A local consortium which aims to “bring radio back to the region” is gearing up to put in a bid for Global Radio’s Midland stations.
Radio industry veteran and former BRMB programme controller and operations director Mike Owen is drawing together a group of interested parties to make an offer for the Midland radio businesses up for sale following Global Radio’s acquisition of GCap.
The stations, which include BRMB in Birmingham, Beacon Radio in Wolverhampton and Mercia in Coventry, are being put on the market by Global Radio to quell competition fears.
Mr Owen said the bid, which is in its early stages, is being led by “significant players” in the Midland radio industry, but said he could not reveal names at this stage.
“My phone has been red hot with people ringing to express interest in creating a locally based consortium that would bring radio back to the region,” he said. “The audience has shown that they are not interested in networked commercial radio programming from London.
“We want to return each of the stations back to their own characteristics. We would try to make them as strong in the market as they were several years ago by reinforcing their local profile, with programmes made locally with local presenters and a local management team.
“People take pride in a radio service based locally. Even with commercial advertising under tremendous pressure, it’s our belief we can still deliver a better product, make money and reach bigger audiences.”
He added: “It would be brilliant to recreate stations in the Midlands that dominated the market 25 years ago.”
Mr Owen, who spent 18 years at BRMB before leaving in 1997 to set up media consultancy business Mike Owen Media, said the consortium is currently talking to investors to back the bid.
He has over 30 years experience in the broadcast industry and has won a number of major awards including the Politzer award for outstanding services to publishing, two Sony awards and a Prix Italia nomination.
The awards were granted during his time at BRMB in Birmingham as programme controller and operations director up to 1997, having joined Birmingham Broadcasting in 1978 to produce Ed Doolan.
The sale of the Midland stations was sparked by Global Radio’s agreement to buy GCap in a cash deal worth around £375 million in March, which raised fears that competition would be diluted in the region.
Global Radio offered to sell a number of its Midland radio stations earlier this month to prevent the deal being referred to the Competition Commission.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said the move would, in principle, resolve its concerns by restoring competition to pre-merger levels in the Midlands.
The OFT said most of GCap’s 71 local stations across the UK do not compete with Global for the same audiences or advertisers.
But in the Midlands, Global Radio had a substantial pre-merger presence through its regional stations - Heart in the East Midlands and Heart and Galaxy in the West Midlands.
In the West Midlands, Global’s Heart and Galaxy stations competed closely for regional advertising campaigns against the former GCap stations, the OFT said.
But the OFT cleared the London aspects of the transaction, saying there was no realistic prospect of harm to London advertisers or listeners.