Radio-Free Birmingham

The area’s oldest-established commercial radio stations are to undergo a name change.

New that local radio stations BRMB and Beacon are to be re-named comes as yet another blow to the region’s beleaguered media image.

Owners Orion Media are to rebrand the stations, along with other Midland broadcasters Mercia and Wyvern, as Free Radio from April. The group says peak time output will remain local and no redundancies are planned.

BRMB was launched in 1974, then two years later Beacon came into being and they have kept the same names since then, despite several changes of ownership. Orion bought the stations from Global Radio in 2009. Last year, Coventry-based Mercia was moved into BRMB’s Broad Street premises.

The group promises to maintain its commitment to local journalism.

Orion chief executive Phil Riley said: “The decision to change the name of our stations has not been easy or one that we have taken lightly. 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.

“In the last few years, other commercial radio stations have consolidated around network brands, some with few or no presenters based in their transmission areas. They have used television and other marketing activity to promote these brands and rely on established presenters operating from outside this area to attract listeners. They can also use these single brands to sell to national advertisers.

“Free Radio will continue to be an integral part of the areas in which they broadcast, not only providing great entertainment on air but also as a supporter of the communities we serve, whether it’s fundraising for local causes or as host of major events.”

We shall see whether this proves to be the case. As running a truly local radio station seems to matter less to Orion Media than attracting listeners and advertisers via the adoption of national branding, the signs are not good.