BRMB RADIO - Birmingham | MERCIA SOUND - Coventry | IBA Year Books
AIRWAVES RADIO, STATIONS & MEMORABILIA
Beacon Radio 303 launched a bright new sound to listeners in the West Midlands on 12th April 1976.
When the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) advertised the franchise for an Independent Local Radio (ILR) station for Wolverhampton and The Black Country in 1974, unusually, there was only one applicant by the closing date of December 1974; Beacon Broadcasting Ltd. Because the IBA was keen that there should be an ILR station in the area, the franchise was awarded to Beacon Broadcasting despite reservations about the financial structure and ownership of the company.
Once Beacon Broadcasting Ltd was awarded the franchise it appointed an American, Jay Oliver, as its Chief Executive. He had spent most of his career in newspapers, television and radio and left his post as Sales Promotion Manager at Belfast Telegraph Newspapers to join the Wolverhampton station. At the Belfast Telegraph he had been responsible for the development of their interests in commercial radio, forming Community Radio Services Limited which made a successful application for the Belfast ILR franchise, launching as Downtown Radio in 1976.
Oliver set about raising capital for the new station, however an initial public offer of 349,000 £1.00 shares in early 1975 failed to attract sufficient subscriptions. Therefore it was decided to raise the capital through a private share offer. The capital raised would be lower, so the plans for the new station would have to be scaled back. Rather than basing the station, as initially planned, at Burntree House, a deluxe office block near Dudley, the station would find lower cost premises; Austin Mini cars would be used rather than the more expensive Ford Escort cars that were originally envisaged and the planned number of staff would also be reduced from 46 to 39.
Later in 1975 the station acquired 267 Tettenhall Road Wolverhampton, a large house and former orphanage built in 1901, for £18,000. The Programme Controller was to be Scotts Canadian Allan McKenzie.
It was announced that the new station would be known on air as Beacon Radio and that the IBA expected to have the transmitters as Sedgley (Medium Wave 303 meters / 989 kHz) and Turners Hill, Dudley (VHF 97.2 MHz stereo) ready by February 1976. The new studios and offices at Tettenhall Road would be ready by March 1976.
Beacon Radio launched on 12th April 1976 with a bright 'mid-atlantic' American influenced sound that was unlike any other ILR station that had launched previously. News was on the hour from Independent Radio News (IRN) in London, but the station's aim was that local news should be immediate and up to date, so local news updates could be heard at any time during the programming. Additionally there were to be no blocks of programmes, such as religious, rock, jazz or soul etc. The initial programming aim was to amalgamate all information and styles of music throughout the day's programming. This unusual and American influenced approach attracted criticism from the IBA - The aggressive advertising sales tactics were not appreciated by some businesses in the area - Beacon's management ran the station to make money as a commercial radio station, rather than as a local station with the public service service broadcasting (PSB) commitments that were required by the IBA's ILR scheme. Nevertheless, Beacon proved popular with the local audience, claiming over a 30 percent reach of a potential audience of 1,250,000. [Photo by Beacon Broadcasting / IBA]
In January 1978 the audience research organisation JICRAR showed that Beacon Radio had a weekly audience of 510,000 - a third of all listeners in its broadcasting area. The broadcasting area, by the IBA's design, had a large overlap with BRMB Radio, the neighbouring ILR station in Birmingham. BRMB's reach reach was measured at 28% totalling 1,316,000 listeners in its own area.
The initial broadcasting hours of 6am to 1pm were extended to 24 hours a day in November 1978 with new specialist programmes also being introduced into the schedule.
The IBA threatened not to renew the franchise due to lack of 'localness' and in June 1979 Jay Oliver and Allan McKenzie resigned after discussions with the board of directors who wanted to completely change the format of the station to bring the programming output more in line with that required by the IBA public broadcasting commitments.
Over the years Beacon made some modest annual profits, and some years reported financial losses, but throughout the 1980's the audience figures remained good: 1981 saw 565,000 listeners and 1982 listening figures rose to 632,000. There have been many changes in management and programming along the way. A new broadcasting licence was awarded by the IBA in 1986 that also saw the extension of the transmission area to include Shropshire. Under the new IBA terms, rather than rent the transmitters, ILR stations would have to 'forward fund' - i.e. buy the transmitters. Beacon arranged for transmitters to be installed at existing transmissions sites; The Wrekin on 103.1 MHz VHF / FM stereo and Shrewsbury 1017 kHz AM / Medium Wave. The new area increased the potential audience by about 300,000.
Dale Winton Joined Beacon Radio in 1988 where he stayed for three years before moving on to present the television game show Supermarket Seep for ITV. By 1989 the government required that ILR stations broadcast separate programmes on VHF/FM and Medium Wave/AM. To fulfil this requirement Beacon Radio created a new AM service on its medium wave transmitters (Sedgley 990 kHz and Shrewsbury 1017 kHz) called WABC ("Wolverhampton And Black Country"). Beacon Radio's pioneer, Jay Oliver, died in 2008.
Sadly Beacon Radio is no longer with us, but here is an audio clip from Paul Rowley's excellent feature The Other Side Of The Dial. This programme was broadcast on BBC Local Radio in December 2013 and celebrates the inauguration of Independent Local Radio (ILR) forty years earlier in October 1973 with the start of LBC and Capital Radio in London. Seventeen further stations launched in that first stage of ILR development, Beacon Radio being the nineteenth and last.
Beacon Radio's Andy Wint with the BBC's Paul Rowley on The Other Side Of The Dial
Beacon Radio's launch as covered by ATV News on 12th April 1976 + Jingles
Remembering Beacon Radio through the pages of the IBA's yearbook 'Television and Radio'
1976 - 1977
On Air Date : 12th April 1976The IBA's Year Book Television and Radio 1977 - Looking back at the year 1976:
Beacon Radio Ltd, PO Box 303, WOLVERHAMPTON WV6 0DQ Tel: Wolverhampton (0902) 757211. Telex: 336919
Directors: Mr W A Henn (Chairman); Mr J C Oliver (Managing Director); Mr K Baker; Mr B F Blakemore; Mr G Cromarty-Bloom; Mr M J Gay; Mr C J Halpin; Mr H J Hill; Mr J Ireland; Mr J C Jones ; Mr P B Woodman.
Senior Staff: Mr J C Oliver (Station Manager); Mr A Mackenzie (Assistant Station Manager/Programme Controller); Mr P J Stevenson (Sales & Marketing Manager); Mr M Stewart (Head of News); Mr J Plant (Chief Accountant); Mr B Warburton (Chief Engineer) ; Mr George Ferguson (Senior Presenter); Mr Phil Brice (Commercial Production Manager).
Beacon Radio is the youngest of the ILR stations, having only gone on air in April 1976. From the first it has aimed for a bright and commercial sound, recognising that a bumbling amateurish approach would hardly be suitable in an area where many people already had some form of local radio to listen to.
Beacon covers the Western part of the West Midlands conurbation from its studios in Wolverhampton. The basic service area is very diverse. There is not an obvious centre; several towns, with populations of a quarter of a million turn their backs on each other. And to the East, there is Birmingham, a proud and independent city. The basic programming of Beacon nineteen hours a day, tries to unite the area, emphasising local distinction and stressing common points. The music sound was sorted out early on, and attention then passed to making contact with local life by developing service features and generally by adding a news and information service in keeping ·with the nature of the station.
The programming is extremely flexible, and news is dropped in as it happens. There are news programmes at breakfast, dinner and tea time and these concentrate on local issues. IRN bulletins are taken at the top of the hour throughout the day, leaving the news staff free to concentrate on local issues and on the local effects of national topics. For an hour every evening a current affairs programme has looked at a subject in depth with guests and open-line listener help.
On Saturdays music and chat are linked through the evening, with local personalities talking about themselves and their work. To involve local people in the station. Beacon mounted major promotions at carnivals throughout the summer. Presenters went out to do discos and charity work. And of course there's sport, with results, chat and music on Saturday afternoons, and on Sunday mornings a select minority is waiting for coverage of its news; pigeon racing results, settled the night before over a pint and a packet of scratchings (a Black Country delicacy) are part of the Beacon service.
Beacon Radio broadcasting area
Source: IBA yearbook Television & Radio 1977
IBA Local Advisory Committee for Independent Local Radio in Wolverhampton /Black Country: Mrs B Wright, J P (Chairman); Cllr. J Bird; Cllr. W Brownhill; D Elmore; Cllr. A King; Niranjan Singh Noor; H Parsons; Miss J Pole; D Simpkiss; Mrs V Stone; Cllr. S Swinson ; L Thomas.
K.K.J. with the Beacon Radio Road Show, ‘live’ at the West Bromwich Carnival.
Source: IBA yearbook Television & Radio 1977
1977 - 1978
The IBA's Year Book Television and Radio 1978 - Looking back at the year 1977:
Beacon Radio Ltd, PO Box 303, WOLVERHAMPTON WV6 ODQ Tel: 0902 757211. Telex: 336919
Directors: Alan W Henn (Chairman); Jay C Oliver (Managing Director); Mr K Baker; B F Blakemore; G Cromarty-Bloom; M G D Graham; C J Halpin; H J Hill; J C Jones; P B Woodman.
Senior Staff: Jay C Oliver (Station Manager); A R Mackenzie (Assistant Station Manager/Programme Controller); P J Stevenson (Sales & Marketing Manager); M Stewart (Head of News); J Plant (Chief Accountant); B Warburton (Chief Engineer); George Ferguson (Senior Presenter); Phil Brice (Commercial Production Manager).
Beacon Radio has grown up a lot since it started broadcasting in April I976. After a period of consolidating its early position, the station began a programme of expansion. More staff were taken on and the station got out and about in the community. Beacon covers the western part of the West Midland conurbation from its studios in Wolverhampton. One of the first problems to overcome was the lack of an obvious centre. There are four towns, each with a population of over a quarter of a million, and each with its own identity and accent. So naturally, in an effort to unite the area, whilst at the same time keeping the local distinctions, the style of programming had to be set right from the start. This is achieved by blending music, news, sport and discussion throughout the day.
From left to right: Mick Wright (Presenter). Mike Baker (Presenter), Stella Rhodes (Miss Beacon Belle),
George Ferguson (Senior Presenter), Jay Oliver (Managing Director), Mark Williams (Presenter),
Chris Harper (Presenter), Alan Henn (Chairman).
The station broadcasts for nineteen hours a day, starting with the breakfast show at 6 a.m. and during the peak listening periods there are constant time checks, news and traffic reports and, of course, weather forecasts. This blend is continued throughout the day with major news stories being broadcast as they happen.
One of the developments from the news department has been the coverage of sport. One of its major achievements was a radio ‘first’ at a vital promotion match involving a local football team. The commentary came from a reporter sitting on the manager’s bench . . . with the manager giving his comments on the game as well. There have been changes, too, in the main discussion programme, Topic. It has moved from a single talking point into a current affairs magazine, with the chance for listeners to phone in to air their views.
The music side has developed also with the introduction of the Beacon Ballot and the Beacon Hotline, both of which give the listener a chance to help determine the music that Beacon plays. Beacon is also devoting more time to recording and live broadcasting ‘groups’ who are appearing in the West Midlands area, and to recording and broadcasting talented local musicians.
Listeners are encouraged to take part as much as possible in the programming, by taking part in Swap Shop, competitions and the phone-ins, or by sending in items for the Daily Diary. In return, the station gets right to the heart of the communities through its outside broadcast unit . . . a brightly coloured 22 feet long caravan which is both seen and heard at events such as shows, carnivals and open air discotheques.
Beacon Radio coverage area mapIBA Local Advisory Committee for Independent Local Radio in Wolverhampton/Black Country: Mrs B Wright, JP (Chairman); Cllr J Bird; Cllr W Brownhill; C Carder; Cllr A King;
Source: IBA yearbook Television & Radio 1978
Niranjan Singh Noor; H Parsons; Miss .l Pole; D Simpkiss; Mrs V Stone; Cllr S Swinson; LThomas.
1978 - 1979
The IBA's Year Book Television and Radio 1979 - Looking back at the year 1978:
Beacon Radio Ltd, PO Box 303, WOLVERHAMPTON WV6 0DQ Tel: 0902 757211. Telex: 336919
Directors: A W Henn (Chairman); J C Oliver (Managing Director); K Baker; B F Blakemore; G Cromarty-Bloom; M G D Graham; C J Halpin; J C Jones; P B Woodman; A Willis (Company Secretary).
Senior Staff: J C Oliver (Station Manager); A R Mackenzie (Assistant Station Manager/ Programme Controller); P J Stevenson (Commercial Controller); M Stewart (Head of News); J Plant (Company Accountant); B Warburton (Chief Engineer); G Laing (Head of Presentation); Phil Brice (Commercial Production Manager); I Donnahey (Local Sales Manager); A Powell (Promotions Manager).
Beacon Radio 303 is the youngest of the ILR stations, having gone on the air in April 1976, but during the last year it’s consolidated its position in the West Midlands. In just two years, Beacon has claimed an audience of one third of listeners in the West Midlands, an area with probably the widest choice of radio stations in the country. Beacon covers the Western part of the conurbation - mainly the industrial Black Country, together with the City of Birmingham at one side and the more rural areas of Shropshire and mid-Staffordshire on the other. There is no obvious centre, with several large towns all merging into each other. With a slogan ‘We do it for you’, the station has been keen to get more involved in the community over the past year, getting out and meeting people and getting people more involved in the programming.
The local news output has been stepped up recently as part of the gradual development of the station. With IRN providing the national and international news bulletins on the hour, Beacon’s own newsroom has been able to concentrate on local and regional issues for its regular bulletins and nightly current affairs magazine programme. Local news can be heard every hour on the half hour throughout the day, together with regular sports bulletins featuring national and local sport. There’s also a weekly sports preview magazine on Friday nights and the Saturday Sports Special with reports direct from six West Midland grounds.
On the community front, Beacon’s regular Jobspot and Workforce slots have been a big success. Jobspot gives details of jobs open to people in the area and Workforce tries to help youngsters looking for their first job. The station has also just launched a new feature to find foster parents for homeless youngsters. The world of politics has also been covered in depth in a series of six half-hour specials, featuring the former Labour MP Dick Taverne.
Beacon’s Beach Buggy out at Hednesford Raceway - with recording group Child.Plans are in the pipeline to expand Beacon further, including the setting up of a brand new newsroom, new studio consoles designed and made by Beacon’s own engineering staff and a custom built commercial production facility which must only help to improve the standard of radio commercials. One innovation over the past year has been Beacon’s promotions caravan which continues to gain admiration. It has been out and about at a number of carnivals, fétes and outside broadcasts during the Summer. It is all helping to get Beacon’s name
across and show that Beacon is doing it for the West Midlands.
Beacon Radio’s broadcasting area
Source: IBA yearbook Television & Radio 1979
IBA Local Advisory Committee for Independent Local Radio in Wolverhampton/Black Country: Mrs B Wright (Chairman); Cllr W Brownhill; C J Carder; Cllr Mrs C Durham; Cllr A King; Mrs C McNicol; Naranjan Singh Noor; H Parsons; D Simpkiss; Mrs V Stone; L Thomas.
1979 - 1980
The IBA's Year Book Television and Radio 1980 - Looking back at the year 1979:
Beacon Broadcasting Limited, P0 Box 303 WOLVERHAMPTON WV6 0DQ Tel: 0902 757211. Telex: 336919
Directors: A W Henn (Chairman); Peter Tomlinson (Managing Director); K Baker; B F Blakemore; G Cromarty-Bloom; M G D Graham; C J Halpin; J C ]ones; P B Woodman; J B Plant (Company Secretary).
Senior Staff: Robbie Dunn (Acting Sales Manager); Clement Jones (Consulant Director External Affairs and Programming); Mike Stewart (Head of News); Gerry Laing (Head of Presentation); Bruce Warburton (Chief Engineer); Ian Edwards (Studio Manager); Chris Harper (Commercial Productions); James Plant (Company Secretary); Robert Gilligan (Promotion Manager).
Source: IBA yearbook Television & Radio 1980
As one of a number of moves to strengthen its service and coverage of the West Midlands, Beacon Radio 303 extended its hours of broadcasting to 24 hours in the autumn of 1978 after two and a half years on air. The station therefore now broadcasts around the clock with the Through-the-Night programme - a mixture of music, interviews and news for overnight listeners. Beacon has moved away from its original concept of IRN news on the hour and local news on the half-hour. Instead, the news team provides a mixture of local, national and international news on the hour. The news output is now controlled and edited at its studios in Tettenhall, Wolverhampton. A nightly news and current affairs magazine programme has also been launched, offering a more detailed look at the day’s main news stories, especially regional news. Sports coverage, headed by Pat Foley, continues to grow. There is regular news of the area’s five league football clubs and also a strong emphasis on speedway, rugby, non-league football and cricket. The station’s prestige sports programme runs on Saturday evening, with reports, interviews and news from the day’s main events.
On the community front, the Jobspot and workforce spots have continued helping to find work for people in the area. There are now nightly specialist programmes, featuring music such as jazz, reggae and country. There is also Brass Tacks, a new programme that covers happenings and people in the Black Country.
Prior to staging its own all-night General Election special, Beacon broadcast interviews with top politicians such as Cyril Smith and Roy Hattersley in the run-up to voting. Plans are in the pipeline to set up a brand new newsroom. Beacon’s engineers have already designed and made a custom-built 16 track commercial production facility, while new portable VHF equipment has increased the station’s scope for outside broadcasts.
Free pantomime tickets were given to listeners in return for Christmas presents,
which were then distributed to local Children's Homes.
Source: IBA yearbook Television & Radio 1980
IBA Local Advisory Committee for Independent Local Radio in Wolverhampton and Black Country: A King (Chairman); Cllr. J Adams; C J Carder; Cllr Mrs C Durham; Mrs C McNichol JP; Miss P Nock; A Rashid; D Simpkiss; Cllr. J Smith; Mrs V Stone; L Thomas; Secretary: Miss S Thane (IBA Local Radio Office Midlands).
1980 - 1981
The IBA's Year Book Television and Radio 1981 - Looking back at the year 1980:
Beacon Radio, PO Box 303, WOLVERHAMPT0N WV6 0DQ Tel: 0902 757211. Telex: 336919
Directors: A W Henn (Chairman); R P Tomlinson (Managing Director); K Baker; B F Blakemore; G Cromarty-Bloom; M G D Graham; C J Halpin; H J Hill; JC Jones; P B Woodman.
Senior Staff: R P Tomlinson (Station Manager and Managing Director); R H Pierson (Programme Controller); A Blackburn (Sales Manager); Mike Stewart (Head of News); J Plant (Company Secretary); B Warburton (Chief Engineer); Mick Wright (Head of Music); Dick Fisher (Operations Manager).
Beacon Radio 303 went on the air in 1976. Its area covers the western part of the West Midlands conurbation. From studios based in Wolverhampton, Beacon transmits 24 hours a day.
Beacon programming unites the area, emphasising local issues, news, and information, presenting its own local, national and international news service from 6 a.m. to 12 midnight. Beacon’s music selection ·maintains a balance which pleases a broad audience spectrum and includes weekly “specialist` music programmes, ranging from classical, locally-recorded folk, country and western and reggae. Using flexible programming systems, Beacon ‘gets out’ to meet its audience at every available opportunity, helping to involve and serve the community.
Apart from covering many local events, exhibitions, carnivals and sporting events, Beacon’s outside broadcast unit is in operation throughout the year. A sequence of morning and afternoon programmes are broadcast live from listeners` homes and gardens, involving as many neighbours as possible.
Beacon promotes live concerts ranging from heavy rock to classical performances. And of course there’s sport: Beacon is very proud of its comprehensive sports coverage.
Allan Sherwin enjoying himself with his guests The Three Degrees during their visit to the Beacon Radio Studios
Cliff Richard at Beacon Radio as the guest of DJ Dick Fisher
Key public figures offer serious comment on local and national issues on Beacon Radio. Here, Harold Wilson.
Air Date: 12.4.1976
VHF (FM with stereo capability): Turners Hill (NOR: SO 969 887) 97.2 MHz
Max erp 1 kW Circular polarisation
Aerial ht. 297 m aod
MF (medium wave, mono only): Sedgley (NGR: SO 905 939) 303 m (990 kHz)
Transmitter power 0.1 kW (MF omnidirectional aerial)
IBA Local Advisory Committee: A King (Chairman); Cllr. Adams; C J Carder; Mrs D Coley; Mrs M Fenton; Miss P Nock; A Rashid; Cllr. Smith. Secretary: Miss S Thane (IBA Local Radio Officer, Midlands).
Source: IBA yearbook Television & Radio 1981
A Day In The Life Of Beacon Radio
Beacon Radio has been serving listeners in the ILR Wolverhampton and Black Country area for over seven years. It broadcasts 24 hours a day from its studios in Wolverhampton with a wide range of programming covering the needs and interests of the local audience. These pages illustrate a typical day in the life of Beacon Radio.
05:00 am : Presenter Gordon Astley arrives at 5 a.m. already well prepared for the important breakfast Show. He will scan the morning papers and catch up on any overnight developments in news, traffic and weather.
Gordon Astley arrives at Beacon Radio
07:15 am : News is an important part of the breakfast ‘mix’ and the news editor, Peter Brookes, keeps a sharp eye on developing stories. A different news package is presented every fifteen minutes between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.
267 Tettenhall Road, Wolverhampton
08:00 am : As Gordon gets into the swing, the Beacon offices and studios start to come to life.
08:30 am : Office, administration and production staff start to arrive for work.
08:35 am : As the region starts work, the phones start ringing. The valuable two-way flow of information has begun.
08:45 am : The sales team receive their early morning briefing and they are soon dispersed, keeping appointments with businessmen and decision makers throughout the area.
09:00 am : The Breakfast Show is over and Beacon’s mid-morning man Andy Wint is ready with his three-hour programme. Like all the presenters at Beacon, Andy has a commitment far deeper than just three hours on-air. He can be found working many hours day and night at his desk, planning the detail, arranging interviews, writing theatre reviews and completing the burdensome paperwork.
9.15 a.m : and members of the Programme Information Unit, comprising key editors, producers and presentation staff, gather for their daily meeting to discuss news, features, outside broadcasts and other programme items. What is happening today, tomorrow, next week, next month, and how can it be used, where and how much, to what effect?
These are the questions that are asked and answered in the PIU meeting.
Programme Information Unit meeting
10:15 am : Superstar Cliff Richard drops in to talk to the Beacon Radio audience.
Cliff Richard visits Beacon Radio
11:30 am : The many and varied guests on the Midday magazine programme discuss their material with the producers before going on air.
12:15 am : Once in the studio, Midday guests chat to Richard Caperon, often about specific queries from listeners. Here we see Beacon ’s Home Brewing expert, Dr Bernard Harrison, advising listeners on matters of specific gravity!
The Richard Caperon programme on Beacon Radio
2:30 pm : By now the Beacon news team have decided upon their priorities and are out in the field reporting the top local stories. The Blists Hill Industrial History Museum at Ironbridge is the ideal location to ‘chat-up' an Olde Englishe barmaid to find out why the English Tourist Board feel the Birthplace of lndustry is such a valuable asset.
Beacon Radio at Blists Hill Museum
5:30 pm : Throughout the day, news stories have been researched and recorded and at 5.30 p.m. Newsday takes an in-depth look at national, local, international news and financial reports. This programme is one of the most complicated of the day and requires a technical operator, news editor, sports editor and several presenters.
8:00 pm : During the day, the engineers have been setting up the equipment and broadcast link in readiness for an unusual outside broadcast. Now at 8 p.m. Beacon swings into jazz live from a local pub.
Beacon Radio broadcasting the jazz concert live
10:30 pm : The sun goes down. The jazz concert is over. Most of the West Midlands and the Black Country wrap up in bed for the night. Meanwhile Beacon Radio continues broadcasting entertainment and information through the night to complete the seven-day-a-week, 24-hour cycle.
267 Tettenhall Road at night - Beacon Radio continues broadcasting around the clock
A Day In The Life Of Beacon Radio was presented in the IBA yearbook 'Television & Radio 1984'
GWR, Capital, G-Cap and Orion
In February 1993 the JICRAR audience research figures showed that Beacon Radio had 387,000 weekly listeners, the greatest reach in its broadcast area with a 7.4 per cent audience share. In December there was an agreement to sell Beacon Radio to Swindon based GWR for £3.7 million. There was an initial proviso that Beacon Radio's programming would remain independent of GWR's control for a period of time.
As Alan Nicklin comments: "It took a while for GWR to get through the changes they wanted to make, as Beacon's licence had only been renewed that year and was written to include things like the Midnight line phone in phone in show and Jazz on WABC. How they got through the changes with no consultation and effectively broke most of the new licence promises has always been a mystery".
"WABC (990 & 1017 kHz AM) had a quiet re-launch the same Saturday with a new sung Jingle package and was really run outside of GWR by Dave Myatt until the summer of 1998 when it was thrown into the GWR Classic Gold network at 10pm one weekday night".
"Beacon did take a few GWR programmes from 1993 to 1996 including DLT on a Sunday afternoon, which we recorded & I took out lots of songs we didn't like and replaced them with different ones. We got caught after about a year and had to air it live on a Sunday Morning. We also took James Whale on a Sunday night for a while and Steve Wright on a Sunday Morning. While other GWR stations also took those, we didn't take a lot of their other shows like Retro Countdown or Late night love and we still had local control which included sung jingles...until Feb 1997".
GWR took full control in 1996 and in February 1997 Beacon Radio was re-launched and became a full clone of GWR's output using the "Better Music Mix" format and dropping all sung jingles, instead using spoken sweepers. GWR also owned Wyvern in Hereford and Worcester and Mercia in Coventry.
Beacon Radio effectively changed hands again in 2004 as GWR merged with Capital Radio in London to form G-GAP which, by that time, also owned BRMB in Birmingham.
In April 2008 GCAP itself was bought for £375 million by Global Radio - owners of the banal Heart FM and other quasi-national brands. This formed a massive radio conglomerate including Capital 95.8 in London, the XFM brands, Choice FM, Classic FM, LBC, the Gold network and the so-called "Hit Music Network" consisting of BRMB, Beacon, Mercia, Wyvern, Chiltern, Horizon, Southern FM, Invicta FM, Mercury, Essex FM, Fox FM etc.
However the deal was too large for the Competition Commission and OFT to allow, so they required Global Radio to dispose of a number of stations. To this end in August 2008 Global put Beacon Radio in Wolverhampton and Shropshire (97.2 & 103.1) up for sale together with BRMB in Birmingham, Mercia FM in Coventry (97.0 & 102.9), Wyvern FM in Hereford & Worcester (97.6, 96.7 & 102.8), Heart 106 (later re-named GEM) in the East Midlands along with the associated medium wave, AM licenses in Wolverhampton (990), Shrewsbury (1017), Birmingham (1152) and Coventry (1359),
Among bidders for these stations were a consortium headed by former BRMB Programme Controller Mike Owen, a group led by former BRMB and Chrysalis Radio executive Phil Riley (Orion) and another from the German radio and publishing group Bauer - owner of former EMAP stations in the north of the UK.
In mid May 2009 the Orion group headed by Phil Riley and backed by Lloyds TSB venture capital, emerged as the winning buyer of the Midlands stations including Beacon Radio. The original price asked by Global for these stations was thought to be in the region of £40 million (though this is unconfirmed). Renowned radio expert Phil Riley became Orion's Chief Executive while another industry expert, David Lloyd, took the position of Director of Programming & Marketing with Adrian Serle as the Commercial Director.
FREE RADIO - The End Of Beacon Radio
In January 2012 Orion Media called time on the Beacon Radio name along its other 'heritage' radio brands BRMB, Mercia and Wyvern.
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.
The new name chosen was FREE RADIO which had a soft launch on 26th March 2012. The well known station names, including Beacon Radio faded inauspiciously from the airwaves, phased out between 21st and 26th March, when the new name was launched.
The Move Out Of Wolverhampton
In April 2013 Orion announced that Free Radio Wolverhampton would move out of its studios and offices at 267 Tettenhall Road to a new office location in Oldbury, with the Tettenhall Road site being put up for sale.
Orion Media's chief executive Phil Riley said: “We have not signed a lease on the new offices but we are looking in the Oldbury area. The current building is really old, and it is just not suitable. Every year we have to spend money fixing things like the roof, and in the end we thought it is just not the right building to operate from. We want to go close to the motorway for ease of access for staff and getting out and about to do things. Clearly we need to do the deal but we are committed to moving.” “We own the building, and at some point, we will put it on the market and sell it. We will be sad to leave these premises as they were so suited to the station when it first launched but we will carry on broadcasting in Wolverhampton and being part of the community. We are just moving from one part of the patch to another.”
The planned move involved the loss of two senior management posts while 15 back office staff would transfer to Orion's base in Birmingham, The Wolverhampton and Black Country programmes of Free Radio would come from Oldbury while at other times, programmes come from the Birmingham studios.
BRMB RADIO - Birmingham | MERCIA SOUND - Coventry | IBA Year Books
AIRWAVES RADIO, STATIONS & MEMORABILIA
Many thanks to Alan Nicklin
IBA (Independent Broadcasting Authority)
Book "Independent Radio - The story of commercial radio in the United Kingdom" by Mike Baron
Wolverhampton Express & Star Newspapers
Study "Independent Local Radio (ILR) in the West Midlands, 1972-1984" by D. P. Allen
There was a good site called Beacon Memories, but it seems to have gone : http://www.beacon-radio-memories.co.uk
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