Bauer to network drivetime across 11 licences in North and Midlands

Bauer Media has announced plans to network Wes Butters and Gemma Atkinson across most of its big city stations in England, meaning 7 presenters will lose their daily drivetime show.

From 2nd September, Wes will be on 4-7pm across Metro Radio, TFM, Rock FM, Radio City, Hallam FM, Radio Aire, Viking FM and the four Free Radio stations in the West Midlands – in addition to his current show on Hits Radio in Manchester and on DAB across the UK.

Gemma will join the show after her maternity leave.

CFM in Carlisle and Gem 106 in the East Midlands won’t take the networked drivetime show, with Chris Felton and Cat James respectively continuing to host these shows.

It means daily shows will end for Dan Moylan (Metro & TFM), Pete Otway (Rock), Scott Hughes (City), Simon Morykin (Hallam), Carl Spencer (Aire), Darren Spence (Viking) and Andy Goulding (Free). RadioToday understands Andy will remain with Bauer to host shows for Greatest Hits Radio and provide presenter cover.

The stations taking the show, which are already part of the Hits Radio Network, will keep their heritage brand identities.

Gary Stein, Group Programming Director, Hits Radio Network, told RadioToday: “Our ambition is first and foremost to provide programming best suited to the needs of our listeners in a rapidly evolving media landscape. Our research has identified an opportunity to create a new drive show that combines all the elements our listeners want – high-quality relatable presenters that connect with our audience alongside all the local news, traffic and travel and other local information important to them. We’re excited to launch Wes and Gemma in our major markets across the country on September 2nd.

“I’d like to personally thank our Drivetime broadcast teams for their professionalism and tremendous contribution. We wish them the very best for the future.”

Changes introduced in July saw the number of breakfast shows on Free Radio in the West Midlands cut from 4 to 2, while local drivetime shows on Free were also reduced to just one. Bauer also removed local shows from the Hits Radio Network weekend schedules of the stations last month, with the exception of Radio City which retains one local show on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Also last month, Bauer received the go-ahead from Ofcom to reduce the number of hours of local programming on the stations to 3 hours per day in keeping with the updated localness guidelines. The changes announced by Bauer today mean Metro & TFM, Rock, Radio City, Hallam, Aire, Viking and Free Radio will take 20 hours of networked programmes on weekdays, with a 4-hour local breakfast show. Free Radio has two breakfast shows – one covering Birmingham, Shropshire & The Black Country and another covering Coventry & Warwickshire and Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

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  1. stuart blackburn says

    Disgraceful. Local Radio has gone out of the window!

  2. Mark Budgen says

    You aren’t giving listeners what they want when you take away the localness. Perhaps Bauer are waiting for a Global takeover?

    1. Norman says

      Do you REALLY think a takeover by Global is even remotely possible? 😂

      1. Mark Budgen says

        Of course. And it will happen at some point.

        1. Martin Kong says

          Mark have you forgot that Bauer is going through a CMA investigation over their purchases at the moment?

          1. Lee says

            Surprise Surprise. For goodness sake stop this madness. Please stop peddling untruths Mr Stein and admit its all about profit not what the listeners want! When did your listeners say they want more networking? ts a disgrace. Bauer have lost there way, just look at the audience figures for Hits Radio Manchester compared to the Key 103 days!

        2. Stephen Dixon says

          Mark, you’re deluded

          1. Andy Halligan says

            Doesn’t really matter most of my friends who live in the northwest have now switched off Hits radio and gone to Virgin Radio instead so no one’s listening to Hits radio at all it’s just a bad radio station they should have put Lorna and Joel from heart on two Hits Radio breakfast and keep it the way it is

    2. Ted says

      Have you asked all of the listeners?

  3. Nathan says

    And here we go again.i won’t be listening to any as gave up with commercial radio like some variety in music and online streaming great stations from other parts of the world is for me

  4. Martin Kong says

    So Bauer decided to do this a month into Andy doing Free Radio Drive for the whole of the West Midlands? Yet Radio City still retains their local weekend show?

    Why not keep Andy at Drive before having Wes and Gemma takeover in January?

    1. Sj says

      Because a Bauer decision will always be the least obvious and sensible one. Every time. Without fail.

    2. MF O'Connor says

      Remember when Key 103 was great?

  5. Rob says

    The Global changes make a bit more sense, cos there a single brand I.E Capital, but Bauer has many different, brands, it’s just stupid

    1. Stephen Dixon says

      Single brands for now. Not much longer I would imagine

      1. Martin Kong says

        Just need name change to Hits Radio.

        1. Joe Smith says

          Crap Radio would be more appropriate.

  6. PC in Spain says

    More redundancy for loyal staff and driving loyal listeners away to who knows where but if they are that put out they will retune.

  7. Will says

    If Bauer nationalised Kiss across Hits Radio Network, Magic on GHR. Bauer would be really successful.

    1. Martin Kong says

      Will, if both Hit/GHR project fail then they may have merge those brands together as a last resort. Having said that Kiss listenership hasn’t been the same since Rickie, Charlie and Melvin jumped to Radio 1. So they need to sort out Kiss aswell.

      1. T1 says

        Will, you make a lot of sense. Using established brands. God knows why the keep Creating new brands when they have established ones already in their portfolio

        1. Martin Kong says

          Trying to outdo Global perhaps.

          1. T1 says

            They do seem to be playing mind games with Global rather than running a decent set of radio station. I think Bauer stands for “Bunch of amateur unprofessional educationless radio”.

  8. Dale says

    These big companies do not deserve listeners and do not care, local radio is dead to me now i support community stations now

  9. Darren Plumpton says

    Gone forever are the days of truly local radio ILR.The days I could listen to the current chart music with a mix of golden oldies thrown in and all wrapped up with truly local news and sport.
    I am talking about the 1970’s/1980’s when in my local area we had Radio’s Aire,Pennine,Tees,Metro,Hallam,ect.
    There was diversity amongst the stations and they would tell you what trains and buses were not running and which schools were closed because of the snow.
    They had your full local weather reports so you could make plans for the day ahead.
    ILR gone forever may it RIP.

    1. mb23 says

      We didn’t have 10,000 internet stations, podcasts, Spotify or Apple Music in the 1980s.. There are more jobs in the audio industry now than there were on the 50 or so ILR stations in the 1980s.

  10. Len Groat says


    Gary Stein… eer “Group Programming Director” REALLY does have all the PC jargon doesn’t he!

    “programming best suited to the needs of our listeners”

    “rapidly evolving media landscape”

    “Our research has identified”

    “a new drive show that combines all the elements our listeners want”

    “high-quality reliable presenters”

    “we’re excited to launch”

    I’m sure it has those stations with “low-quality unreliable presenters” (who are rather more successful than the Bauer ones) worried !


    1. Mark Budgen says

      Still doing your bedroom radio Len?

  11. Radio Producer says

    “I’d like to personally thank our Drivetime broadcast teams for their professionalism and tremendous contribution. We wish them the very best for the future.”

    In Reailty……
    “You’re all costing us far too much money, so you’re all fired”.

  12. Adam says

    Interesting that CFM or GEM isn’t taking the show. I’m thinking either a sale for CFM as Bauer never seem to invest in that station at all as it’s always had a different schedule during the day to other stations in the network, or it will be rebranded to GHR possibly. Reckon GEM might be rebranded to GHR too… time will tell I suppose!

    1. T1 says

      Your probably right. Bauer are a bull in a China shop now. Coming in killing good brands, thinking they know better. It’s incredibly bad what they’re doing.

    2. Martin Kong says

      They’re not going to replace GEM with GHR. In case you forgot, in the pass article GEM have taken Hits Chilled, Hits Networked overnight show as well as Hits Network strapline. The station is just Bauer’s version of Global’s Heart. It’s not like they’ve got competition from Heart, they need to bridge the gap between Capital and Smooth. That’s why they have the occasional 80’s and 90’s song on there. Infact I don’t think they’ll rebrand it to Hits either.

      Plus forget about CFM being sold, as it ain’t going to happen. CFM doesn’t happen any other commercial radio rival, which is why their playlist between 6am and 7pm has song’s from 80’s to today. Therefore changing it to GHR is a no-go.

  13. Bob bower says

    Local or regional radio becomes almost national by the back door. Money talks

  14. Pete Hall says

    Thank god that Bauer have left Wave 105 alone on the South coast to broadcast local programmes round the clock and make a success of it.

    1. Chris says

      Agreed, Wave is a great listen, fingers crossed that remains untouched.

      1. Martin Kong says

        Short term sure. Long term however could be a different story.

  15. Chris says

    I’m neutral, i’m not necessarily against networking if it’s done right/ can sound more polished and adds considerable value too something done locally but equally – What’s Bauer’s plan here. Feels they haven’t got a clue have at present.

    Hits Radio has got to be one of the poorest ‘professional’ radio stations on the dial. Cheap sounding production, presenters chatting absolute dribble, Global must be having a giggle at there attempts thus far.

    My local station Radio City has been a shadow of it’s former self for a fair while now but only because there trying to be local whilst ripping the majority of ‘localness’ out of it. Madness really after being handed a great opportunity with Juice turning to Capital a few years back. On another note feel for Scott Hughes (can’t say I listened too much to his drive-show but he was fantastic when he presented ‘Evening Therapy’ a few years back on City and was given a bit more freedom in his links, all the best to him, really solid jock).

    The company is at a big crossroads here, They could risk blowing huge numbers of listeners if there not careful – would they really risk rolling out Hits in it’s current state/ after it’s reception so far in Manchester?

    1. mb23 says

      Bauer own so many stations now that you can’t assess the company’s performance by looking at just one brand (Hits Radio).

      Those lost listeners may be going to Kiss, Kisstory, Absolute or one of Bauer’s other stations.

      1. Chris says

        I wasn’t talking about the other brands though (although even most of them are even behind Global’s equivalent alternative)

        I was making the point at ditching local programming and eventually the heritage names for the current ‘Hits’ product would likely be disastrous – the output is awful and the audience figures abysmal given the investment/ promotion. They really had the chance to home in on a local USP. One scroll through the tweets of Scott Hughes’ (Radio City drive host) post today show the audience value local (not just talking about the anoraks and ex-jocks) look at the amount of regular listeners angered at the decision/ the erosion of there local service.

  16. Mark Budgen says

    Time for Global to come clean and say to OFCON, “we are going to network everything from London, you can’t stop us”. and OFCON will say, oh yes Ashley sir, we understand Ashley sir.

    1. Mark Budgen says

      Same with Bauer too.

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