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?