Free Radio Coventry & Warwickshire
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|Broadcast area||Coventry, Solihull, and Warwickshire, England|
|Slogan||"Today's Best Music Mix"|
|First air date||23 May 1980|
|Audience share||5.2% (July 2013, http://radiotoday.co.uk/rajar/)|
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 Orion Media, broadcasts from studios shared with Free Radio Birmingham.
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 TSB Development Capital and Phil Riley, called Orion Media.
In common with many other Independent Local Radio stations, the past decade has seen an increase in networked programming shared between stations operated by the same 'parent' group. Automation and presentation techniques during these hours insert local idents, jingles and commercials. Currently, seven hours of local programming are broadcast each weekday with four hours on weekend mornings. Outside of these hours, programming is simulcast with the rest of the Free Radio network in the West Midlands.
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 and Warwickshire is produced and broadcast from Free Radio's Birmingham studios from 6-9am and 3-7pm on weekdays and from 7-11am at weekends. The Birmingham studios also produce the majority of the network's programming, although the Sunday morning show with Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes originates from the Bauer Media studios in Soho, Central London. The Vodafone Big Top 40 is produced by Global Radio at its Capital studios in London for broadcast on 145 commercial radio stations in the UK.
The station's main presenters include John Dalziel and Roisin McCourt (Jo and Sparky) and Tom Newitt (weekday drivetime).
- Radio Today
- 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