Free Radio Coventry & Warwickshire
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|Broadcast area||Coventry, Solihull, and Warwickshire, England|
|Slogan||The Biggest Hits|
|First air date||23 May 1980|
Free Radio Coventry & Warwickshire (formerly Mercia Sound, then Mercia) is an Independent Local Radio station serving Coventry and Warwickshire, England. The station, which is owned and operated by Bauer Radio, broadcasts from studios shared with Free Radio Birmingham and forms part of the Hits Radio Network.
The station began broadcasting as Mercia Sound at 0700 BST on 23 May 1980, with an opening announcement by Programme Director Ian Rufus, followed by breakfast presenter Gordon Astley and a news bulletin read by Mike Henfield.
In 1987, the station moved FM frequencies, along with most ILR stations at the time to 97.0 FM. Shortly after this a new transmitter on 102.9 FM was created to serve South Warwickshire.
In 1993, the station's owners, Midlands Radio, sold the station to Capital Radio who, shortly afterwards sold it to GWR Group, who re-branded it in-line with their "Today's Best Mix" slogan from 1994 onwards. During this period numerous presenters from other GWR stations joined Mercia, including Craig Strong (Trent FM, Ram FM, Leicester Sound), Tim Gough (Trent FM), Rachael Hopper (Ram FM) and Sean Goldsmith (Trent FM). From 2002 onwards, the slogan was "Playing the best mix of the 80's, 90's and today". In 2007, it reverted to the old slogan of "Today's Best Mix".
On 8 August 2008, it was confirmed that due to competition 'conflict of interests' in the West Midlands (and in other areas), Mercia would be sold by Global Radio, along with other West Midlands owned GCap/Global stations BRMB, Wyvern FM, Heart 106 and Beacon Radio. In July 2009, the station was sold officially to a company, backed by Lloyds Development Capital and Phil Riley, called Orion Media.
Currently, eight hours of local programming are broadcast each weekday with four hours on weekend afternoons and a regional daytime programme on weekdays. Outside of these hours, programming is networked with the rest of the Bauer City 1 network.
On 8 July 2011, Orion Media announced plans to close Mercia's Coventry studios and co-locate the station to the company's headquarters in Birmingham – the move took place two months later, leaving Coventry with only one locally based station (BBC Coventry & Warwickshire) broadcasting from the city.
On 9 January 2012, Orion Media announced that Mercia would be rebranded as a Free Radio station from April 2012, along with its sister West Midlands stations Beacon, BRMB and Wyvern. The Mercia brand was phased out on Wednesday 21 March 2012 in preparation for the rebrand, which took place at 7pm on Monday 26 March 2012.
Local programming for Coventry & Warwickshire is produced and broadcast from Free's Birmingham studios from 0600–1000 and 1600–1900 on weekdays; 1200–1600 on weekends (syndicated with Birmingham)
All networked programming originates via the Hits Radio Network in Manchester.
The station's local presenters are John Dalziel and Roisin McCourt (weekday breakfast) and Andy Goulding (weekday drivetime). The regional weekend presenters are David Francis (Saturdays) and Naomi Kent (Sundays).
Free Radio Coventry and Warwickshire broadcasts local news bulletins hourly from 6 am to 7 pm on weekdays, and from 7 am to 1 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Headlines are broadcast on the half hour during weekday breakfast and drivetime shows, alongside traffic bulletins.
- Radio Today Archived 13 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
- Orion Media moves Mercia to Birmingham, Radio Today, 8 July 2011
- to-be-free/ BRMB, Mercia, Beacon, Wyvern to be Free, Radio Today, 9 January 2012
- Feature: Orion's Phil Riley on Free Radio, RadioToday, 11 January 2012
- Bauer buys radio group Orion Media, The Guardian, 6 May 2016
- Orion Media sold to Bauer for £50m, The Telegraph, 6 May 2016
- Free Radio Birmingham announce new breakfast show for 2018, Bauer Media Group, 8 December 2017
- Free Radio – Presenters