The majority of the local radio licences bought by Bauer from UKRD, Wireless, Lincs FM and Celador last year will become Greatest Hits Radio from later this year under plans announced by the group.
49 out of the 56 FM licences acquired will be rebranded as Greatest Hits Radio from early September.
Four stations – Pulse 1 in Bradford, Signal 1 in Stoke, The Wave 96.4 in Swansea and Fire Radio in Bournemouth will keep their names but become part of the Hits Radio network. Each will have a local breakfast show and The Wave will also have its own daytime and drivetime programmes.
The remaining three – Lincs FM in Lincoln, Pirate FM in Cornwall and Sam FM in Bristol – will remain as ‘stand-alone’ stations. In the case of Sam FM this is because the Bristol licence was only re-awarded in December 2018 after Celador retained it following a full re-advertisement by Ofcom.
In addition, Bauer has entered a licensing agreement with Nation Broadcasting which will see Sam FM South Coast and KCFM in Hull rebranded as Greatest Hits Radio. The Breeze South Coast covering Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester will rebrand as Hits Radio with a local drivetime show but take Hits Radio network programmes at all other times. It means the South Coast will be the first area outside Manchester to have Hits Radio on FM.
The enlarged Greatest Hits Radio network will operate with 9 separate drive time shows across 7 regions – North West, Yorkshire & Lincolnshire, Central, East, South, South West and Wales. Nation will provide drive time shows for Hull and the Solent region as the stations are under different ownership so can’t take Bauer’s regional show. Scotland continues to have its own Greatest Hits programming, just opting into the England network 10pm-6am. It’s also understood the current Swansea Sound station will opt out of the GHR network at times to meet its Welsh language programming requirements.
Digital-only stations acquired as part of the purchases last year will all be closed – including Total Access, Pulse 80s, Signal 80s, Wave 80s, Pirate 80s, Eagle 80s, Suffolk First and musicals station Encore.
Bauer has also confirmed that it will sell national and regional advertising for all stations formerly represented by First Radio Sales from next week – Monday 1st June – after recently acquiring the portion of FRS from Wireless that it didn’t own.
Bauer says the integration of the stations it bought last year into the ‘Hits Radio Brand Network’ will mean it becomes the largest commercial radio network in the UK, with the highest listening hours of any commercial radio brand.
The group also says it will continue to provide local news, travel, weather and other information broadly at a ‘local multiplex level’ as part of the drive to ensure each of the acquired stations has a path to a digital future. Advertising will be available at a local licence/transmitter level.
Dee Ford CBE, Group Managing Director Radio, Bauer Radio said: “Audiences love and trust radio. Expanding the Hits Radio Brand Network will ensure listeners to these acquired stations benefit from multi-platform digital distribution meaning they can continue to broadcast in an increasingly competitive, digital and voice-activated world. This ensures the provision of local news and information, traffic and travel as well as access for advertisers to highly valued audiences.”
Bauer says the changes mean that some staff roles will be put into consultation for redundancy and freelance contracts will be reviewed. The group says it’s ‘fully committed to supporting all affected employees throughout this period and will be working closely with them over the months ahead’. A period of consultation with employees potentially affected will begin today.
RadioToday has estimated that the current total of approximately 200 on air presenting roles across the former Wireless, UKRD, Lincs and Celador stations will be cut to around 40, with Greatest Hits and Hits stations only requiring one regional show from within each of the Ofcom-approved areas. This calculation assumes that Lincs FM, Pirate and Sam FM Bristol will run their own programmes without taking any Hits or Greatest Hits networked shows.
These numbers also do not include local managers, programmers, admin or engineering roles – many of which are likely to still be needed as the Bauer radio operation swells into new regions it has not previously had radio stations in.
Some buildings could be surplus to requirements at a later date as fewer studios are required. Bauer has confirmed to RadioToday that it will operate ‘regional broadcast centres’, but says it will maintain a local presence in many areas for newsgathering and sales operations.
Graham Bryce, Group Managing Director – Hits Radio Network Brand, said: “We are committed to ensuring the future of radio in local markets and serving the needs of our listeners and advertisers. However, our top priority right now will be to support those affected through this period.”
Licences rebranding as Greatest Hits Radio
The Beach (Great Yarmouth & Lowestoft)
The Breeze (Alton, Petersfield, Haslemere & Bordon)
The Breeze (Andover)
The Breeze (Basingstoke)
The Breeze (Bath)
The Breeze (Bridgwater & West Somerset)
The Breeze (Bristol)
The Breeze (Cheltenham)
The Breeze (Newbury)
The Breeze (Reading)
The Breeze (Shaftesbury)
The Breeze (Torbay)
The Breeze (Warminster)
The Breeze (Weston super Mare)
The Breeze (Yeovil)
Compass FM (Grimsby)
Dearne FM (Barnsley)
Dream 100 (Tendring)
Eagle Radio (Guildford)
KLFM (Kings Lynn)
Minster FM (Northallerton)
Minster FM (York)
Mix 96 (Aylesbury)
North Norfolk Radio (North Norfolk)
Peak FM (Chesterfield)
Pulse 2 (Bradford & Huddersfield)
Radio Norwich (Norwich)
Ridings FM (Wakefield)
Rother FM (Rotherham)
Rutland Radio (Rutland)
Sam FM (Swindon)
Signal 107 (Kidderminster)
Signal 107 (Shrewsbury & Oswestry)
Signal 107 (Telford)
Signal 107 (Wolverhampton)
Signal 2 (Stoke-on-Trent)
Spire FM (Salisbury)
Spirit FM (Chichester)
Stray FM (Harrogate)
Swansea Sound (Swansea)
Tower FM (Bolton & Bury)
Trax FM (Bassetlaw)
Trax FM (Doncaster)
Radio Wave 96.5 (Blackpool)
Wessex FM (Weymouth)
Wire FM (Warrington)
Wish FM (Wigan)
Yorkshire Coast Radio (Bridlington)
Yorkshire Coast Radio (Scarborough)
In addition, digital-only station Town 102 (Ipswich) will rebrand as Greatest Hits Radio.
Keeping same brand and remaining as stand-alone stations:
Lincs FM (Lincolnshire)
Pirate FM (Cornwall)
Sam FM (Bristol)
Keeping same on-air brand but becoming part of Hits Radio and taking network programmes outside of 6-10am weekdays:
Pulse 1 (Bradford & Huddersfield)
Signal 1 (Stoke-on-Trent)
96.4 The Wave (Swansea)
Fire Radio (Bournemouth)
Rebranding as Greatest Hits Radio under brand licence agreement:
Sam FM South Coast (Solent regional) – owned by Nation Broadcasting
KCFM (Hull) – owned by Nation Broadcasting
Rebranding as Hits Radio under brand licence agreement:
The Breeze (Portsmouth)
The Breeze (Southampton)
The Breeze (Winchester)
-all owned by Nation Broadcasting
Suffolk First (DAB)
Pirate 70s (online)
Pirate 80s (DAB)
Escape to Cornwall (online)
Eagle 70s (online)
Eagle 80s (DAB)
Signal 80s (DAB)
Pulse 80s (DAB)
Wave 80s (DAB)
Total Access (DAB)
Look out for a breaking news edition of The RadioToday Programme podcast later today featuring an interview with Hits Radio Network Brand boss Graham Bryce.