Absolute to go on FM in West Midlands: 12 years late
History could have given us this rather earlier
I read this news story with some amusement. From Monday 7th September, Absolute Radio will replace Planet Rock on 105.2 FM in the West Midlands.
Planet Rock itself replaced Kerrang on FM just two years ago, which meant the closure of the Birmingham studios for Kerrang, and the 105.2FM transmitter simply relaying Planet Rock from London.
With hindsight, Absolute was clearly the better station for an FM - it's much less niche, and should deliver much better value for the transmitter. It's "good news for listeners", as the cliché goes.
So, it's amusing to note that back in 2002, the licence that Kerrang ended up winning was contested by... Virgin Radio West Midlands, run by the station that's now named Absolute. They ran a station in Wolverhampton as a test - the website partially exists in archive.org - though, sadly, no images.
While the station promised "Virgin Radio West Midlands will be a completely separate station, broadcasting 24 hours a day from studios in the West Midlands.", later Ofcom changes in regulation would clearly have allowed the national station to be rebroadcast.
Kerrang won... but now it's Absolute née Virgin which wins the FM prize.
What goes around comes around...
I believe I might have predicted this happening, and was told that it was unlikely to happen.
Bauer had to plug the losses from Kerrang's regional service and at the time, the only brand which Bauer could easily get a format change for was Planet Rock.
Thanks to Ofcom's relaxation of music formats, this has allowed Bauer who since the change, own Absolute and put their own stamp on the station are now comfortable adding their mainstream rock brand on the WM regional licence.
Another thing to note is why are Bauer also doing this? I believe two factors are coming into play. One is UTV's own national male skewed AOR station using the Virgin Radio brand, the other is the speculated relaunch of Xfm by Global to rival Absolute and Virgin Mark II as another AOR station.
If you like middle of the road rock, such as Coldplay and Snow Patrol, the choice is going to increase.
What goes around ......
Well, if you want to take it that far, Virgin Radio, soon after it secured the national AM licence, wanted to take the portion of the FM band 105 - 108 when it was to be freed up. It launched a national campaign in an attempt to persuade the Radio Authority to do that. Of course, as we know, the regulator decided to "provide more choice" by allocating that portion of the band to local and regional services. Alas, many local services closed or became networked. Regional services became quasi-national - and now we appear to have Virgin/Absolute broadcasting on that portion of the band with two transmitters, one in London and now one in the West Midlands. Ho hum!
Yes. Another little bit of market correction methinks. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but, yes, Virgin - and/or possibly Atlantic 252 - should have absolutely gone on FM. Regional stations would of course have happily still fitted in on 105-108 no problem.
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