Ofcom approves West Midlands 105.2 format change

Bauer Media has been given permission to change the format of the 105.2 FM licence in the West Midlands, currently broadcasting Absolute Radio, to a classic pop hits service.

Instead of “A rock-orientated station combining new music with classic album tracks aimed at 25-44 year-olds,” Bauer asked for the new Character of Service to be “A classic pop hits service with local news and information aimed primarily at the over-30s in the West Midlands.”

The 105.2 FM licence will now have a requirement for local production and content, though under the new Ofcom localness guidelines this just means a 3-hour show created within the Central region. As Absolute the station had no requirement to air local news, but will now be required to do hourly local news bulletins during weekday daytimes and peak times at the weekend.

This new service will become part of Bauer’s Greatest Hits network, previously known as the Bauer City 2 Network, but no on-air name has been disclosed at this stage by Bauer. The group operates Free Radio in the region already, so Free 2 could be an option. However, last week’s changes to localness rules now mean the three hours of ‘local’ programmes could be shared across both the East and West Midlands, so a more likely option is that Gem will become one station across the Midlands.

Another possibility is naming the FM service Free Radio 80s. This is because Ofcom has also today approved a change to Bauer’s Birmingham AM licence, and its Wolverhampton, Shrewsbury & Telford AM licence from “A classic pop hits station, with local information and occasional local sports coverage, targeted primarily at 35-54 year-olds, to “A classic rock music station.” Local production requirements have been removed, meaning the AM stations now just have to ensure 10 hours a day are produced from within England.

The AM stations will be a relay of Absolute Classic Rock from London.

In an Ofcom consultation on the proposals, three respondents opposed the replacement of Absolute Radio with a ‘classic pop hits’ format on the grounds that it would reduce choice for rock fans in the West Midlands, who would “no longer be served by FM radio”. One respondent also suggested that the change of the FM service to a more mainstream music format could threaten the commercial viability of smaller stations within the West Midlands area that play mainstream pop music, such as Touch FM. There was also criticism of the plan to remove local content from the AM services. In total, just six responses were received to the consultation.

In response, the regulator said: “In considering Bauer Radio’s plans for local content and production, we noted the opposition to Bauer’s plans to remove local production and content (including local news bulletins) from the two AM services. However, while the Birmingham and Wolverhampton AM services would be losing local content and production, the West Midlands FM service would be regaining it. We therefore concluded that the overall range of programmes available to listeners in the West Midlands licence would not be narrowed in this respect.”

The 105.2 service began life as Kerrang! in June 2004, and was replaced by Planet Rock in June 2013. The station subsequently became an FM relay of Absolute Radio in September 2015.

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  1. Adrian says

    What a surprise it was approved,what ever happened to diversity in choice being a necessary factor in decisions-now everything can be pop-current or oldies.As someone said on another thread R.I.P UK commercial radio (and the BBC music output is becoming not far behind in my opinion too.

    1. mb23 says

      There were only six responses, and only four of them were against. That isn’t enough for Ofcom to refuse it.

      1. Pat says

        That’s because the general public will only complain after the event.I bet very few of the Absolute listeners will know of it.The best way would be for announcements about it to be allowed to be put out on the existing service and more publicity given in the popular media.There are NEVER many responses either way to this sort of consultation but is that surprising when it’s hardly the sort of thing people will seek out unless they avid readers of sites like this.

        1. SJ says

          Will they though? You mean a few will complain on Facebook for a few weeks before getting bored and then Rajar will climb to twice what it was before.

  2. Mike Rose says

    Could it be Magic…

    1. Sj says

      That’s too obvious and sensible for Bauer. They got rid of their magic brand outside of London in favour of that ridiculous “2” network extension to their underperforming local stations.

  3. Sarah Clifford says

    We need another rock station just for rock and one station just for blues

  4. Alan Massey says

    So much for listening to Absolute Radio in Stereo..
    And still no mention of what will replace Free Radio 80’s on the Coventry AM

  5. Dave says

    I wonder if touch FM owners will end up selling up to the likes globel or bauer next year. It,s getting very crowded market.

    1. Adrian says

      Probably,I think their,stations are pretty awful in general (usual pop stuff with much automation) but the evening shows with chilled,oldies and new music are a different matter and a welcome change.Bauer may be more likely as Capital,Smooth and Heart are pretty easy to receive already in most of their areas.

    2. SJ says

      They’re a perfect match for Capital, which is only in Birmingham on FM at the moment, whereas Heart and Smooth are regional. And it fits with Global’s strategy of buying tiny stations to extend their brands.

  6. Steve Webb says

    What a shame Absolute Radio has always been my station of choice. I’m glad I can hear it on DAB in my new car albeit in mono

  7. Martyn Higginson says

    Absolute radio is one of a few stations that actually plays music with integrity. By doing this, which is solely a financial decision, it will in the long run jeopardise and damage the exact thing that makes them money. Not very integral me thinks!!!

  8. Pat says

    Their audience figures have been pretty disappointing for a long time (especially for very local stations) and I had assumed that was because people are already listening to the stations receivable from Birmingham-the Coventry one reaches only 5%,presume if they were that attractive they would have already been snapped-up.Suppose they will just become relays of existing stations.

    1. Pat says

      The above post was a comment about the possibility of the Quidem stations being bought by one of the big companies as was suggested as a possiblility earlier.

  9. Lee says

    OFCOMs decision is no real surprise. They seem to bend over backwards for the big groups. As soon as the big groups ask OFCOM to jump, they say how high rather than the other way around. I think the big groups are regulating OFCOM!!! OFCOM need to grow some and soon.

    1. mb23 says

      Bauer are bringing back local programmes and news for the West Midlands on 105.2 FM, which is better than a national station that’s already available on digital platforms in the area. This is a sensible decision by Ofcom.

  10. Lee says

    I’m glad you think so MB23. The proof will be in the eating. For example, Global said they would provide enhanced local news when they turned RAM FM, Trent FM and Leicester Sound into Capital but they have done everthing but. Just how much local news will Absolute actually broadcast? I wonder. Their news bulletins will be full of national and international stories with the odd local story perhaps in my view. I wonder how many local journalists will be employed to deliver local stories? I bet there local shows will include speed links, one liners and pre-recorded segments. The big groups don’t really invest in local radio, probably with the exception of UKRD who do at least try. Get rid of the toothless OFCOM.

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