Since the beginning of 2019, radio has faced many radical takeovers, with Bauer buying up Wireless Group’s local stations, Lincs FM Group and Celador Radio. This week has continued that pattern, only this time it was Global’s turn to make an announcement that will seriously shake up the radio landscape across the UK.
Local breakfast losses
In short, the radio group will network its breakfast shows on Capital, Heart and Smooth by the end of 2019 and will close numerous regional stations completely. Hoping to rival the likes of BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2, Global say they’re creating the three largest commercial radio breakfast shows in the UK on Capital, Heart and Smooth with 4.8m, 3.7m and 2.7m weekly listeners. It comes after Ofcom made changes to its localness guide and announced the deregulation of commercial radio in October 2018.
A sad farewell
It’s a bold move but a difficult one for many of the presenters, producers and journalists working at these stations. Radio Today UK has calculated as many as 250 presenters could lose their jobs. On a personal note, it’s been heart breaking to see Global’s takeover of my old station, The Bay Radio, end in redundancies. The station, which became Heart North Lancashire, will close imminently, along with Global’s local outlets in Brighton, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Exeter, Gloucester, Kendal, Kent, Norwich and Swindon.
The silver lining
That’s enough doom and gloom for now though… as a PR Professional, it’s my job to put a positive spin on even the darkest of news! To be honest, even I must admit this could present an opportunity for local BBC and commercial stations to really step up their game and give local listeners the content they crave. In turn, that of course means more PR opportunities for companies like Shout! Communications, so it’s not all bad by any means. For now, let’s focus on what this means for the broadcast PR industry, and essentially, how it will affect your radio day with us.
Loyal listeners taking a stand
If regional shows on Heart, Smooth and Capital stations are going to be widely axed, this leaves millions of listeners “homeless” when it comes to tuning in to their favourite local presenters. The loyalty of these listeners and their demand for strong, local content, must not be dismissed. In fact, there have already been at least two petitions started by listeners of Heart Radio to save their local breakfast presenters which have attracted thousands of signatures. You can check out the one to save Jagger and Woody in Wales here and one to save Tom, Nic and Jack in Sussex here.
While the networking of these local stations means massive national opportunities for the PR industry, I’m more interested in what it means for regional radio, which is not to be underestimated! As already seen in the above petitions, listeners look as though they’ve planning to boycott the Global stations once networked, lending their ears to BBC and independent local commercial stations instead. When the station I worked for in 2016, The Bay Radio, was taken over by Global and turned into a Heart station, there was uproar in the community that was felt not only across social media comments, but also in Rajar figures. When I was at The Bay in its peak, it had around 110,000 weekly listeners. Now, as Heart North Lancashire’s closure has been announced, its weekly listening figures sit at just 64,000. One of its key rivals, BBC Radio Lancashire, sits comfortably on 164,000. My guess – many of The Bay’s loyal listeners turned off when Global took over, instead looking for the only other local alternatives available to them. This is what I suspect will happen across the UK as Global closes more stations.
Time for others to step up
In my opinion it’s time for key local stations to step up and stand up to this change. The many talented radio people who will soon be without jobs will be hungry for work, and this potentially offers an opportunity for smaller commercial and BBC regional stations to take on new team members and strengthen their news and programming output. For us working in PR, it’s a time to reflect on just how much fabulous content we have to offer broadcasters, and for us to fine-tune this and present it in the best possible way. This essentially comes down to providing local angles and case studies, which will almost always guarantee regional coverage.
The dust is yet to settle after Global’s major announcement, so it will be interesting to see exactly what happens as stations close and breakfast shows are inevitably networked. What remains steady for the PR industry, is the opportunity to provide strong content, both at a national and regional level, to keep both clients and broadcasters happy.
If you’d like to explore how we can help your next campaign secure dazzling coverage across all UK radio, give us a shout!
You can email me at email@example.com or call a member of the media relations team on 020 7240 7373.