BRMB and Free Radio – some thoughts

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 the shockingly new Tony Butler. It developed the phone-in format and made it wildly popular. It pioneered the first highly successful “agony-aunt” style show on local radio. It led the way in fundraising with the first mass-participation event, “Susan and Friends”, followed by the first ever 26-mile walk in the world with the BRMB Walkathon. It premiered other innovative content including 24-hour crime watch, 24-hour accident watch and the first ever sex education series on commercial radio.

Over the years it has had many creative and special broadcasters including many multi award winners like Les Ross, Ed Doolan and Tom Ross not to mention a mass of journalists many of whom feature on today’s network radio and television. The Birmingham Pub Bombings showed that the station had matured into becoming the voice of the community creating programming that dominated local listening.

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. Two Strangers and a Wedding achieved world-wide notoriety and is widely recognised as the first media reality programme – even being compared to H G Welles’ famous War of the Worlds radio show!

The radio and media market has changed significantly since 1974 and BRMB has undergone many changes during this time. Phil Riley did send a note to me saying that if we had been successful in our bid we would have done the same thing under the circumstances. The pressures are hard especially being squeezed by those bigger ‘brand’ names in the market with their heavyweight TV campaigns.

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  • Gordon Aslye

    Ditto…Mercia and Beacon

    • Mike

      Absolutely correct – sad days!