Opinion: RadioToday industry predictions for 2020

One thing is for sure – radio is changing at an incredible pace. Keeping up with emerging products and making full use of smart technology is key.

But whilst the art of ‘input’ is changing, the ‘output’ has remained fairly static for many decades.

Listeners can still hear a friendly voice on the radio at all hours of the day – the major difference is where the voice is located and when they were recorded.

But let’s dig deeper down into the industry and see what 2020 might bring.

Last year we correctly guessed Bauer might launch a national station or two, Celador would sell up, and Heart would change its daytime schedule. But we also wrongly predicted Heart would arrive in Northern Ireland, Scott Mills would join Commercial Radio and Viking, Hallam and Aire would rebrand as Hits. Maybe we were just premature!

So, the next 12 months might see all, some, or none of these take place:


New streams added to BBC Sounds including Radio 1 and Radio 2 spin-offs

BBC local radio stations start rolling out new jingle package ahead of a major network announcement


XS Manchester rebrands to Capital XTRA

Bauer to close another broadcast centre in the North


Global launches Smooth Musicals

CMA announces details of Bauer investigation


Signal 107 sold to Nation Broadcasting

SAM FM South Coast rebrands as Greatest Hits Radio


Free Radio and GEM rebrand to Hits Radio Midlands

BBC reveals plans for Radio 5 Live News and Radio 5 Live Sport


talkRADIO rebrands

Future of FM decided by DCMS


Ipswich 102 and Town 102 merge to create Ipswich Town 102

Capital extends to Kent


Changes at Radio X Breakfast

Bauer launches another specialist music service


Capital extends to Sussex

Fire Radio rebrands as Hits Radio


Surprising RAJAR results across the board

BBC to close further AM transmitters belonging to its local radio network


Capital extends to Devon

A number of ultra-local radio stations start to appear on DAB


Chris Evans announces a change

Digital Radio arrives in Cumbria

Will any of these come true? Check back in 12 months to find out!

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  1. Chris says

    Can’t see Capital coming to Kent as global has no studios in Kent as everything has moved to Hampshire

    1. sj says

      KM could become a Capital franchise.

      1. Dave says

        Prediction for 2020 absolute radio to cut more AM transmitter sites to cut costs.

      2. Radio Geordie says

        More likely that Bauer will buy them.
        Surprised they haven’t done so already.

        1. Martin Kong says

          Unlikely Radio Geordie. Otherwise some of those transmitters would of being flipped to Greatest Hits Radio to take on Smooth, which would of mean the same amount or more money spent on those AM transmitters.

          1. Radio Geordie says

            Highly likely & I’m the only one who thinks that – See Ian Scott’s comment further down.

  2. Chris says

    Can’t see Capital coming to Kent as global has no studios in Kent as everything has moved to Hampshire

  3. Chris says

    Can’t see Capital coming to Kent as global has no studios here in Kent

    1. mb23 says

      It will be a rebrand of KMFM, similar to Quidem. KMFM is loss-making.

      1. Susan says

        Mb23 – How do you know KMFM is loss-making?

  4. sj says

    Predictions for 2028… Bauer still can’t quite decide whether to persist with its old heritage stations, replace them with Hits Radio or scrap that and roll out Kiss. Decision expected some time in the 2030s.

    1. Ron Dobbyn says

      My Radio predictions for 2020 ” The Archers” , ” The Weather Forecast “, “Any Questions”, and Steve Allen will still be on the Air at the end of the year. Nick Abbott will broadcast an A to Z of the year in December.,and there won’t be a general election . Finally A song about Sausage Rolls will top the Xmas Charts

  5. Ron Dobbyn says

    My Radio predictions for 2020 ” The Archers” , ” The Weather Forecast “, “Any Questions”, and Steve Allen will still be on the Air at the end of the year. Nick Abbott will broadcast an A to Z of the year in December.,and there won’t be a general election . Finally A song about Sausage Rolls will top the Xmas Charts

  6. mb23 says

    Ofcom rejected the application for a full-time Radio 5 Live Sport channel in 2016. I can’t see what’s changed for them to allow it now.

  7. Ian Scott says

    Capital is on Kent-wide DAB already, as well as on the national DAB – duplication. Likely they will change Capital Kent to another Global brand.

    Rather than Global doing a brand deal with KMFM, it is more likely that Bauer will buy both KMFM (Kent) and More Radio (Sussex).

    Bauer don’t own anything in either county, so no long drawn out competition inquiry needed.

    1. Martin Kong says

      And maybe Radio Essex on Bauer’s shopping list?

  8. Alan Hall says

    I do not understand why it is not on the Radiotoday website about Go Radio in Glasgow now going full time this January, it should be. All the best to all at Go Radio.

    1. Radio Geordie says

      Maybe because they’ve been making these claims for years.

  9. walsyte86 says

    Could Global offload these stations:
    Capital Cymru sold to DC Thompson
    Capital South Coast sold to Nation Radio

    and maybe these changes:

    Heart 100.7 drops all network output except Hit 40 UK similar to Capital Cymru

    Hallam FM drops all network output from Hits Radio, like Capital Cymru, and Andrea leaves Kiss network to do Hallam FM mid-mornings

    Andrea leaves Kiss London to do Hallam FM mid-mornings weekdays and Sunday afternoon

    Radio Aire and Viking FM drop all Hits Radio Manchester networking and takes Greigsy, Grant Thomson, Callum Gallacher, Meg McHugh and George Bowie from Clydebank instead

    Pulse 1 decides to go it alone, being neither Hits Radio but retains “The Best Music Mix” slogan and Aiir website, post-CMA investigation

    102.4 WISH FM/107.4 Tower FM/107.2 WIRE FM become their own network, distinct from Hits Radio, Greatest Hits – still retaining Total Access with Olivia Jones and The Best Music Mix, but concentrating on local advertisers, not big national contracts

    95.8 Capital FM London drops Roman Kemp from breakfast and signs Stuart Webster and Claire Kinnaird from Tay FM as networked breakfast show hosts. (Possibly, due to Stuart Webster doing network cover for Bauer and Global wanting to use him network wide)

    Claire Chambers leaves Capital East Midlands drive (where she’s a double-header with Tom Watts) and joins 102.4 WISH FM to present the Home Run, 2-7pm weekdays

    Stray FM is allowed to remain standalone for grandfather clause reasons by Bauer, who feel local radio is important to rural TSA.

    Helius Broadcasting drop automation and take programming from Global under license, becoming Capital opt-outs, with local drive in all areas, similar to Quidem.

    1. Martin Kong says

      No it won’t.

      1. keddons6 says

        You say it may not, but Disney let Marvel function fairly independently.

        The OP of that suggests someone like DC Thomson buying Capital Cymru; that makes some sense.

        As for the others, Capital Breakfast could do with a change, not sure on those presenters though!

        Helius taking Global programming makes sense, wonder if Global will buy their stations?

        1. Martin Kong says

          DC Thomson at present wants to focus on the stations they’ve got in Scotland. They probably have no interest buying station outside Scotland.

          However, that said. We know Global want to expand into areas it does have a FM licence in, as well taking Bauer’s Hits Radio network stations. Some of what the op (the poster you’ve mentioned) posted pure fantasy, rather that reality.

    2. Abi says

      Are you drunk?

      1. Martin Kong says

        Sorry Abi was that directed at me?

        1. Abi says

          No, sorry. The guy who thinks the Tay FM breakfast team are going to replace Roman and co on Capital, etc.

  10. Radio Geordie says

    The prediction of Five Live splitting is something that was planned about 20 years ago just after DAB launched. Its fairly easy to achieve in the analogue world as well with the sport service staying on mediumwave, whilst the news service replaces Radio 4 LW. On DAB, it can be done the way they do now.

    As for a real prediction, Bauer will buy KMFM in Kent and starts rolling out Hits Radio on its English FM services whilst the Fire Radio service is more likely to become Kiss as they have similar formats.

    Amazement ensues as OFCOM blocks the morphing of XS into Capital Xtra.

    As I’ve predicted on another comments page:
    Global will become owners of all the commercial radio licences and replaces Ofcom as radio regulator.

    And Jeremy Corbyn becomes the new Labour leader.

    1. mb23 says

      On 5 Live it isn’t a question of it being technically possible, the question is whether it would pass an Ofcom market assessment test.

      In 2016 the BBC submitted proposals to expand Sports Extra into a full time service. They were blocked by Ofcom because of the potential effect on commercial radio (particularly Talksport).

      Aside from this, where is the BBC getting the money for extra radio news & sports programming when they are having to fund free licences for over 75s?

      1. david worth says

        Ofcom needs to stop bbc empire building

        1. Radio Geordie says

          What a turn a blind eye to Global’s?

  11. Radio Geordie says

    One more I forgot…
    Communicorp buys the Q Radio network in Northern Ireland and rebrands them all as Heart.

  12. Rob says

    Don’t overlook likely impact of over 75’s being asked to pay for licenses from June. BBC costs likely to be repeatedly questioned by UK press. Very difficult year for BBC.
    Suspect Michael Gove will be their main friend in government.

    1. Joe Smith says

      With friends like Michael Gove ……

  13. Lee says

    Its all rather gloomy really for 2020. I predict Global will take over OFCOM, take over UK Commercial Radio as a whole, make much more profit and spend some of the additional income on reintroducing local content. Oh well three out of four might happen. I think any company or group wishing to syndicate over say 50% of their output should be stopped. If they can’t make a profit then the licence should be returned for others to try. There are only so many Hearts and Capitals that anyone can put up with! You can hear Heart and Capital on numerous frequencies in some areas such as Essex, and Derby such a waste of frequencies.

    Lets hope Global will be brought out by a company that knows how to run radio for the listeners. Thank goodness for the BBC in the UK otherwise Global would try to grab and slash them. I know Radiocentre keeps trying to get their claws into the BBC but perhaps they should concentrate on imporving matters closer to home with commercial radio which is turning out a right disaster..

    1. mb23 says

      From RAJAR Q3 2019:

      Commercial radio has hit its biggest share of the market for over 20 years. Its share of listening hours hit 48.1%, up 5.3% year-on-year from 45.7%. A record 36 million listeners are tuning in to commercial radio every week.

      If that’s a disaster I wonder what success looks like.

      1. Neal says

        Continually missing the point that what Global et all have done and achieved here is the analogy of walking into your local supermarket and only being able to buy brand x of baked beans to the exclusion of everybody else’s regardless of what your preference may be. As I keep on trying to point out on these pages they are successful because on the FM platform commercial radio wise there is sod all else to listen to coupled with the fact that the majority of the radio public are now happy with wall paper repetitive music radio! But then we are back to the baked beans again if you force feed people with one type of product for long enough they will just accept it. This coupled with the fact that these big boys have been playing this game now for so many years there is a generation of listener who will never have heard what quality radio can sound like ! BBC radio is by no means perfect but I pray to God it survives-it is the only FM alternative left and if you bother to delve deep enough you will be richly rewarded in comparison to the bland commercial output

      2. Lee says

        Have you seen how the Rajar figures are compiled? Its a group of hand picked people reporting their listening habits by analogue means. The figures are scued at best, and certainly dont represent the nations listening habits. I wouldn’t take the RAJAR figures as anywhere near accurate.

  14. Lee Morris says

    I commented somewhere about Chris Evans last year, I would not be surprised if Zoe Ball loses more listeners and Virgin decide at the end of the year or even Chris that he is not bringing in the listeners for Virgin and so announces he is leaving at Christmas.

    It will then be announced that Chris will return to The Radio 2 Breakfast Show in January 2021, thus making him Terry Wogan mark 2 by taking a break from the station and returning at a later date.

  15. Lee Morris says

    As for Local Radio Stations, of course there are the local Muxes to come on air such as at Pontop Pike, a hoping that Durham FM will come to DAB as part of it, in fact, did Tweet them asking if I could listen on a Smart Speaker and if they would come to DAB as I can’t pick them up on FM even from Lanchester.

    I received a reply that I could as for “Alpha Radio Which Is In Effect The Same Station But With Different Jingles”, also “DAB IN 2020”,

    I’m not sure what other stations will be on it but it is as I commented in a post on here a few days ago, at some point, if at some point maybe over the next five years we are to have any kind of a Digital Radio Switch Over. The issue regarding the BBC broadcasting Football commentaries on FM and AM in some areas will have to be addressed.

    So it would make sense to join Durham FM etc, And broadcast via the local Mux as it would for Metro Radio etc, This would surely free up space on National DAB for a couple of new stations,

  16. Lee Morris says

    When it comes to a decision regarding a Digital Radio Switch Over, I predict that not only will a date be announced either in the Spring or Autumn that there will be one in five years but I would not be surprised if the same day more transmitters will be announced not only for National DAB but also for Sound Digital.

    I reckon Sound Digital will be rolled out to 90% of the Population by the end of 2021.

  17. Richard E says

    If digital switchover is to be achieved, the digital signal needs to be more robust! Here in North Essex, we have, Colchester, Sudbury, Manningtree Braintree for local DAB. The first 3 for National BBC DAB, & D1. Colchester, Chelmsford and Mendlesham Suffolk for SDN and there are still dropouts mainly in towns like Sudbury and Halstead, even very near to the Sudbury tx! SDN is obviously bad too, unless you are up high & away from the towns and valleys!

    1. Lee Morris says

      I have commented on this very issue of Dropouts in the past when I used to post on Digital Spy, when the Television Digital Switch Over took place region by region, the Signal for Freeview was boosted as a result.

      Therefore would the same not happen to DAB/DAB+?, I would have thought it would.

      1. mb23 says

        Television switch over was different because analogue was using the same spectrum as the digital transmitters, and the digital signal couldn’t be boosted until the analogue signal was switched off.

        Digital radio (DAB) uses a different part of the VHF spectrum to FM so it doesn’t have to wait for analogue to be switched off to sort out the coverage issues..

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