Bauer gains approval to network breakfast shows

Ofcom has granted Bauer a number of Format changes to allow all of its stations to network all but three hours each weekday rather than the previous seven.

UK commercial radio stations have been allowed to submit Format changes since the Localness Guidelines were amended last year, but Bauer has only just taken the steps required to allow this.

Bauer can now share all programmes, with the exception of a three-hour show on weekdays (which doesn’t have to be breakfast), in the approved areas already suggested by Ofcom.

The areas are Northern Scotland, Southern Scotland, North East England, Yorkshire & Lincolnshire, North West England and the Midlands (Central).

Bauer tells RadioToday the changes will provide the flexibility to review the business making it fit for the future, but made no mention of any planned changes.

Graham Bryce, Group Managing Director for the Hits Radio Network told us: “We are constantly reviewing our business to meet the changing needs of listeners and advertisers. These requests provide the flexibility to review our business on a case by case basis to ensure we are fit for the future in an increasingly competitive, digital and voice-activated world.”

Starting today, the four Free Radio stations in the West Midlands are now sharing two breakfast shows and one drive show. JD and Roisin on Free Radio Coventry & Warwickshire continue to present the breakfast show in C&W but will also now broadcast across Free Radio Herefordshire and Worcester.

Dan Morrissey has extended the Free Radio Birmingham show to Black Country and Shropshire.

And Free Radio Coventry presenter Andy Goulding will be hosting a new Drive show across the West Midlands broadcasting across Coventry & Warwickshire, Black Country and Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcester and Birmingham.

In addition, starting this weekend, CFM, Hallam FM, Hits Radio Manchester, Metro Radio, Viking FM, Radio Aire, Rock FM, TFM, Free Radio (Birmingham), Free Radio (Coventry and Warwickshire), Free Radio (Herefordshire and Worcestershire) and Free Radio (Wolverhampton, the Black Country and Shropshire) will share all weekend programmes, marking the end of local weekend shows on these stations.

RadioToday’s take

This is an obligatory step from Bauer if they want to, at any point in the future, bring more networking to its stations. It specifically allows the group to network a breakfast (or drive show) across the UK if it wishes to do so.

Global submitted its requests late last year and was granted permission shortly afterwards, leading to the networking of breakfast shows on Capital and Heart, and the loss of hundreds of on-air and producer positions.

Whether Bauer follows Global and replaces the majority of local programmes on its Hits Radio network is yet to be seen, but some recent moves, such as Free Radio’s new “Hits at Breakfast” show, more weekend networking, this error, and Gem now using the same strapline as Hits Radio, already suggest it is only a matter of time before the stations are streamlined.

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  1. Chris G says

    This just feels like a net loss to me. Local radio is meant to be exactly that, local. Each station having a unique feel thanks to preseners; stories and format that suit the surrounding area.

    Now we will just end up with more stations that creep towards being national ones. So local stories are lost; local personalities struggle to get through and overall, people lose out.

    Not to mention all the job losses.

    A huge, huge shame.

    1. Stan Wilde says

      This is great news for Community Radio stations!
      Keep it local,i for local listeners.
      106.8fm around Tamworth, Staffordshire.

  2. RathergoodDAB says

    After whats happened so far this year is anyone genuinely surprised anymore?

  3. Sam T says

    So will that mean that Gem radio in the East Midlands will soon be part of the Hits Radio Network?

    1. MICHAEL BOLTON says

      as of about an hour ago – yep

    2. Martin Kong says

      Gem is already a part of the Hits Radio Network. The only different is local programming and one/two tracks from the 80s/90s.

    3. Rob says

      It already technically is, they have said that in the toh for a while, and it’s really sad, back in the Sam & Amy days they had the, line that they were the biggest local sattion to not take any network programming and it was local 24/7, well that’s gone.

  4. NeilM says

    Following on from what has happened at Global this is utterly appalling for the future of local radio commercial in the UK. Ofcom have proven themselves to be utterly useless in defending listeners’ right to have local provision.

  5. Andy says

    OfCom only last week said they are looking to increase local stations using DAB in the near future. I don’t get why they are bothering. Why not make the existing local stations be the local stations they were designed to be. Then throw money at increasing national coverage for Global and the rest to put out their national brands that way. It’s all upside down. Destroy a network of stations to make the big boys money then add local stations on DAB that will struggle up against these national brands!

    1. Martin Kong says

      The end game will be FM and AM transmitter switch off and everything will go DAB.

    2. mb23 says

      FM/AM listening has fallen from 67% to 43% in the last ten years, and DAB listening will probably overtake it at the next RAJAR. FM listening is still important but there is no point investing in a platform that is losing share every year.

      You could ask why 2 MHz of FM spectrum has been given to a a national station with only a 1.4% market share (Radio 3). That could only happen in the UK.

      1. sj says

        DAB’s only a temporary platform anyway, until everything is streamed. I’m already without a DAB radio in the house because of smart speakers.

  6. John Craigen says

    Goodbye Boogie and Arlene and George Bowie at Forth and Clyde. Name changes to Hits radio Soon me thinks

    1. mb23 says

      Apparently there are no changes proposed to the breakfast shows in Scotland.


    This is long – you may agree or disagree
    Well – No one is going to say this has taken them by surprise. Let’s face it you look at the resources and costs of running Bauer Radio output Vs what is now allowable in line with the OFCOM guidelines there is a huge delta of several millions of pounds. The only factor to consider what is the audience now and what would you expect it to be after reshaping your stations and output into the revised model.

    Global had the advantage when this opportunity came up – The stations owned by “GWR / GCAP” were already well on their way to the single point goal that Global have taken to (near) completion. (Just those pesky Regional shows for three hours to get rid of) So for them it really has been a slow evolution of output & brands making doing this easier.

    Bauer stations however despite networking have always been a little more local and for the most part stuck with more local output and branding. When Global went A > B This journey is, for Bauer, going A > E, If they do it in one big go it’s a huge transformational change not only on air but across the business, if they do it in steps it’s death by a thousand cuts and column inches. Their brands/ Stations are not as developed as Global’s, well executed as Global’s or aligned as Global’s. Plus they don’t really have a proven “product” to go national with. Global took Heart / Capital national and like it or not you knew what it was (both consumer / advertisers / agencies ) (Shoot me for this ) But “Hits Radio” is a mess – Failed Breakfast show, a “national” station that no one noticed and then trying to mesh this into and over Heritage stations and shows. ( Plus from the Press release about the new show the stations demographic target looks very odd Vs the tight remit of Capital, Smooth, Heart, Kiss, Magic et al. Given the evidence so far it looks to be a bumpy ride at the very least.

    My view is that at this point Bauer have a destination ,cost base & headcount to reach to equal the efficiency and market nimbleness of Global. But time is not on their side – What Global started 11 years ago Bauer will probably try to do in 18 months. (and lest we forget that they have several “New” acquisitions to ingest into this mess – not only output but whole multi-location businesses.) If I were Bauer it is better to subsume them into the “new” model you have rather than one you know is going to change again, so work on this operating model / structure needs to start soon.

    Getting back to the bumpy ride over changes to heritage names / shows / output / studio – It is such a massive undertaking that I would not be surprised if there was “a” or “several” D Days on the horizon when Bauer bite the bullet and do what they gotta do. Just as Global said nothing / responded with nothing and just rode through it – so will Bauer it is all they can do. And for those who say that these changes will have to be carefully made so as not to damage listening figures – I think some of the stations are doing so badly now that you have to assume we’ll carry XX& listeners over with us, we’ll lose XX% but we’ll start to rebuild our “new” brand and take that hit.

    People say Global will take a hit in the listening numbers – I am not so sure they are not already well prepared to see a drop of a couple of percentage points and have this baked into the 2019/20/21 business plan. Numbers may go down which may for a short while impact your overall advertising revenue / rates but the costs taken out of the business still make you more profitable with a lower cost base. And on paper that looks impressive. Not only for now but for the future.

    Those that are still “with” the Bauer heritage stations must be loyal listeners (or maybe the nob fell off their radio and they can’t change it) If Bauer want to do a big change – you sell the vision of what we will be and who we will have as an audience and accept that with dramatic change you will lose and gain some audience – They must have to hope that Hits Radio has more of a future and business than XXX Heritage names / stations and differing outputs.Based on the fact of where the numbers are now, a faith in a set of core propositions and Brands and a revised cost base and operating model for the business.

    They have spent a lot in buying up stations that are going to find any transition into the Bauer networks a bump – Pirate, Minster, Mix 96, Lincs – they pretty must stand to lose all thier programming, identity, studios and staff under Bauer once arms length is removed – This investment needs to show a return and if the new shape of Bauer is similar to the Global model of brands and delivery then the work to get into that shape will need to start soon.

  8. T1 says

    Any sensible businesses would find a successful format and then mirror this format across the whole business. What seems concerning with Bauer is that many radio stations they have purchased have outperformed their own stations in many areas. GEM 106, Yorkshire Coast radio are two examples. Despite this they seem to be planning to duplicate the Hits Radio / Greatest Hits radio formats across it’s stations. Hits radio and Greatest hits radio have been a disaster so far. Just why duplicate the failures?

    1. Michael Bolton says

      Ultimately the balance of cost and revenue, you are prepared to take a short term revenue cost hit whilst making massive reductions in your costs with the hope that in future revenues rise on a much lower cost base.
      And Wave which seems to have been left to do its thing and been pretty sucessful at it. But to make the big omlette you have to break a few eggs GEM and WAVE could be these Eggs.

      1. T1 says

        They Should have combined GEM and Wave.

        1. Rob says

          Do you mean Gem and Peak FM?

          1. T1 says

            GEM and Wave are similar formats and would make it more sense to combine,

  9. Jonathan says

    So what happens with Superscoreboard then?

    1. Duncan Campbell says

      Jonathan and diandal in my own opinion we are separate from what happens down south we network across scotland espically on a Saturday with steven mill as for superscoreboard I dont think they will get rid it’s a popular programme Monday to Friday and on a Saturday afternoon

  10. DiandalScotland says

    Go Radio or Rocksport may take it or even Nation Radio.

  11. Alan Hall says

    When will Go Radio add more presenters to their lineup so
    as to have a full schedule even at weekends. It’s time they do.

  12. Lee says

    For goodness sake, please get rid of these big radio groups before they completely destroy all UK commercial radio with bland rubbish!

  13. Darren Plumpton says

    I absolutely loved ILR when it first launched in the seventies and eighties.
    In our area we had Radio Hallam,Pennine Radio235, Radio Aire,and in good weather conditions we could hear Piccadilly and Radio Tees.
    The dj’s were local stars and the news was what was happening at the end of the street.
    Now we who live in Yorkshire listen to news of what is happening nationally and maybe a very few titbits of local news if you live in a forty mile radius.
    Music wise you may just as well put the same mix tapes on everyday.
    The days of truly local radio now belong to BBC and community stations.
    But wow!!!! How I miss the original ILR format.

  14. jtofjax says

    Bauer does not NEED to network on certain stations.

    Hallam FM – Big John is good, long-running, and POPULAR!! Replacing him with Greg/Fleur/James would cause ratings to tank.

    Clyde 1- Bowie at Breakfast is good, I hope he doesn’t get deep-sixed for Hits Radio Breakfast from Manchester. GBX is too bloody awesome to axe. I’d rather the England stations took that show than the current ones.

    Metro/TFM – Networked already regionally. Steve and Karen are good (funnily enough, Z100 wanted them for drive in New York!)
    Radio City – Well, it’s like East Coast vs West Coast rivalry. Dave Kelly is good at what he does. Better than Hits Radio Manchester

    Magic 105.4 – Breakfast was dire. Perhaps they could take Big John @ Breakfast instead (he did do a networked Sunday morning show way back in 2003… anyone remember that?)

    As for their other acquisitions, well:
    Wish/Wire/Tower – No point in making them Greatest Hits Radio or Hits Radio (also, Hits is on DAB in their TSA, so …no need for Hits). Perhaps they could keep local shows 6am-7pm as now (networking on those stations is much better than the rather poor Bauer network shows!)

    Global seem to have the marketing juggernaut which Bauer don’t.

    Incidentally…. the former Wireless stations have networking which is better than piss-poor Bauer and Global networking.

    Here in Florida, networking is good in some cases depending on where you go.

    Hits 97.3 in Miami is worth a listen if you want to see how local radio should be done, you guys across the pond seem very focused on networking.

    Bauer and Global seem poor by comparison to the former Wireless Group stations when it comes to networking.

    I listened to Pulse 1 and also Signal 1 and they were good, better than Heart.

    Rather than concentrate on big national advertisers, why not get your local auto dealers, restaurants, shopping malls to advertise on Bauer stations? (I heard a LOT of local ads on Tower FM and on Signal 1.)

    For Bauer, big national brands are not the answer…. except for Absolute Radio which seems to be better-resourced and allowed more freedom than Hits Radio.

    Julia – Instagram Infleuncer & Athlete –

  15. Rob says

    Haha that’s a complete U-turn for Gem, because they made nearly all the branding, for Jo and Sparky, say ‘live from the East midlands’ !!!

  16. N1 says

    At least when global centralised their business, they converted popular built-up brands. Bauer seem to be starting from scratch and killing off everything they have built up. What a mad company.

  17. Rod Hardisty says

    With Global doing this it was a pretty good guess Bauer would be allowed to follow leaving so much talent with nowhere to go.
    If an important story broke we could give it out straight away in the past, all this is likely to go.
    The only two winners are Bauer management and the BBC.

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