Free Radio 80s gearing up for September launch in the West Midlands

Free Radio 80s, the new radio station from Orion Media replacing "Gold" on MW(AM) in the West Midlands is gearing up for a launch on Tuesday 4th September following tests from 31st August onward.

That's according to a recent tweet by Orion Media's boss Phil Riley. 

It will also air on local DAB digital radio multiplexes in the slots that currently relay the local Gold AM service in the region.
Tweet all about it... Free Radio 80s is coming.

Earlier this year, local FM stations BRMB, Beacon, Mercia and Wyvern joined forces under the new Free Radio brand, but retaining local opt-outs in the former individual station areas. On AM, Orion Media operated Gold under a franchise agreement with Global Radio, following a competition ruling that forced commercial radio giant Global Radio to dispense of some of its radio stations in the East and West Midlands.

Free Radio 80s will now provide Free Radio with a sister station under full control of Orion Media.

Free Radio initially launched with the same music blend consisting of hits from the 80s, 90s, 00s and today as heard on its predecessor stations BRMB, Beacon, Mercia and Wyvern. The introduction of Free Radio 80s means that some of the older hits, that don't necessary fit in with a modern hit music station can move across to the sister station. Free Radio 80s will also become the home of Orion Media's football coverage. The cessation of the Gold franchise agreement with Global follows a similar move by Orion Media in the East Midlands, who ended their agreement to run Heart on FM and replaced it with Gem 106.

The creation of Free Radio 80s follows the success of Absolute 80s from Absolute Radio. Earlier this year, Swansea's Bay Radio was rebranded Nation 80s as 80s fever grips UK radio.

End of Gold in the West Midlands?
Global Radio is likely to bring back Gold on DAB in the West Midlands - but this time as a relay of its national version. This is in keeping with what happened after Orion ended the franchise agreement with Global to broadcast Heart in the East Midlands. As the end of the agreement coincided with stations such as Trent FM, Leicester Sound and Galaxy coming together to join the Capital FM Network, the former Galaxy slot on local DAB in the East Midlands was replaced by Heart, while the Trent FM and Leicester Sound slots became Capital. This meant that DAB digital radio listeners in the region still had the choice to listen to Heart instead of Gem - but without any regional content.

The long term outcome of Gold's availability in the region will ultimately depend on Global Radio's future strategy now that it has acquired GMG Radio, who operate Smooth Radio across the Midlands. One option is that Gold could reappear in the West Midlands on FM in place of Smooth. Whatever happens, at least Free Radio 80s will have a distinct niche differentiating itself from the usual blend of music stations that crowd the waveband in the region.
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