Free Radio Herefordshire & Worcestershire

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Free Radio (Herefordshire & Worcestershire)
Free Radio network logo.png
Broadcast areaHerefordshire and Worcestershire
Slogan“The Biggest Hits, The Biggest Throwbacks”
Frequency
  • FM: 96.7, 97.6, and 102.8 MHz, RDS: Free H&W,
  • Online
  • DAB channel 12A
First air date4 October 1982 (1982-10-04)
FormatCHR
OwnerBauer Radio
WebsiteFree Radio

Free Radio Herefordshire & Worcestershire (formerly Radio Wyvern) is an Independent Local Radio station serving Herefordshire and Worcestershire. The station, owned and operated by Bauer Radio, broadcasts on 96.7, 97.6, and 102.8 FM, and forms part of the Hits Radio network.

History[edit]

Radio Wyvern originally went on-air on 4 October 1982. The original Wyvern name derived from the River Wye and River Severn, the rivers running through Hereford and Worcester respectively (the name was proposed in the 1970s for what would become the county of Hereford and Worcester). The initial presentation team consisted of Sammy Southall at Breakfast, Roy Leonard in the morning, Graham Hughes in the afternoon and rock shows, and Mike George at drivetime. Weekend presenters included Jeff Roberts, Rob Yarnold and Bob Lee. Managing Director from 1984 until 1996 was Norman Bilton who joined Wyvern from Two Counties Radio in Bournemouth and Metro Radio in Newcastle.

The offices and studios were located in the former Hereford and Worcester County Council Education Department building at 5/6 Barbourne Terrace, north of Worcester city centre. The studio block was newly constructed at the rear of the main building, incorporating two identical on-air self-operated studios, using MBI desks, surrounding a central 'talks' studio. In accordance with the then IBA Code of Engineering Practice, the entrance to each studio was through a two-door "air-lock", ensuring high acoustic isolation. EMT 948 turntables, Studer B67 tape decks and Sonifex Micro-HS cartridge machines were used in these studios. From the first day, a split-transmission system for commercial breaks was provided (to play separate advertising breaks to Worcestershire and to Herefordshire), using secondary cue-tones to fire sequences of cartridges, but this was rarely, if ever, used on air. News was broadcast from one of the 'guest' microphone positions in the on-air studio, operated by the presenter not the newsreader. Other voice reports for news, or telephone interviews, were carried out in a "meat safe" style studio inside the newsroom. The Technical Director in charge of all equipment was Rob Yarnold.

In its early days, the station opened at 6 am (7 am on Sundays) and closed at 8 pm, before it extended broadcasting hours to 24 hours a day by joining up with Beacon Radio from 10 pm and then a wider network of Midlands stations from 1 am. Radio Wyvern took the SuperStation overnight service in the late 1980s, and when that closed abruptly, a local Late Show was introduced, with the overnight output from 1 am shared with BRMB and Mercia FM.

The station has played host to many well-known broadcasters over the years. Jane Garvey who was the launch presenter for BBC Radio Five Live and later one of the key presenters for Woman's Hour held her first professional radio job here, assisting the presentation department and reading sports news on air. Neil Fox began his professional broadcasting career here in 1984, and the line Wyvern News, this is Howard Hughes became very familiar to listeners. Rich Edwards, who joined in the very early days, presented on Classic Hits until its abrupt closure in 2007. David Holdsworth, now with the BBC was the station's News Editor, and Eleanor Oldroyd, now with Five Live, was a member of the Sport team. Several of the original presenters including Mike George, Graham Hughes, and Roy Leonard went on to long careers with BBC radio and television.

The station split into Wyvern FM on 5 February 1996, playing newer music, and Wyvern AM (Quality and Variety), which was essentially a gold service, with both services initially simulcasting from 7 pm to 6 am. The AM station was rebranded as Classic Gold soon afterwards, and was sold to Murfin Music International because of ownership regulations and the large overlap with neighbouring Classic Gold 774 in Gloucestershire. Some time later, it was rebranded as Classic Hits, and by this time a fully-fledged local service, with no links to Wyvern FM or the Classic Gold network. In 2007, Laser Broadcasting abruptly relaunched the AM station as SunshineRadio.

In 1997 Wyvern was acquired by GWR and later, Global Radio, who moved the station to new studios at Kirkham House in the Perdiswell Park area of Worcester. On 8 August 2008, it was confirmed that due to competition 'conflict of interests' in the West Midlands (and in other areas), Wyvern FM would be sold by Global Radio, along with other West Midlands owned GCap/Global stations BRMB, Mercia 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. Following the take over In January 2010, Wyvern FM rebranded as Wyvern and launched a new station slogan, "Made for Herefordshire & Worcestershire".

On 9 January 2012, Orion Media announced that Wyvern would be rebranded as Free Radio Herefordshire and Worcestershire from April 2012, along with its sister West Midlands stations BRMB, Beacon, and Mercia. Local programming is retained at breakfast and weekday drivetime.

The Wyvern brand was phased out on 21 March 2012 in preparation for the rebrand, which took place at 7 pm on Monday 26 March 2012.

On 6 May 2016, the station's owners, Orion, announced they had been bought by Bauer for an undisclosed fee, reportedly between £40 and £50 million.[1][2]

In May 2019, following OFCOM's decision to relax local content obligations from commercial radio, Bauer announced it would cease local Free Radio programming for Herefordshire and Worcestershire.[3]

As of 8 July 2019, local output consists of a weekday breakfast show shared with Free's station for Coventry and Warwickshire and a regional Drivetime show shared across the Free Radio group of stations in the West Midlands.[4] The station's studios in Worcester were closed.

Local news bulletins, traffic updates and advertising for the licence area were retained. Local weekend afternoon shows were replaced with additional network programming from Manchester.[5]

Programming[edit]

Regional programming is produced and broadcast from Free Radio's Birmingham studios from 6-10am and 4-7pm on weekdays.

All networked output, including all weekend programming (apart from local news), originates via the Hits Radio Network, based in Manchester.

News[edit]

Free Radio Herefordshire and Worcestershire broadcasts local news bulletins hourly from 6 am to 7 pm on weekdays, 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.

Local bulletins are produced from Free Radio's Birmingham newsroom. National bulletins from Sky News Radio are carried overnight with bespoke networked bulletins on weekend afternoons, usually originating from Radio Aire's Leeds newsroom.

Notable past presenters[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bauer buys radio group Orion Media, The Guardian, 6 May 2016
  2. ^ Orion Media sold to Bauer for £50m, The Telegraph, 6 May 2016
  3. ^ Free Radio to reduce local breakfast and drive shows, Radio Today, 30 May 2019
  4. ^ Free Radio to reduce local breakfast and drive shows, Radio Today, 30 May 2019
  5. ^ Hits Radio Network stations to drop local weekend programmes, Radio Today, 30 May 2019
  6. ^ Free Radio to reduce local breakfast and drive shows, Radio Today, 30 May 2019
  7. ^ Free Radio to reduce local breakfast and drive shows, Radio Today, 30 May 2019
  8. ^ "The Media briefing". Briefing Media Ltd. Retrieved 27 July 2012.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°13′01″N 2°12′57″W / 52.2169°N 2.2158°W / 52.2169; -2.2158