller audience.
A High Street shop could have expected to pay around £5 for a
second prime-time evening slot, though to justify the £40-50
production cost, Lindsay said it would have to be broadcast several
THE BUZZ FM PRE-LAUNCH PROMISES and STATION FACTS
BUZZ FM's own remit was to provide a sophisticated music-based service,
serving and informing a unified audience of multi-ethnic adults by day,
providing specific programmes of special interest each
evening and to accurately reflect urban contemporary life and actively
foster social in volvement, co-operation and harmony.
BUZZ FM promised to play easy soul, contemporary jazz, reggae, calypso
and classical music using an integrate not segregate policy.
There would be magazine programmes for local interests.
RADA trained BUZZ FM chairman Zia Mohyeddin was the first Asian to have
his name up in lights in London's West End.
In 1973 John Henry produced the first Asian speaking programme in
Birmingham. He trains two parrots in his spare time.
Director Dame Jill Knight MP began her career broadcasting and
songwriting for the British Forces Network, in Hamburg.
Directors would not be paid in the first year.
Among the 64 groups offering support were the Alcohol Advisory
Service, Birmingham Dogs Home, Pensioners Voice and the Midlands
The budget for five full time presenters was £67,000; for
presenters £30,000 and for two full time researchers,
Lusaka-born presenter Kenny Rhodes once worked briefly for a pirate
station in Birmingham.
Two other presenters were currently working full-time for existing
local radio stations.
BUZZ FM wants ethnic groups to produce programmes with a wider than
ethnic appeal to help build a cosmopolitan audience.
The BBC World Service has been approached for magazine features.
BUZZ FM - THE LAUNCH
BUZZ FM launched on 14th May 1990 on 102.4 FM, and Breakfast Show
presenter Mark Williams welcomed listeners to Buzz FM, the new 24-hour
music, news and community station for Birmingham's wide and varied
Nick Jay on Buzz On - The Breakfast Show
Mark's brief was to play fresh music without relying on the Top 40 to
reflect the flavour of a station based in the city's Jewellery
Quarter. Musical director John Henry said Buzz FM would be
catering particularly for young people, who he described as the "future
of Birmingham.". First of all I want to make it clear we are
Birmingham station. We are not catering for the West Midlands
conurbation. And we are trying to lift the image of the city.
are not talking about what Birmingham is - but what it will
He hoped Buzz FM would become radio for the 1990s with emphasis on
Birmingham's role as a city of the 90s. Minority music
often ignored by national radio, would be given airtime on the new
Jazz fans will be able to hear six hours uninterrupted music seven
nights a week, without presenters. State-of-the-art equipment
the new radio station meant the music could be played non-stop without
someone being there to cue the CDs. Asian music would be
for an hour a night with Birmingham's Asian population being asked to
choose what they want to hear.
Mr Henry said: "We are serving a cosmopolitan population. We plan to
blend cultural styles." Presenters on the station included
pirate radio host Mikey B and Lady Buzz, alias Nicky Jay.
Canadian breakfast host Mark Williams was poached from a radio station
in Vancouver. Former BRMB journalist Howard Bennett was in
of the station's hourly news output, with the emphasis on Birmingham
The Birmingham Post and Evening Mail]
BUZZ FM - PROGRAMMES
am - BUZZ ON: The Big City Radio Breakfast Show with Mark Williams and
the Buzz Morning Team. It's a lively morning magazine with pacey music
reflecting local tastes rather then Top 40 fodder. There's
International and local news every hour, with traffic and travel
updates, and the promotion of the day's events In Brum.
10.00 am - BUZZ TRACKS: A two-hour selection of music ranging through a
broad spectrum of styles not catered for by other radio stations.
12 Noon - GOOD DAY: The lunchtime update with DJ Mikey B
local and topical stories, news & consumer information, local
events, gossip and guests.
3.00pm - BUZZ TRACKS: Same format as 10.00am.
4.00pm - BUZZ CRUISE: Richie Rollins hosts the drive home show with
rush-hour music and reviews of theater, films, TV and radio. City
events are previewed, and there's hourly news, traffic reports and city
7.00pm - BUZZ PARTY: Local hero Freaky D offers Hip Hop, House, Reggae,
Balearic, Garage, Ragamuffin, Lover& Rock, Disco Mix
Imports and 'Hot Black Music News'.
9.00pm - EASTERN BUZZ: Presenters Assis and Daidi offer news and info
primarily for Asians. The show will be presented in Punjabi Urdu,
Gujarati, Hindi, and English. Buzz bosses see the show as the
authoritative ethnic platform for the City.
10.00pm - BUZZ CITY: Alan Gooden looks at late night Brum with live
outside broadcasts from city venues and the Buzz Bar welcoming start
who have performed In Birmingham during the Many special slots for
other ethnic groups such as the Irish and Greek communities
1.00 am - BUZZ JAZZ. Contemporary jazz and soul without
interruption from presenters.
THE BUZZ FM TRANSMITTER
allocated the new
incremental Birmingham licence holder, BUZZ FM, a very feeble
transmitter on a frequency that could suffer from some interference in
The transmitter was located on the roof of Metropolitan House, a tall
office block at Five Ways in Edgbaston. The power allocated
meager 40 Watts using a simple vertical dipole type aerial
arrangement. This did not compare well with the 10,000 Watts
more used by BRMB and BBC Radio WM.
The frequency chosen by the IBA was 102.4 MHz which, due to the low
transmitter power, could suffer from interference from other local
stations, such as Severn Sound in Gloucestershire, at the
fringes. Portable and car radio listening could get rather
'scratchy' sometimes. With a good directional external FM
Buzz could be heard outside Birmingham in parts of Warwickshire,
produced by the
RadioMobile plotting program which estimates
the area of
good or acceptable reception in green. The
yellow area is
where reception should be possible, but may
It is interesting to note that when a new licensee took over from Buzz
FM on January 1st 1995 (Choice FM) that the authorities specified a new
frequency of 102.2 MHz and a
much higher power output of 500 Watts, later increased to 1000 Watts in
2004 (which was after the licence had been sold on to Galaxy 102.2). .
was a station that seemed beset with problems. Within a year
station was in big trouble, missing audience and revenue targets and
losing money. David Maker, well known for his work
west ILR station Red Rose Radio and later as an Independent Radio
industry's 'Mr Fixit' was brought in to try to put the station back on
its feet and cure it of "incrementalitis". Lindsay Reid was
with the station as Technical Director while Dave Higgins was then Head
Of Music and Peter Salt was sales and marketing Director.
By 1992 David Maker had gone and in February the station had been sold to the Radio
Clyde Group, Tony Ingham was station Manager with Bob Williams as Head
Of Sales, news man Howard Bennett was to leave the station.
After investing around one million pounds into the station Radio Clyde
obviously could not make a go of things at Buzz either, the
station was still losing hundreds of thousands of pounds, and so at the
end of 1992 the station was
once again sold on, this time to Chris Carey in December for one pound.
Chris Carey was known for his previous work in the offshore ("pirate")
Under Chris Carey Lindsay Reid was Chief Engineer, Alistar Cochrane was
Head Of Sales and Head Of News and Features was Sybil Fennell - well
known for her longstanding work with London news station LBC and by the
middle of 1993 the financial losses were under control and Buzz FM
started to go into profit. At this time
sounded like a very slick, commercial and vibrant station in a radio
market that was becoming increasingly competitive. Big names Brendan
Kearney and Graham Torrington from the long
Birmingham ILR station BRMB, joined the Buzz FM presentation team.
Graham Torrington arriving
the summer of 1993, bringing with him the old BRMB programme Romantica
- a late night programme of love songs.
At this time Chris Carey put in Buzz FM's application to
the Radio Authority for the new West Midlands Regional radio licence
which would have given Buzz FM a very much wider transmission area with
an 11,000 watt transmitter - compared with Buzz FM's 40 watt
transmitter. [ref 1]
However in October 1993 The Radio Authority announced that the
successful applicant for the regional licence was to be 100.7 Heart FM
owned by the record company Chrysalis and whose bid was put together by
former BRMB boss Phil Riley. As this bad news is given to Buzz FM their
own broadcasting licence had to be re-advertised by the Radio
Authority, since it was due to expire at the end of 1994. Chris
Carey, having now failed to win the new West Midlands licence, put Buzz
FM up for sale, even though it's own licence has not been renewed for
broadcasting after 31st December 1994 and no announcement due from the
Radio Authority until February 1994.
By November 1993 Carey appeared to have lost patience and suddenly
closed the station down and stripped out its studio equipment. [ref 1] However
within two weeks Buzz FM had passed into
hands of record producer Muff Murfin who got Buzz back on the
air at 10.24 on the morning of November 25th. Mr Murfin was
Chairman and Managing Director, Ginny
was Station Manager, Graham Torrington was made Programme Controller
and Head of Sales was Janet Stevens.
Sadly in early 1994 the
Authority dealt Muff Murfin a blow though, and did not renew the
station's licence to broadcast to Birmingham. Despite this Buzz FM
bravely continued broadcasting to the very end. The last
came at midnight on 31st December 1994 after a day of tributes to the
past five years of broadcasting. The final record played up
midnight was 'End Of The Road' by Boyz II Men. At midnight
engineers at the top of Metropolitan took the Buzz FM transmitter off
the air and 102.4 went blank
for a few seconds. A few moments later the new licencee,
Birmingham, switched on their new, more powerful transmitter and went on
the air on 102.2 MHz VHF / FM stereo. That was indeed the end
the road for Buzz FM. Choice FM itself has now disappeared when it was
taken over by 102.2 Galaxy Birmingham which subsequently became Capital
FM in 2011.
Some of the
names heard on
Buzz over the years:
Mark Williams - Nicky Jay -
- Graham Torrington - Freaky D - Martin Jeans -
- Chad George - Simon Harding - Charlie Neil - Charlie Jordan - Mikey B
- Alan Gooden -
Nic Tuff - Alan Cale - Bob Lawrence - Sybill Fennell - Richie
Daidi - Assis
(John) Murfin is a music writer (he wrote the Gladiators theme and
numerous radio jingles packages), music producer and
He was a founder member of the team that launched Radio Wyvern in 1982
and acted as a consultant to Radio Wyvern for several years.
took on Buzz FM in 1993 and ran the station until the end of its
licence in December 1994. He then bought Radio Harmony in
in 1995 and relaunched the station as KIX 96, turning it into
successful station working as part of the community, education and
charity work. He was also was founder shareholder and
FM 102 The Bear in Stratford upon Avon, which launched in 1996, and ran
this highly popular station in a prudent and profitable
In 1997 Sunshine Radio (Ludlow) requested Muff to become director and
majority shareholder, he arranged a re-financing of the station,
designed new studios for the station and moved the operation into new
premises. In 1997 the friendly society (a cooperative) that
Radio Maldwyn in Wales asked Muff to turn that station into a limited
company, re-finance and re-launch. Radio Malwyn is a small
community style station, but produces all programmes locally and is
profitable. In 1998 Muff became a director and founding
shareholder of Mansfield 103.2 and concentrated on locally produced
programmes. In 1999 he bought Classic Gold Radio in Hereford
Worcester from GWR moved to new studios in Worcester re-naming the
station Classic Hits and becoming director. When Sunshine Radio launched
an FM service to Hereford and Monmouthshire in 2007 the Hereford
transmitter on 954kHz medium wave had to be closed down shortly
afterwards. Some years later Classic Hits in Worcester (1530 kHz) was
forced off the air due to irregularities with licence transfers.
Buzz FM launch and loss of licence covered on ITV Central News
John Henry is moving back into radio with the opening of a new BUZZ FM
station on The Canaries. The new Buzz FM will be a brand new
style of music radio station, not constrained in the way that today's UK
commercial radio (ILR) is by a playlist of a handful of records played
over and over again.