Fresh Radio cuts staff ahead of changes

Skipton-based Fresh Radio which covers the Yorkshire Dales has reduced its live output from today ahead of possible changes to the licence.

Radio Today understands the current owners are in discussions with a potential buyer and Ofcom to work out a future for the previously troubled station.

Fresh, which launched in 1997 as Yorkshire Dales Radio, has historically struggled to make financial ends meet. It was originally just on medium wave but has added FM transmitters in recent years. However, it is still only available on AM in the most populated part of the patch around Skipton and the Aire Valley, as part of a combination of three FM and three AM transmitters.

Presenters and staff were told last month that operations were being scaled back, with one redundancy coming into force at the end of December for the station’s long-serving Head of News. It’s understood a format change request has been made to Ofcom asking for less local live output. The station’s current format requires it to do 10 hours of locally made programmes on weekdays and there are no allowances in the format for programme sharing or co-location.

One suggestion has been that the frequencies are to be taken over by neighbouring Stray FM, which is owned by UKRD. The local radio operator also has a number of other licences that cover parts of North Yorkshire – Minster FM, Yorkshire Coast Radio and Star Radio. It’s understood the owners of Fresh, Utopia Broadcasting, have been in talks with UKRD for several months. At one point in the station’s history, Radio Investments/TLRC was a minority shareholder in Fresh.

UKRD’s Chief Executive Officer William Rogers told “Whilst I cannot publicly comment on rumours at the moment, North Yorkshire is an area in which UKRD has a significant interest and is the dominant player in terms of local commercial radio. We are naturally looking at all opportunities to increase our influence further across this part of the country and will make an announcement in due course, if appropriate, as and when we are able to do so.”

Radio Today understands that if a deal cannot be reached to transfer the licence then the station is likely to close. It’s thought any deal with UKRD would see them want Ofcom to agree to allow programme sharing, co-location and a restructure of Fresh’s transmission arrangements.

Yorkshire Dales Radio was originally an independently-owned station, before being sold to Laser Broadcasting in 2007. It was taken over by Skipton businessman Roger Tempest under the name Utopia Broadcasting in 2008 following the demise of Laser. Its Ofcom licence was renewed in 2009 for a 12-year period.

Posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 at 3:01 pm by RadioToday UK

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