Dozens of local radio stations across England are set to be rebranded in a dramatic shake-up.

Bauer Radio - who own national stations including Absolute Radio, Magic Radio, Kiss FM and Scala Radio - have announced the 49 FM stations they recently purchased will be renamed as Greatest Hits Radio in the Autumn.

The companies two local radio brands which feature local programming, news and travel are; hit-music station Hits Radio, and Greatest Hits Radio, which plays tracks from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Thurrock Gazette:

Why is this happening now?

The move comes after the company bought a total of 56 FM licences during a 'mega-merger' with media companies UKRD, Wireless, Lincs FM and Celador. The acquisitions faced an in-depth investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which concluded in March this year.

What changes are happening and where?

A total of four stations, including - Pulse 1 in Bradford, Signal 1 in Stoke, The Wave 96.4 in Swansea and Fire Radio in Bournemouth - will keep their names but become part of the Hits Radio network. Each will have a local breakfast show and The Wave will also have its own daytime and drivetime programmes.

The remaining three of the 56 stations – Lincs FM in Lincoln, Pirate FM in Cornwall and Sam FM in Bristol – will operate as ‘stand-alone’ stations. 

The Breeze South Coast, which covers Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester, will rebrand as Hits Radio with a local drivetime show but take network programmes broadcast from London and Manchester at all other times. 

The Greatest Hits Radio network will operate with nine separate drive time shows across seven regions in England – the North West, Yorkshire & Lincolnshire, Central, East, South, South West and Wales.

A number of digital-only stations acquired as part of the purchases last year will all be closed – these include; Total Access, Pulse 80s, Signal 80s, Wave 80s, Pirate 80s, Eagle 80s, Suffolk First and musicals station Encore.

What have Bauer Radio said about the changes?

Bauer Radio also says it will continue to provide local news, travel, weather, advertising and other information for listeners. 

Dee Ford CBE, group managing director of radio at 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.”

Graham Bryce, group managing director of the 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.”

'Consultation launched with affected staff'

Bauer says the changes mean that some staff roles will be put into consultation for redundancy and freelance contracts will be reviewed.

The group added it is ‘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 the employees affected began today (May 27, 2020).

Industry website RadioToday has estimated that the current total of about 200 on air presenting roles across the former Wireless, UKRD, Lincs and Celador stations will be cut to about 40, with Greatest Hits and Hits stations only requiring one regional show from within each of the Ofcom-approved areas.

Here are the stations that will rebrand to Greatest Hits Radio in September:

  • The Beach (Great Yarmouth & Lowestoft)
  • The Breeze (Alton, Petersfield, Haslemere & Bordon)
  • The Breeze (Andover)
  • The Breeze (Basingstoke)
  • The Breeze (Bath)
  • The Breeze (Bridgwater & West Somerset)
  • The Breeze (Bristol)
  • The Breeze (Cheltenham)
  • The Breeze (Newbury)
  • The Breeze (Reading)
  • The Breeze (Shaftesbury)
  • The Breeze (Torbay)
  • The Breeze (Warminster)
  • The Breeze (Weston super Mare)
  • The Breeze (Yeovil)
  • Compass FM (Grimsby)
  • Dearne FM (Barnsley)
  • Dream 100 (Tendring)
  • Eagle Radio (Guildford)
  • KLFM (Kings Lynn)
  • Minster FM (Northallerton)
  • Minster FM (York)
  • Mix 96 (Aylesbury)
  • North Norfolk Radio (North Norfolk)
  • Peak FM (Chesterfield)
  • Pulse 2 (Bradford & Huddersfield)
  • Radio Norwich (Norwich)
  • Ridings FM (Wakefield)
  • Rother FM (Rotherham)
  • Rutland Radio (Rutland)
  • Sam FM (Swindon)
  • Signal 107 (Kidderminster)
  • Signal 107 (Shrewsbury & Oswestry)
  • Signal 107 (Telford)
  • Signal 107 (Wolverhampton)
  • Signal 2 (Stoke-on-Trent)
  • Spire FM (Salisbury)
  • Spirit FM (Chichester)
  • Stray FM (Harrogate)
  • Swansea Sound (Swansea)
  • Tower FM (Bolton & Bury)
  • Trax FM (Bassetlaw)
  • Trax FM (Doncaster)
  • Wave 96.5 (Blackpool)
  • Wessex FM (Weymouth)
  • Wire FM (Warrington)
  • Wish FM (Wigan)
  • Yorkshire Coast Radio (Bridlington)
  • Yorkshire Coast Radio (Scarborough)

In addition, digital-only station Town 102 (Ipswich) will rebrand as Greatest Hits Radio.

The following radio stations will not rebrand and will keep their name and operate as a stand-alone station:

  • Lincs FM (Lincolnshire)
  • Pirate FM (Cornwall)
  • Sam FM (Bristol)

These radio stations will not reband, but will become part of Hits Radio (taking the same music playlist and networked shows from London and Manchester). They will have a local breakfast show, which will air from 6am to 10am weekdays:

  • Pulse 1 (Bradford & Huddersfield)
  • Signal 1 (Stoke-on-Trent)
  • 96.4 The Wave (Swansea)
  • Fire Radio (Bournemouth)

A small number of stations will rebrand as Greatest Hits Radio under a brand licence agreement with Nation Broadcasting, they are:

  • Sam FM South Coast (Solent regional)
  • KCFM (Hull)

These stations will rebrand as Hits Radio under a brand licence agreement with Nation Broadcasting:

  • The Breeze (Portsmouth)
  • The Breeze (Southampton)
  • The Breeze (Winchester)

    Here are the radio stations that are closing in the coming months:
  • Encore (DAB)
  • Suffolk First (DAB)
  • Pirate 70s (online)
  • Pirate 80s (DAB)
  • Escape to Cornwall (online)
  • Eagle 70s (online)
  • Eagle 80s (DAB)
  • Signal 80s (DAB)
  • Pulse 80s (DAB)
  • Wave 80s (DAB)
  • Total Access (DAB)