Buzz FM History

Buzz FM began broadcasting to Birmingham on 102.4 FM at 8am on Monday 14th May 1990. It would go on to broadcast for over 4 and a half years, before finally signing off and giving way to Choice FM on January 1, 1995.

Here’s a timeline of the station.

13 April 1989: Birmingham is set to buzz to the sound of Buzz FM if the dreams of two radio veterans become reality. John Henry and Lindsay Reid, who between them have 40 years of radio experience, will hit the airwaves in the autumn if their application to set up a radio station is successful.

15 June 1989: The final batch of applications for Birmingham have been announced by the IBA. The full list includes Buzz FM of Corporation Street, Birmingham; CBR-FM (Central Birmingham Radio), Coventry Road, Yardley; Central Birmingham Radio/People’s Community Radio Link, Dudley Road, Edgbaston and Centre City Radio, Kempsey, Worcester.

31 July 1989: Birmingham’s newest radio station has promised to serve every section of the city’s multi-racial community and promote cultural harmony. Buzz FM carried out an opinion poll among its potential listeners before bidding for the franchise awarded at the weekend by the Independent Broadcasting Authority. It found they wanted jazz, soul, classical and reggae music and has promised to give it to them. The new station, which should be on the air in three to four months, will broadcast from studios above Hawkins Wine Bar, Corporation Street in the city centre. One of its directors, John Henry, is a director of Hawkins which he founded in 1976. Chairman of Buzz’s board is Zia Mohyeddin, who played the father in BBC-2’s production Salam, Shalom and is the regular presenter and producer of Channel 4’s Here and Now.  With Lindsay Reid, managing director of the new company, John Henry began his broadcasting career at what was BBC Radio Birmingham, sharing sharing a slot with Les Ross in the Rosa and Henry Show.  Interesting note about the music style at Hawkins at

25 January 1990: The Industrial Acoustics Company (IAC) based in Staines were awarded the contract to build out the Buzz FM Studios which included fabricated steel panels for floors, walls and ceilings, acoustic doors, windows and silenced air conditioning units. They also took care of the interior decoration, electrical supplies and lighting. The panels were lifted by crane through a second floor window and then assembled to form the three studios. The installation was due begin in February 1990 and end mid-March 1990, two months ahead of launch.

14 May 1990: Buzz FM launches on 102.4FM with the most up-to-date digital music equipment, the studio boasting a CD record library outputting 3,600 different tracks.

11 September 1990: Buzz FM has appointed a chief executive.  Mr David Maker effectively also takes over as managing director from Lindsay Reid, who will concentrate on being technical director. John Henry, another co-founder of Buzz, has reduced his commitments. David Maker, former MD of Red Rose Radio, has been named as new MD of Birmingham station Buzz FM, at the request of major investor 3i. Buzz FM was described as “Britain’s most technically advanced station” when it came on air four months ago, but it has run into financial difficulties.
Maker says the station was under-capitalised and blames Buzz’s problems, along with those of the other troubled local stations, on over-optimistic advertising revenue forecasts.
“These stations have been over-sold by the national sales houses. It’s no good them going to new radio companies and promising them money which cannot be guaranteed’ says Maker.
“The view of advertising and media buyers is that they are not interested in buying radio airtime without JICRAR figures. Therefore, these stations are having to rely on local revenue and a lot of that has already been committed elsewhere”.

Maker replaces Lindsay Reid, one of Buzz FM’s founders, who is remaining with the station. Maker has already appointed Dave Higgins, who is known as Freaky D on-air, as head of music. He replaces John Henry who resigned before Maker arrived but remains a director of the station. Maker says that Higgins “not only knows the music of our soul format but also has the respect of our other presenters”. However, Maker stresses that Buzz FM is not a black station. “Birmingham is a multi-racial community and we have to reflect that in our programming”. Maker is continuing his involvement with Classic FM, which intends to bid for one of the UK National radio franchises next year.

10 January 1991: John Henry resigns from Buzz FM.  John Henry and Lindsay Reid ran Hawkins in Corporate Street (later John may have gone on to run Henry’s wine bar in Five Ways), but have decided to part ways and close Hawkins. The pair were prime movers in the setting up Buzz FM, where Mr Henry was music director.  The restaurant and wine bar at the centre of a licensing row has closed while directors negotiate a management buy-out said he hoped to complete the deal tomorrow, after splitting with long-time business partner Lindsay Reid.  He has resigned from Buzz FM and now plans to to buy out Mr Reid and other Hawkins investors. The restaurant, which has long campaigned for a for a full pub drinks licence, closed suddenly with staff being instructed not to return until further notice. Mr Reid said there was no question of permanent closure.  A court application for the full licence, due to be heard next Thursday, would go ahead as planned.  Mr Reid said: Hawkins was to have closed supposed while the takeover went through. That has been held up because John has had to go to Cumbria to a funeral, but he should be back by Friday to sort it all out.

15 July 1991: Buzz bids for Jazz FM.  The city’s airwaves were buzzing with news of a £1 million takeover bid today. The businessmen behind Birmingham’s newest radio station, Buzz FM, are planning to buy the London station Jazz FM. They have already put in funds to keep the struggling station going and have the support of most of Jazz FM’s staff.  Buzz FM’s managing director David Maker said they had until August 23 to formally make their bid, but an earlier swoop was expected. Mr Maker said a holding company was being set up to mastermind the takeover. It Included Mr Waterstone and Golden Rose Management, which owns 40 per cent of Buzz. Once they had control, the station would be retuned in a bid to boost listening figures. When Jazz FM was launched 18 months ago at a cost £2 million, audience figures of at least one million were forecast. But the station axed 17 of its 45 staff in March as the number fell to 500,000. Mr Maker said the station’s main problem was that it was playing music which was far too obscure. He said there were no plans for a similar station in Birmingham.

1991: David Maker (Jazz FM) and Peter Salt (Red Rose) were joint directors of Buzz FM. According to this thread on Jinglemad Mark Hanna worked for both Jazz FM and Buzz FM and did all the post production work on the “Rhythm Of The City” jingle package. The package was selected from TM by Rob Jones. Buzz FM had the package first, but it was then taken up by Jazz FM.

February 1992: Buzz FM was purchased by Glasgow-based Radio Clyde. They were to invest more than £1 million in Buzz over the next 10 months, only to see the station plunge £293,000 into the red as the recession hit advertising revenue.

11 May 1992: News editor Howard Bennett and his son Marcus were both sacked from Buzz FM as part of a shake-up. Now part of Radio Clyde Holdings, new station manager Tony Ingham stated that Buzz would now take hourly national news bulletins from Independent Radio News.

December 1992: Around 15 December, Buzz FM owners Radio Clyde Holdings announce they will close Buzz FM unless a new investor is found. Step forward former Radio Caroline DJ Chris Cary to the rescue. Chris purchased the station on 22 December 1992 for just £1. In return he put up £500,000 to cover Buzz’s debts. Although Chris said we would not change the station’s name, it would play more “recognisable songs” and more black music – with specialist programmes moving into late night slots. At this point Buzz had about 12 staff and employed several freelances.

May 1993: Chris Cary reports that he had brought down Buzz’s average weekly running costs to between £5-6,000 per week and that Buzz was making a profit of around £2,000 per week. Chris also reported that Buzz would be applying for the regional licence (which later went to Heart FM). However, it was also reported in the Birmingham Evening Mail that a “dirty tricks” campaign was being launched against Buzz, as a letter was faxed to the newspaper warning that Buzz was in breach of it’s licence conditions for not playing enough Afro-Caribbean or Afro-American black music. The letter was said to have been signed by the Radio Authority’s deputy chief executive, Paul Brown.

9 October 1993: The Radio Authority announce that London-based record company Chrysalis Records have won the West Midlands regional licence – they will begin broadcasting in 1994 as 100.7 Heart FM. The planned music policy was for “adult-oriented with a softer feeling encompassing easy listening, melodic current songs and soul, to appeal to both men and women aged 24-55”. This came as a blow to Buzz FM who had bid for this licence and would have given Buzz a huge boost in terms of transmission coverage, since the allocated power on the 102.4 frequency made reception tough, even in it’s intended transmission area. Buzz FM is put up for sale by Chris Cary – with no guarantee of the Radio Authority renewing the licence he decided to sell up.

9 October 1993: Buzz FM Ltd’s licence, due to expire on 31 December 1994, is advertised by the Radio Authority. Also up for offer is an AM licence (on 1458 kHz) which will be allowed to broadcast from 1 October 1994. Closing date for applications is 11 January 1994, with the non-refundable application fee being £975 for the AM licence, £1475 for the FM licence or £2,450 for both licences.

11 November 1993, 5:15pm. Buzz FM is dramatically taken off air by owner Chris Cary. He arrived at the station with removal trucks and took away the broadcasting equipment.

25 November 1993, 10:24pm: Buzz FM is rescued by Muff Murfin who purchases the station from Chris Cary and re-launches it at 10:24pm, two weeks after it had been taken off air.

8 April 1994: New Buzz FM owner Muff Muffin failed in his £150,000 bid to save the station.  The Radio Authority awarded its FM licence to London based soul and reggae station Choice FM.

31 December 1994:  During the last evening of Buzz FM, listeners could hear a strange noise on 102.4 FM as it appeared as though someone had switched on a higher powered transmitter to conflict with 102.4 FM.  Perhaps the new Choice FM transmitter was being tested?  The conflicting signal stopped at 11pm to allow the final hour of Buzz FM to broadcast uninterrupted.  Additional details:

Much of the last evening of Buzz FM was blotted out as someone switched a higher powered TX over them on 102.4 with a strange noise which was switched off for the last hour of Buzz.

31 December 1994: Buzz FM ceases to broadcast at midnight on New Year’s Eve, to replaced by Choice FM on 102.2FM, broadcasting on a new frequency and with a higher transmitter power to improve the station’s reception within the broadcast area.