StrayFM is not closing but rebranding say Bauer Media

28 May 2020

Yesterday we ran a news item about StrayFM being rebranded to Greatest Hits Radio.

That news item prompted online discussion that it was closing and others media outlets reporting that the radio station was closing down.

We spoke to Bauer Media and they have confirmed that the station is not closing, but the brand is being closed.

But like many other stations now in the group, there is risk of job cuts.

A spokesperson for Bauer Media said:

We aim to provide all the local content that listeners value highly such as local news, traffic and travel and local information and a regional drive show, alongside nationally known presenters.

We will look to retain a presence in the community and reflect on-air major events and activities in Harrogate.

Our charity Cash For Kids also has a major presence across Yorkshire, and this will extend into Harrogate.

Bauer Media say that the changes are needed in an evolving marketplace to create a digital future for radio. They are changes recognising the choice that the listener has, including DAB, Spotify, Google Play, and Amazon.

They say that a growth in digital listening has come at a cost to many heritage local radio stations in an increasingly competitive market.

Bauer say that the changes provide a clear digital future for all stations and without action many stations may become economically unviable in the future due to audience habits changing.

StrayFM is a strong local radio with established base of presenters and a strong sales team bringing in advertising. Radio listener numbers are independently evaluated by Rajar and that has demonstrated a year-on increase in all metrics.

Bauer purchases the UKRD stations of Minster, Stray, Yorkshire Coast Radio, KLFM, Eagle, Mix 96, Spirit, Spire, Wessex and Pirate.

Bauer Radio took 50% ownership of First Radio Sales (FRS) when it purchased UKRD and then bought the remaining 50% – FRS manage the monetization of many radio stations across the UK, that includes on-air advertising and sponsorships.

FRS was highlighted as one of the key concerns of the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA), when Bauer took control of UKRD.

The current changes are UK-wide and will see the majority of radio stations owned by Bauer being rebranded.

The following stations will be rebranded to Greatest Hits Radio from September:

  • Compass FM
  • Dearne FM
  • Dream 100
  • Eagle Radio
  • KLFM
  • Minster FM
  • Mix 96
  • North Norfolk Radio
  • Peak FM
  • Pulse 2
  • Radio Norwich
  • Radio Wave
  • Ridings FM
  • Rother FM
  • Rutland Radio
  • Sam FM – Swindon
  • Signal 107
  • Signal 2,
  • Spire FM
  • Spirit FM
  • Stray FM
  • Swansea Sound
  • The Beach
  • The Breeze – Bristol
  • The Breeze – Cheltenham
  • The Breeze – East Hants
  • The Breeze – Somerset
  • The Breeze – South Devon
  • The Breeze – Thames Valley
  • The Breeze – West Wiltshire
  • Tower FM
  • Town 102
  • Trax FM
  • Wessex FM
  • Wire FM
  • Wish FM
  • Yorkshire Coast Radio

The following stations will join the Hits Radio Network and will retain their local branding:

  • Fire FM
  • Pulse 1
  • Signal 1
  • The Wave

There will be no changes made to the following, and they will remain as standalone stations:

  • Lincs FM
  • Pirate FM
  • Sam FM – Bristol

The following new stations will be introduced:

  • GHR – Cornwall
  • GHR – East Mids, GHR – Lincolnshire

The following stations will be closed:

  • Lincs FM’s Suffolk First and the former Wireless stations Total Access
  • Pulse 80s, Wave 80s and Signal 80s, and former UKRD’s group’s Encore Radio, 70s and 80s stations

Harrogate Informer opinion

Tim Cook, Editor of the Harrogate Informer said:

StrayFM is a well regarded part of the Harrogate community. It has presenters that are known and visible in the local community, and as a business they have developed a balance of gaining advertising revenue while supporting local events.

The brand of StrayFM is a strong local brand and people feel ownership of it. If you think why people tune into a local radio station, as against a national network, it is often that they feel it is part of their community or there’s chap sat in a studio on Hornbeam Park talking to them. Perhaps that’s a chap that they said hello to at the Bed Race. The point is people tune-in because they feel a connection to the people and what they do.

Am not sure many understand the pressures that you comes with running a media outlet, whether running a newspaper, radio station or online news outlet.  Pressure meaning getting enough money in to keep the show on the road or keep share holders happy.

Many think that the various outlets in Harrogate are all competing – they really aren’t. What we are competing with is huge corporations like Google Adsense of Facebook Advertising who make it oh-so-simple to take your money for an advert. The best-paying local advertising is when the media outlet has developed a close working relationship with businesses or organisations – that is what StrayFM has done and it may be difficult or impossible to do with a central sales team.

But if you look at the lengthy list of radio stations and then start doing the sums around savings if they lose presenters or sales there is a lot of money to be made – but will that be at a loss of listeners ?

Looking at news reporting, and if you look back 10-years then news appetite was much easier to predict. Before online, people would get the news on the hour with StrayFM and the bigger read with the Harrogate Advertiser.

Online changed that balance, as did the on-demand culture for wanting the news or TV programme when they wanted it. I think there is a strong appeal for radio news amongst a dearth of online news, people like 5-minutes of being told what they need  to know about what’s going on.

But I do wonder if this is a station that should be moved into the ‘standalone stations’ category to retain more of a local feel.

Harrogate people like Harrogate things and there’s real risk that the listeners will throw their dummy’s out and turn their back on them.

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