Hold Separate extended for Bauer’s new radio stations

The CMA has published its provisional findings on Bauer’s purchase of the stations it bought earlier this year, with the only issues to be resolved being local sales in Wolverhampton and the future for independent stations represented by First Radio Sales.

In Wolverhampton, the government agency says Bauer cannot keep two stations in the town – so must offer a solution such as selling either Signal 107’s Wolverhampton licence or Free Radio Black Country & Shropshire. The CMA says it’s concerned for local advertisers wishing to specifically target the Wolverhampton area, saying the other radio options that cover Wolverhampton also cover a far larger regional area.

It’s likely Bauer wouldn’t just dispose of the 107.7 licence for Wolverhampton, but include the Telford, Shrewsbury and Kidderminster licences in a sale of Signal 107 – as a potential buyer may not consider the Wolverhampton licence on its own to be viable.

A previous finding from the CMA that stations would have to be sold in Bristol and Yorkshire now isn’t the case. In Yorkshire, the CMA investigated a potential loss of competition between Bauer’s Hallam FM and Lincs’ Trax FM, Dearne FM and Rother FM – but has now found no issues with Bauer owning all the overlapping stations with regards to local advertising.

In the West, Bauer can own Sam FM, The Breeze and KISS because of the differences between the stations. The CMA says in its provisional findings: “We found that competition between Bauer’s Kiss West and the Celador stations is limited due to Kiss West’s larger broadcast area limiting it as a local option, differences in listener demographics, low levels of customer concern and other competitive constraints from radio and non-radio options.”

The biggest hurdle to clear, however, remains First Radio Sales. As part of its phase 2 investigation, the CMA says it’s still concerned about how Bauer’s purchases could affect the future viability of FRS, which currently represents more than 100 independent local radio stations. It now wants more detail from Bauer about the deal it would offer member stations to sell national advertising on their behalf.

The CMA said in a statement: “If FRS were to shut down, local radio stations would have to seek sales representation from Bauer or Global, leaving local radio stations with little choice when trying to sell national radio advertising airtime and potentially leading to them paying higher commission rates.”

Views are being sought on the provisional findings by 6th January 2020, with the statutory deadline for the CMA’s final report now put back to 17th March 2020. This means stations acquired by Bauer will remain in ‘hold separate’ for a few months more.

Bauer announced the acquisition of Lincs FM group and Celador Radio on 5th February this year, followed by the purchase of a collection of local stations from Wireless on 8th February. The sale of UKRD to Bauer was announced on 5th March.

The CMA started its investigation in June 2019, and Bauer’s proposals to run all the stations and First Radio Sales were rejected by the CMA in August, leading to further investigation.

Dee Ford CBE, Group Managing Director, Bauer Radio told RadioToday: “We note the CMA’s findings. We firmly believe that these transactions are pro-competitive and will benefit both the acquired stations and the broader local commercial radio industry as we look to invest in the radio industry’s digital future. Our focus now is on agreeing a route forward with the CMA that supports a strong and sustainable future for the local commercial radio sector.”

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36 Comments
  1. Radio Geordie says

    Any bets that Signal 107 becomes another Capital under licence?

    1. Martin Kong says

      That’s if Bauer are willing to sell Signal 107 to Commucorp.

      1. sj says

        Or Quidem perhaps? They’ve launched their own Capital franchise in the same region this week so are already producing a drive show of their own. They’ll probably flog themselves to Communicorp in the end anyway! Having said that, Bauer are probably more likely to sell to someone who WON’T turn it into a Global station as they tend to get trounced wherever they try to compete.

        1. Martin Kong says

          Then there the FRS situation. That’s proving to be a headache. Can’t Wireless take the 50% holdings off Bauer?

        2. Phil Simpson says

          Why can’t Radiocentre take over FRS

  2. Simon Parton says

    I’m sure that nobody here in Telford would notice if Signal 107 went off the air altogether. It has no presence in this town whatsoever and I am sure it is the same in Shrewsbury, Kidderminster and Oswestry.

  3. Simon Parton says

    I’m sure that nobody here in Telford would notice if Signal 107 went off the air altogether. It has no presence in this town whatsoever and I am sure it is the same in Shrewsbury, Kidderminster and Oswestry.

  4. Simon Parton says

    I’m sure that nobody here in Telford would notice if Signal 107 went off the air altogether. It has no presence in this town whatsoever and I am sure it is the same in Shrewsbury, Kidderminster and Oswestry.

    1. Ray says

      Stop posting multiple times and go put a shirt on.

      1. sj says

        Don’t listen to him Simon. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

    2. Mark Levy says

      Sounds like Bauer have almost got the all clear. More redundancies?

  5. Mark budgen says

    Global will own all independent radio in UK by 2025.

  6. Nigel j spetch says

    WHY HAVE THREE RADIO STATION S IN NORTH YORKSHIRE PLAY THE SAME THING AL THE TIME NO NO NO

    1. David says

      But not all saying the same thing and that’s more the point when it comes to local radio… pick the one that’s local to you, hear your local stuff.

  7. Nigel j spetch says

    Global won t Owen bauer by in the UK 2025 they have they can’t run what they have know

  8. langleybury86 says

    Rogers Media who own CHFI-FM in Toronto would be a good fit for Signal 107, if anything “Toronto’s Perfect Music Mix” fits Signal 107 as “Black Country’s Perfect Music Mix.”

    Their stations are similar to UTV/Wireless ones and they need entry to the British market.

    Networking with Toronto could work – you could get Michelle Butterly’s show on at the weekend (pre-recorded or VT’d in Canada), she’s a good presenter, makes Heart presenters like Sian Welby look poor by comparison.

    Rogers Media would probably buy Signal 107 for pennies on the dollar, and I wonder, would they buy Quidem’s assets further down the line with Global’s brand licensing being replaced by Rogers Media brands? Would this work out well having Rogers Media owning the stations.

    Could Global sell off Capital East Midlands to Rogers Media for pennies on the dollar, and maybe offload Heart South West?

    At least it solves the advertising problems!

    1. Martin Kong says

      Global won’t offload Capital or Heart South West this or that company.

      In fact there’s probably stations that Global are either want to purchase or partner with.

      1. Langleybury86 says

        OK. Makes sense about Global.

        But what about the Canadian group Rogers Media buying Signal 107, or in the near future, Quidem or the Helius stations? It’d stop Bauer or Global buying their assets and increase competition.

        KMFM would also be attractive to them too, increase Rogers Media’s presence in the UK, and perhaps Radio Jackie too if they wanted to network it from Stockport, have Stockport as network hub?

        Would Communicorp sell Mercury 96.6 to them?

      2. Barry says

        Hi what about radio Norwich town 102 nouth Norfolk radio and the beach.from barry

    2. Abi says

      Toronto? Are you drunk?

  9. Martin Kong says

    There more chance of Rogers Media focussing on their own Canadian Markets/station than having any interest in buying station in the U.K.

    So please bring this thing about stations in this country would fit in Roger Media to an end!

    As for Quidem in the long term it’s probably be acquired be Global.

  10. Stuart O. says

    If I was the senior person to make the decisions at the CMA or Ofcom, I would not allow Global and Bauer to own as many stations as they do across the UK. There’s far too many Heart and Capital stations and in some areas, they should never have been awarded the licence or to take over another station, especially in areas where people can receive 3 or 4 different Heart and/or Capital stations.

    I also would never have allowed the reducing of local output, the dropping of individual breakfast shows and the closing of local studios to ensure radio presenters and their team don’t lose their jobs. Local output in my opinion should be up to at least 16 hours a day Monday to Friday (6am-10pm). Maybe a bit less at weekends. 3 hours a day is just CRAP and AN OUTRAGE!

    I would force (especially Global) to sell off some Heart and some Capital stations and allow smaller radio companies the chance to buy them and be allowed to do what they want with them (though preferably not trying to compete with Heart and Capital) by trying to play the same music as what those stations already play so that there is more competition between more than 2 main UK radio companies. A different genre or age range of music would be more preferred to appeal to a different (older) audience than Heart or Capital.

    1. mb23 says

      The CMA have to follow the Enterprise Act, they can’t make up their own rules. They are only interested in plurality of radio advertising in each locality, they are not bothered what comes out of the speakers (this is outside of their remit).

      In any event Global & Bauer can get around lack of ownership of stations with warehousing, as has happened with Quidem.

      Local radio advertising has fallen by 20% on last year, so the future of small independent local radio stations looks bleak.

    2. Paul K says

      I don’t think local radio on FM has a viable future so consolidation is inevitable. It’s not so bad. Heart and Capital sound a lot better than did some of these local stations.

  11. Richard E says

    Roger’s Media, is it anything to do with Roger Melly, the man on the telly? 😊

  12. Paul K says

    How about Nation buying Signal 107 and licensing carriage of Greatest Hits from Bauer.

    1. Martin Kong says

      Paul.

      Greatest Hits Radio is already available in Wolverhampton on 105.2 FM. So Signal 107 will have to be something else.

      1. Paul K says

        KISS in Wolverhampton and Greatest Hits elsewhere?

  13. J Peter Wilson says

    It would not surprise me that the bulk of local FM stations purchased by Bauer are given the go-ahead by the CMA and in due course will be rebranded either as Hits Radio or Greatest Hits Radio.

    So, in future the bulk of popular music radio will either be from Bauer or Global which in some ways takes us back to a time when the only popular music radio was regional coming from off-shore commercial stations in the North Sea until they were closed down and the BBC was ordered by a Labour government to set-up Radio 1.

    In future, I foresee ‘real’ local radio broadcasting will be either from community radio stations or BBC local radio.

    1. Phil Simpson says

      Stations south of coventry seem to b independent from The Hits or Greatest Hits coz i have Wave 105 where i live and it isn’t The Hits or Greatest Hits.

  14. Barry says

    Hi what about the local radio stations in East Anglia.barry

    1. Martin Kong says

      Once this CMA situation clears up. Bauer will make an announcement that these stations will be part of Hits Radio Network or be rebrand as Greatest Hits Radio.

      1. Mark Budgen says

        Might finally make Lincs FM Group stations sound fresh, modern and listenable. Oh, is that a pig flying?

  15. Phil Simpson says

    Y doesnt the CMA take over First Radio Sales

    1. David says

      CMA is to investigate mergers and buyouts on competitive and monopoly regulations.

      The best solution for First Radio Sales would be to spin it off as a separate independent company that all the stations and groups using had equal representation at. This would prevent anyone from getting deals that might be perceived as bias or favourable at the expense of others.

      No idea what will happen as the details of company merger investigations aren’t exactly my area of expertise.

  16. David says

    It’s complete speculation at this point.
    There’s a lot of stations included in these deals so many so that Bauer could launch another network across these if they wanted to in addition to growing Hits & Greatest Hits Networks.

    I imagine the time difference would be a nightmare networking to Toronto not to mention signal delay. (that comment made me laugh).

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