WARRINGTON is set to lose its “local” radio station Wire FM as the majority of the local radio licences bought by Bauer from UKRD, Wireless, Lincs FM and Celador 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.
The enlarged Greatest Hits Radio network will operate with nine separate drive time shows across seven regions – North West, Yorkshire & Lincolnshire, Central, East, South, South West and Wales.
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 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.
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.
Graham Bryce, Group Managing Director – Hits Radio Network Brand, added: “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.”
Warrington South MP Andy Carter, who was recently appointed Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Commercial Radio and is former GMG Radio Group Managing Director, said:
“I’m really sad to see the Wire FM name going and I know it’s a difficult time for people who work at the station but I very much hope it won’t be the end of local broadcasting for Warrington.
“I’ve asked the new owners to assure me that they will continue to provide local news, travel and information for our area as well as being a station that local businesses can use to promote themselves in the coming months“.
Former presenter Pete Pinnington, who was “the face” of the station for many years and now runs his own business in the town “Pete Pinnington Presents,” said: “Although I could see the end of Wire FM eventually, it’s still disappointing when it becomes reality. I was fortunate enough to enjoy 14yrs at Wire FM from its launch in 1998 to retiring in 2012. I’ve enjoyed many years entertaining the community & working with some very talented people along the way. More importantly the amazing listeners. Many still remain lifelong friends today.
My most memorable times at Wire FM we’re all the outside broadcasts including: DAD, Pub Of The Week & roadshows at The Halton Show.
As the world continues to evolve, so does the value of local radio. Bad management over the past 10 years certainly hasn’t helped Wire FM remain LOCAL radio.
“Thanks for the memories Wire FM.”
Another well known face of the radio station Dominic Walker, who is now a voice on FIFA 17 as one of the British Stadium announcers, added: “Wire FM was my home and my life for many years I did two stints on the breakfast show it will be sad to see the Wire FM name disappear. In the early days on Long Lane we produced some of the best radio. Good luck to the Greatest Hits team. If any radio friends need someone to talk to my phone is on!”