Aircheck UK - Warwickshire

UPDATED: 04/10/2003

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ENGLAND

BBC LOCAL RADIO: 

BBC RADIO BIRMINGHAM / BBC WM:  BBC Radio Birmingham came to air on 7th November 1970, later, in 1982, becoming BBC WM to reflect a wider coverage area, and winning four Sony awards - Britain's most prestigious radio awards - namely Station Of The Year in 1998, Best Breakfast Show in 1997 & Ed Doolan Sunday Show 1998 & Malcolm Boyden's Show in 1997.  Predominantly speech-based, the station serves the West Midlands, South Staffordshire, North Worcestershire & North Warwickshire, and has a unique blend of presenters, a strong news, sport and current affairs service and a clear knowledge of the needs of it's listeners.  Travel reports reflect the busy nature of the locality, appearing every half hour and every 15 minutes at peak periods, including car parking news on a regular basis.  BBC WM broadcasts on one target frequency of 95.6.

BBC WM HEARTLANDS:  - This was an opt-out service from Radio WM which operated on 1458AM from April 1989 to 1991, targeted at the eastern part of Birmingham.  

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BBC CWR (..sounds too close for comfort...Ed) went live at 7:00am Friday, 19th January, 1990.  The Station Manager at the time said in publicity material: "We're clear about our priorities. We aim to provide the best in local radio for Coventry and Warwickshire. Through news and information bulletins, and programmes reflecting a wide variety of tastes and interests, we seek to be of service to you ... friendly, helpful, useful ... and in all respects someone to turn to."  The listeners warmed to this statement and a loyal listenership was created.  So when a decision was taken to relaunch and share programming with BBC Radio WM, there was activity tantamount to a coup!  

However, despite the moans of disapproval, the relaunch of BBC Coventry & Warwickshire took place on Monday 2nd February 1997. In it's current guise, it broadcasts on 94.8, 103.7 and 104FM.  A new start but some familiar names including Ed Doolan and Malcolm Boyden, in particular, are now firm favourites with the BBC Coventry & Warwickshire audience.

35 hours a week of the station's programmes are produced from its studios in Greyfriars Road, near Coventry city centre. Local news and sports bulletins are a key part of the output and BBC WM 'across Coventry & Warwickshire' is now enjoying its best ever audience figures.

In 1995, the BBC closed BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio (BBC CWR).  Now, eight years on, Auntie is planning to turn the clock back and launch a new BBC Local Radio station for Coventry and Warwickshire again.  In air-time conversation with Annie Othen on BBC WM, and at the Radio Festival, BBC DG Greg Dyke said that the station would be added to the BBC's Local Radio portfolio "I'm very pleased to announce that we're planning to open a new radio station in Coventry - an area that's been served by BBC WM since 1995.  We hope the new station will be housed in a modern, vibrant building close to Coventry Cathedral in the heart of the city.  Alongside the radio studios, there'll also be an open centre to provide access to BBC Learning facilities similar to the already established centres in Blackburn, Sheffield and Stoke.  Open Centres provide a valuable community role, so this is an exciting venture for the BBC."  He also added that the 1995 closure of CWR was a mistake.  
"The decision was made under different circumstances - and now we're in a position to change it."  The BBC are immediately seeking an editor for the station which it hopes will launch during 2004.  BBC WM serves Coventry and Warwickshire, including six hours of input from studios at Greyfriars Road.  

COMMERCIAL:  LOCAL (ILR) 

FM 102 THE BEAR: Comparatively, one of the babies of commercial radio, this service commenced transmissions of classic and contemporary hits and local and national news and information for Shakespeare's home town of Stratford-Upon-Avon on 24th May 1996.  It broadcasts from The Guard House Studios in Banbury Road and is currently owned by the CN Group along with Centre-FM (Tamworth, Staffs) & Oak 107 Loughborough, Leicestershire amongst others).  It's music policy is one of classic and current chart hits serving 217,000 adults aged over 16 who live across South Warwickshire, East Worcestershire & North Gloucestershire.

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MERCIA SOUND / XTRA AM 1359 / MERCIA CLASSIC GOLD 1359 / CLASSIC GOLD:  See our record below for MERCIA SOUND / MERCIA FM for details of the simulcast AM/FM service from 1980 to 1989.  With the broadcasting authority's recommendation that radio stations that operated the same service simultaneously on both FM and AM, split the services and create something new, or lose a frequency, on 4th April 1989, the station's then owners Midlands Radio plc created GOLD station XTRA AM which was carried on the Birmingham 1152 AM frequency as well as 1359, the old Mercia Sound AM frequency for Coventry.  Along with it's other East Midlands GOLD station, GEM-AM, it became a popular station in it's area.  More information on XTRA AM will follow here soon.   In April 1994, Midlands Radio plc sold out to a group called GWR - who disposed of the XTRA AM BBirmingham 1152 and BRMB 96.4FM service to Capital Radio plc.  The 1359 kHz frequency for Coventry was retained, and Mercia Classic Gold was launched.  With the evolving of the Classic Gold network, and the nature of the Radio Authority's points/station ownership regulations, in time, GWR were forced to sell the entire network of Classic Gold stations to UBC, of which GWR own a part, under the proviso that they can buy back a sizeable share of the stations at a point where ownership regulations have been relaxed.  This has not happened to date.  Meanwhile, Coventry's Classic Gold 1359 forms part of the national AM network, with a token amount of local programming being transmitted at peak times, so as to fall in line with ILR licencing requirements of localness.  

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RADIO HARMONY / HARMONY FM / KIX 96: Coventry's ILR commercial station began broadcasting on 28th August 1990 as the rather pleasantly titled Radio Harmony.   The station operated on 102.6 and broadcast from Ringway House on Hill Street in Coventry.  There is little or no information about the reason for the name change and it's relevance locally if any.  Kix 96 operates on 96.2 from studios at the quaintly named Watch Close on Spon Street in Coventry.  What we do know is that it is currently owned by the CN Group - visit their link or read above for deetails on the group and it's station portfolio - it's programme manager is the ex-Centre FM (Tamworth, Staffs) presenter and manager Mike Vitti.  Formerly, it was part of Murfin Music International, owned by radio jingle and radio group mogul Muff Murfin.  In some publicity from 2001/2, a poster seen in the locality used a picture of a suspenders and whip clad women, standing over a man clothed in only a nappy, with a strapline: '..that's not how I get my Kix'  The Advertising Standards Authority received a complaint about the poster and ordered the station not to use the poster again.  In it's defence, the station felt it's listeners were '...socially aware'  hence the use of the poster.  If you can supply any details about the station's history or the reason for it's name, please e-mail us here at AIRCHECK.  Credits will be given.

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MERCIA SOUND / MERCIA FM: (Some of the information shown for this station is taken with permission from www.kpsenterprise.co.uk and it's editor Kevin Sykes, with thanks.  Other content has been written by AIRCHECK's editor.)  September 1st 1979: Chief Executive John Bradford was charged with creating a new radio station.  Pre-launch publicity material advised listeners that this was their local radio station, encouraging them to 'use it'.   Coventry's Mercia Sound was Britain's 21st commercial radio station, launched by Programme Controller Ian Rufus at 6:58am on the morning of Friday 23rd May 1980, using 220metres 1359kHz Medium Wave, and 95.9 vhf FM Stereo beamed from a transmitter at Shilton near Ansty in Leicestershire'Everything you need to know on 220...'.   It was designed to cover Coventry, Warwickshire & South West Leicestershire.  

After a news bulletin had concluded at 7:05, the first record on-air was Dan Hartman's 'This Is It' played from their studios at Hertford Place in Coventry by the first presenter, Gordon Astley.  Greeting the stattion, were 24 children from Class 1 at Walsgrave Junior School, who were actually at school for the launch.  Preparing their breakfasts in the school's kitchen, they broadcast a welcome message for the station staff.  The reason for this was that they wanted to make the launch a special occasion and felt it was 'living history'.  

The station was set up as Midland Community Radio Ltd at a cost of 350,000 - a phenomenal amount back then.  The company behind the station said music would predominate at first with a planned move to balance music against other on-air features.  The concept of being an on-air juke box was firmly rejected.  Children's and women's programming was planned as well as coverage of community schools in Coventry and Warwickshire and educational features.  Even at such an early stage, the management of the station were making plans to broadcast 24hours a day as soon as was viably possible.  Two station newspapers were released - one at the launch and another 18 months later.  To celebrate it's 1st birthday, a listener's party was held at Tiffany's Nightclub in Coventry on 21st May 1981, with Chas & Dave headlining.  

Novel, ground breaking interactive elements operated by the station were the Voteline, which gave listeners chance to ring in to air their views on a wide variety of subjects, and on the 24th May 1982, the Radioline began, which gave listeners the chance to listen to the station when they weren't near a radio, by dialling 8069.  This formed part of a British Telecom 'Guideline' service, which was also in place for radio stations in Manchester and Liverpool.  Mercia's Radioline recieved 10,000 calls when HMS Coventry sank during the Falklands War and 5,500 called when Prince William was born - there was an average of 3,000 calls made to the number by locals per week.  

Amongst well known presenters from the station's past, there's Ian Rufus, Tony Gilham, Jeff Harris, Annie Othen, Ted Elliott, Mike Salisbury, Sara Blizzard (now a BBC weather presenter!), Bernie Keith, Mark Keen and Marc Silk, to name but a few.  As far as normal schedules were concerned, early programmes lasted for 19 hours a day, starting at 5:00am Monday to Saturday and 7:00am on Sundays with regular news bulletins every half hour throughout the day until 7:00pm. Programming ceased at 1:00am the following day.  Specialist programming included elements for the Asian Community, Jazz, Bandstand and Concert Hall, Afro-Carribean, Disco, and a programme whose initials would return to haunt them in later years: 'The Great Western Radio Show' which featured the best in Country Music hence the referral to 'Western'.  

As time progressed, Mercia FM moved frequencies to 97.0 & 102.9 - it's AM frequency of 1359khz became XTRA-AM on 4th April 1989 - by this time, it had become part of Midlands Radio plc, which included Nottingham & Derby's Trent FM, Leicester Sound, BRMB (Birmingham) plus GEM-AM too.  

The Mercia Mix & Power Mix was a non-presenter led programme of exclusively re-mixed dance and chart music produced by Kevin Sykes.  It broadcast on Mercia FM (Mercia Mix) and Leicester Sound FM (The Power Mix).  Originally the programme began broadcasting on Mercia FM (only) on September 8th 1990 as an hour long pilot show, the following week (September 15th) the show began in earnest starting at 8:00 pm on Saturday night through until 10:00pm.   The Radio Authority rulings only allowed a maximum of 15 minutes airplay of a single track, so most tracks came out around 10 minutes of duration.  The mixes were produced under the licence of PRS (Performing Rights Society) and MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society).

On January 25th 1992 Leicester Sound began broadcasting the show (The Power Mix) as a simulcast from Mercia's studios, and later on July 6th 1992 a weekday evening slot started Monday - Thursday on Mercia FM between 6:20pm - 7:00pm.  Eventually on March 6th 1993 the show came to an end albeit the ratings being better than those programmes either side of its scheduled times.

In 1994, the station's owners Midlands Radio plc sold the entire group to a group called GWR - who disposed of the XTRA AM 11152 and BRMB service to Capital Radio plc, relaunching the stations with the straplines '...the new...' and '....today's better music mix'.  It was then that the jingles of old were disposed of - the same levels of personality and localness were changed for ever, and a targeted playlist was put out.  It was not uncommon to hear the same record being played at the same time on Mercia, Ram-FM (Derby), Leicester Sound, &  Trent FM in Nottingham, which was then followed by the same situation for the next track.  Proof if ever it was needed that the stations would never be quite the same again.  (The 1359 AM frequency was retained post sale of other stations to Capital, by GWR who rolled out Classic Gold in it's place.  It was first launched as Mercia Classic Gold in 1994.)

Ten years after the launch, the station invited the original presenters back to reminisce and chat about the station.  There was an off-air reunion in 1991 to mark the station's 21st birthday, and a further reunion in 2002.  Mercia continues to broadcast on the same two frequencies, 97.0 & 102.9 FM, from the Hertford Place studios in Coventry and is currently licenced until 31st December 2009.  It's tag line is the standard for it's owners, now regularly mentioned as '...today's best mix...'.

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107.1 RUGBY FM: Another of the babies of commercial radio, having come on-air at 10am, Saturday 31st August 2002, Rugby FM is part of the Fusion Radio Group.  It is also backed by CN Group (Kix Coventry & The Bay Lancaster amongst others), Hinckley & Rugby Building Society and the Coventry Evening Newspapers.  It's central transmission area covers Churchover to the north, Long Lawford and Thurlaston to the west, Barby to the South and Clifton-upon-Dunsmore and Hillmorton in the East.  The outer transmission radius reaches Coventry to the west, Lutterworth to the North, Daventry to the South and Crick just over the M1 in the East.

Rugby FM carried out one RSL in 1998, then a set of follow up research to gauge audience response, and subsequently won the advertised licence against the face of stiff and arguably stronger competition, however the RA reported in their report of the award that they felt Rugby FM submitted the stronger application.  Studios are based in Spring Street, Rugby with music ranging from the 60s to today.  There's also a dedicated local news, sport and information service across the area.  

COMMERCIAL:  REGIONAL

100.7 HEART FM: One of the first regional radio stations, and the first for the West Midlands, appearing on air 6th September 1994, and launched by Nick Wright.  Studios are based at 1 The Square, 111 Broad Street in the centre of Birmingham.  The station is licenced to cover Warwickshire & the West Midlands which contains a potential audience of 3.4million people.  The station has over 90,000 adults listening per week and targets the 25-44 year old age group.  

One of the 'bug-bares' quoted by radio listeners is the commercials - however, Heart-FM never play more than four ads in a break and never more than 16 per hour.  As you would expect, the station takes revenue from various methods of commercial opportunities - sponsorship of features or events, tailor made promotions, and opportunities to advertise on the station's website or via SMS text messaging to mobile phones.  

Heart-FM's signal needs to be strong to cover it's intended area, however, counties lying outside the broadcast radius hoard loyal listeners who have found the station provides a better alternative to the local ILR or BBC station.  It has even featured advertising for a furniture store which, in it's commercial, credits it's branch at the Kingsway Retail Park, just off the A38 in Derby.  Since it launched, several presenters have moved over from BRMB as they 'outgrew' it to move the regional station - for example, ex-Piccadilly Radio's Carl Emms (Carlos) & Paul Bryant.  Another presenter to have appeared briefly is ex-Trent & Century 106 presenter Colin Woolley.  

It has to be said that Heart is radically different now to how it sounded back in 1994.  It launched with a strapline 'Radio across Warwickshire & the West Midlands just got 100.7 degrees cooler...' and the station was very laid back.  Nowadays it is more likely to feature more pop-dance material and numerous artists that wouldn't have been considered back in 1994.  It is owned and operated in conjunction with it's London sister station Heart 106.2 by the Chrysalis Radio Group, who also own the Galaxy regional radio brand.  

The station's 8-year initial licence was renewed by the Radio Authority in August 2001.  This was because Chrysalis Radio are set as a provider of a digital sound programme service on the West Midlands regional multiplex.  A little known fact is that it shares the building with three other Chrysalis broadcasters, Galaxy 102.2, The Arrow and Digital News Network.

There are 6 studios. Studio 1, is the Heart FM on-air studio. The Arrow broadcasts it's digital service from Studio 2. Studio 3 is a production suite. Studio 4 is mainly used for commercial production.  Studio 5 is the Galaxy on-air studio and Studio 6 is the back up studio. There are additional studios for the news team.

The Heart FM play list is formed by a panel of programming staff who listen to all the forthcoming releases. The play list combines both new artists and established acts who are of interest to the over 25s. Eminem won't be heard but other arguable bad boys Robbie Williams and Oasis will!

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KERRANG! RADIO: See THE FUTURE: section below.

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SAGA 105.7FM: The history of how this station came to air can be traced back to the heady days of the Midlands Radio Group - home of stations such as Radio Trent, GEM-AM, BRMB, XTRA AM, Mercia Sound & Leicester Sound.  At the helm of the Radio Trent stations was a man called Ron Coles.  In 1994, GWR, as part of their mass acquisition of any radio station that moved, took control of Midlands Radio Group.  Through the revolving doors went Ron along with a whole host of other staff, to all points of the radio compass.  Ron wasn't out of things yet.  

On 23rd September 1997, Ron, with the backing of Border Radio Holdings, launched East Midlands regional station Radio 106FM.  This, in time, became Century 106FM, a Border brand, and out went Ron again - to take up the helm of SAGA plc's radio division.  It had already launched Primetime, a digital radio service for the over 50s, but SAGA, owned by the De Haan family,  had other ideas too, and Ron's radio division, set about applying for analogue radio licences across the UK.

In 2000, the Radio Authority advertised a 2nd regional licence for the West Midlands.  As with all regional licence applications, the West Midlands 2nd regional licence application process was a busy one.  By the closing date at the end of August 2000, there were 12 applicants in the running.  Having already been operating BIG AM stations, The Wireless Group applied as Big FM, Central Radio was proposed by Forward Media, Jazz FM, Radio Minar, N-Joy Radio, Score Radio / Scottish Radio Group / Lincs FM Group proposed a country station called Route 105, and there were also bids from Spice FM, The Storm (GWR), Today FM, Variety FM (GMG) and Voice FM.  However, the winning applicant was set to provide a service for the over 50s, up until then, largely uncatered for, especially from a musical perspective. 

From a total of 12 applications, they awarded the new regional radio licence to Saga Radio.   For years, SAGA had previously tried to get a terrestrial / analogue licence to offer their 'over 50's' service - now, they'd finally done it.  On making the award, the Chair of the RA, Richard Hooper, said that Members of the Authority found deciding on which applicant should be awarded the licence was a challenging decision.

Having departed the Border Radio East Midlands station of Radio 106 after setting it up and watching it morph into Century 106, ex-Midlands Radio plc boss Ron Coles went to take the helm of SAGA's new radio division - and it was Ron that took them to licence application success.  It launched with the expected appearance of a lot of ex-Radio Trent/GEM presenters - Tony Lyman & Andy Marriott for starters - the latter as the station's head of music  - at 6:00am, on 16th October 2001.  Also on board for the launch, was Peter Tomlinson, Mike Baker, Tony Brandon, Jane Markham, David Yarnall, Mike Hollis, and Jeff Harris.  It was the first commercial radio station in the UK to be programmed specifically for people aged 50 and over.  Ex-Trent/GEM presenters were also joined by ex-Radio 1, Radio 2, Capital Gold, Melody Radio etc presenter David Hamilton, who presented breakfast before moving to it's sister station in the East Midlands when it launched in 2002.  Les Ross took over from David having left BRMB.  SAGA 105.7FM broadcasts from studios on the 3rd Floor of Crown House, Beaufort Court, 123 Hagley Road in Edgbaston, Birmingham, playing easy, melodic music from the past six decades mixed with news and lifestyle oriented speech, and with the now familiar catchphrases of '...your life, your music' and 'From Frank to Hank & Bing to Sting', the station broadcasts on 105.7FM from studios on the 3rd floor of Crown House, Beaufort Court, on the busy Hagley Road in Edgbaston, Birmingham.  The station reached it's first-year audience target in quick time, just nine months - this isn't surprising - as 40% of the area's population is reported to be aged over 50.

HOSPITAL RADIO:

RSL:

DIGITAL: On 7th July 2000, the Radio Authority announced it had awarded a 12 year local digital multiplex radio licence for Coventry to the only applicant, Now Digital Ltd, owned fully by GWR Group plc.  The licence covers over 600,000 people aged over 15 who listen to the long-established radio services in the area.  Nine services were proposed at the time of application.  CHR GWR service Mercia FM, UBC's Classic Gold, Coventry's Kix 96 (CN Group) as a local service, GWR's digital rock and pop service The Storm, an un-named Urban music provider, a Classic Soul service called The Rhythm provided by Digital Programme Services Ltd, Flix - featuring music from movies and shows from UKRD, Sunrise Radio's Asian service, and the local BBC WM service for Coventry and Warwickshire.  The multiplex launched in early 2001 from Vale House in Coventry, Meriden, Royal Leamington Spa, and the water tower at Barwell using a band III 12D centre frequency of 229.072 MHz.  

THE FUTURE: And so AIRCHECK sees another licence application through from it's advertisement, the bidding process and the ultimate award.  On 2nd October 2003, the Radio Authority awarded the UK's seventeenth regional licence, and the West Midlands' 3rd to Kerrang! Radio (Kerrang! Radio (West Midlands Ltd).  The licence is designed to serve Birmingham, Wolverhampton and surrounding areas as well as parts of Warwickshire & Staffordshire.  But as with existing regional services from 100.7 Heart FM (Chrysalis Radio), and SAGA 105.7FM (SAGA Radio), the service is likely to be heard across those boundaries to some effect. The West Midlands is now the only region in the UK to be served by three regional licences.  It has already indicated that it does not feel that the East Midlands is able to sustain any further development, particularly of this scale (see elsewhere on this page), so it remains to be seen what decisions by OFCOM will either change this West Midlands' originality or keep it.

The Kerrang! licence area includes about 2.3 million people who have been promised a 'specialist music and talk service for the rock community of the West Midlands, mixing modern and classic rock with stimulating, distinctive speech'.  In their application, they originally said: 

The award of this licence is the last regional licence to be awarded by the Radio Authority before OFCOM take control at the turn of the year.  The Radio Authority's Executive Chairman, David Witherow said: "A wide variety of proposals were submitted from a wide range of applicants and they were generally of an impressively high standard, making our decision all the more difficult.  At the end of a long discussion, Members decided that Kerrang! Radio best met the statutory criteria, and it's programming aimed at an under-served segment of the younger population will clearly widen choice in the region."

Kerrang!'s licence will come into effect as soon as the service goes to air.  The station is currently based at Birmingham City FC's St. Andrews Stadium with club representative Karren Brady also being a station representative for the purposes of the bid.  A full Radio Authority assessment of the award is expected shortly. 

The award comes after the closing date for applications on Tuesday 13th May 2003.  Each applicant had to pay 12,000 in non-refundable application fees, meaning that with eleven applicants, this netted the RA a cool 180,000.  The RA more recently conducted public interest tests on two of the applicants due to their existing interests in the local radio marketplace.  The 1996 Broadcasting Act stipulates that a company can only own two radio services on the same waveband in an overlapping area if the RA determines that the proposed arrangement could not be expected to operate against the public interest.  Capital Radio plc already operate two other services, 96.4FM BRMB and Capital Gold Birmingham 1152AM, and GWR Group plc already operate Beacon FM for Wolverhampton, Shrewsbury and Telford.  

Talking of Beacon, we've been receiving many e-mails suggesting the return of regional 'talk radio' legend, and this site editor's namesake, Ian Perry, who made a real name for himself at Beacon before GWR did their work on it after acquiring it in 1994.  E-mails, mostly suggesting Ian's return to any bidder, particularly those including a talk based service or element include:

So, there you go, keep your e-mails coming in via e-mail.  But, in answer to your question John, and thanks for the kind words by the way, don't worry, I've said this before many times, no, I'm not the same bloke - he's the other Ian Perry!  You could always direct your suggestions to Kerrang! care of Karren Brady at Birmingham City's St. Andrews Stadium as well.  To round off this story, here's a list of the unsuccessful bidders.  

MEAN COUNTRY 105.2 (Mean Fiddler), operators of Mean Country 1035 in London were previously tabled as a bidder, although the final declaration refers to the 3C brand as detailed above.  No explanation is known for any possible drop out, takeover or change of decision to apply.  

BBC: In 1995, the BBC closed BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio (BBC CWR).  Now, eight years on, Auntie is planning to turn the clock back and launch a new BBC Local Radio station for Coventry and Warwickshire again.  In air-time conversation with Annie Othen on BBC WM, and at the Radio Festival, BBC DG Greg Dyke said that the station would be added to the BBC's Local Radio portfolio "I'm very pleased to announce that we're planning to open a new radio station in Coventry - an area that's been served by BBC WM since 1995.  We hope the new station will be housed in a modern, vibrant building close to Coventry Cathedral in the heart of the city.  Alongside the radio studios, there'll also be an open centre to provide access to BBC Learning facilities similar to the already established centres in Blackburn, Sheffield and Stoke.  Open Centres provide a valuable community role, so this is an exciting venture for the BBC."  He also added that the 1995 closure of CWR was a mistake.  
"The decision was made under different circumstances - and now we're in a position to change it."  The BBC are immediately seeking an editor for the station which it hopes will launch during 2004.  BBC WM serves Coventry and Warwickshire, including six hours of input from studios at Greyfriars Road.  

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