UK Radio gets Heart-broken

Today marks another nail in the coffin of UK radio.

It used to be that local radio stations had an identity – they slotted well into their local community, went out-and-about to meet their listeners, and listening was near enough compulsory to many. I grew up in a small town that got its first local radio station back in the early eighties. The station was owned by local businesses, did its bit for the community, and was listened to by a sizable chunk of the town. In fact, Local Radio was what kick-started our two podcasters Carl and Pete into the world of broadcasting back in the 1990s.

Over the years, radio’s had some tough times of late – acquisition by larger radio groups, the decline in listening due to newer form of entertainment (digital telly, iPods and the Net), and, as has been well reported, the uphill waddle that’s been the move to DAB digital radio.

A couple of years ago, there were three big players in the commercial radio business: GWR, the Capital Radio Group, and Chrysalis Radio. In case you didn’t know – as of this year, they’re all one big “happy” family, as they’re now under the ownership of Global Radio.

Global Radio’s Chairman is ex-ITV man Charles Allen (one of the two ITV folk associated with the failed ITV Digital TV service). His reputation is as something of a cost-cutter… slashing headcount and overheads where possible. We’ve already seen a potential 230 forced departures from Global’s radio stations in 2008.

With some much of the UK’s local and national commercial radio in the hands of the slash-and-burn Global group, today’s news had reverberated around a shocked industry…

Global are looking to consolidate their stations into seven distinct brands: Galaxy, Heart, Gold, the Hit Music Network, Classic FM, LBC and XFM. This means that 29 local stations are set to lose their long-established identities, and be re-branded.

Names such as Invicta, Fox, 2 Ten FM, Chitern, FM Essex FM, GWR, Hereward and SGR will be swept away and replaced by a Global Heart brand, while other stations will become Galaxy. The stations Beacon, BRMB, Mercia and Wyvern will be sold off. More on the story at Radio Today.

It’s not clear what this will do to the local radio field – there’ll obviously be potential for more centralisation (cost cutting, syndicated networked programmes), with some industry folk speculating that we may even start seeing the majority of local station’s output networked, except for the prime slots such as Breakfast and the evening Drivetime.

It’s not looking good for the future of radio… If it’s going to survive in this multimedia forest we find ourselves in, an investment has to be made either in personality radio (a reason to switch off the telly and use your ears), or back to genuinely local radio, where the presenters can pronounce local village names, and your radio’s not programmed by computer, and down the wire from Bristol…

Still… good news for us podcasters, eh?

9 comments

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  • waylander001

    no more sgr ? FRAK!

  • Arthur Pewty

    What!… You really mean that there will be no more Invicta FM or Essex FM in the future!! Thank Christ for that!… They are bleedin’ awful stations! Bring back the original BBC Radio London, now that was a fantastic local radio station, remember Robbie Vincent, Tony Blackburn and David Symonds on there, shame they’ve gone… But Invicta and Essex FM are total crap no one in their right mind listens to them, unless they are clinically insane, as they always play bland chart music and have stupid brain dead DJ’s on there.

  • Chris

    Its a shame that that radio names such as SGR, Broadland and Essex FM are going to turn into Heart or Galaxy. I grew listening to SGR and remember when it was Radio Orwell! But to be honest SGR has got very boring and lost most of its local-ness by only doing two shows for Suffolk. And had a vain attempt to get listeners by out bidding BBC Radio Suffolk for the Ipswich Town football games, has managed to annoy lots of fans by poor commentary and coverage.
    Its probably a good more to loose the names – hopefully someone wll be able to use them in the future to run a decent local station as SGR was 10-15 years ago and not just a poor quality national radio wannabe

    Chris

  • Simon

    It is sad that this corporate rebranding will wipe out such a raft of history, but in truth the stations are not what they were. I too remember Radio Orwell, and Saxon Radio its offshoot in Bury St Edmunds, but SGR is insipid in comparison, and has very little penetration into local culture. Ipswich now has four local stations – BBC Radio Suffolk, Town FM and ICR – and SGR is by far the least local of them. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the wave of small scale stations in the last couple of years like Town FM and ICR have robbed SGR of more listeners than anyone else – that may be what has forced Global’s big fat corporate hand.

  • Hi

    I KNOW NO MORE RADIO BROADLAND THIS IS REALLY BAD WE ARE TRYING TO STOP IT ALL AROUND NORFOLK ITS NOT THE HEART OF NORFOLK AND NORTH SUFFOLK

  • Raj

    Basically Heart is an terrible radio station with bad DJs & repetative music, they have a lack of songs many of us grew up with by pretending not knowing who thet are.

    The only way to escape from all the repeats is tuning into Absolute radio

  • S.HAMSGUY

    YEP its a sad time we had a great local radio station here in devon* south hams radio, local informative, locally produced, great mix of music, now heart have got there mucky hands on it, eg the old slash and cut costs motto! and its now more heart attack! im no forced to listen to bbc devon, radio 2, or cornwalls local ILR, pirate/atlantic, at least exeter fm when im there is good! and local, not junk piped in from london most of the day, heart management need a good whipping, we need our local station back!!!!

  • David Douglas

    HI just read your views on ilr radio and agree they are all now dire as i live near nottm we had radio trent which was a graet station in the 70,s /80,s as soon as they split the am fm freqencies thats when they went down hill. The money men now run the stations and all we can look forward to is junk relayed from london via your local station. I think now ilr radio has had it.s day as they are not local to me anymore and never listen to them now. alot of stations will go under. as it stands i now listen to BBC radio nottm as they have changed there format play all types of music feels local to me. got rid of that upper stuffy feeling which alot of BBClocal stations still have. can.t stand heart 106 play the same songs every day repetative crap.

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