On 25th June 2012 Global Radio officially announced that they have bought GMG’s radio division. But what does this mean for the UK radio market?
Currently, Global Radio owns Capital, Heart, and Classical FM, amongst a string of other stations ; while GMG Radio owns Real Radio and Smooth Radio. With this new deal, thought to be around £70million, it is thought Real Radio stations will be re-launched as Heart and Global Radio will come to own over half of the UK’s radio market. But what impact will this have?
With Real and Smooth regional stations, listeners can rely on up to date local information throughout the day. While a change over to Heart from Real Radio may not be to big a problem for the target audience (both within the range of 25-44 years old) the 2.6 million listeners to the five Real regions (covering some of the UK’s biggest cities) may lose this community aspect in the switch over. On Heart, breakfast and drive time shows are the only local broadcast. Heart’s 18 regions then switch to national broadcasts from Leicester Square throughout the rest of the day: something which the station believes to be bringing the ‘best of both worlds’- both local and national information.
One thing which GMG Radio listeners can take solace in is that, in this forthcoming switchover, they can retain the ‘witty banter and celebrity guests’ supplied by stations such as Heart and Capital. But with everyone listening to the same stations, will this not become boring and too similar across the country? Smooth Radio (the second biggest commercial station in the UK) is renowned for its soulful music and songs which are said to ‘reflect the best times of our listener’s lives’. It’s something people tune into specifically for. I, for one, am a big fan of Capital, but listen to it for too long and you do become jaded with the same songs and artists played all day.
Where will the diversity be in commercial stations if large organisations like Global take over smaller stations- will we one day end up with one company which owns all of the commercial stations? And what will the impact be for employees in these smaller local stations? UTV, doesn’t see the ‘public interest’ to merge the two companies and says an enlargement of Global Radio will ‘lock out the competition at a national and local level.’ But at the same time, with Guardian Media Group losing up to £38.3million in newspapers and £4.1million in radio last year alone, is this not something which needs to be done to save those employees and stations? Andrew Miller, CEO of GMG said that “if we believe the best value for the Group lies in disposal of a non-core asset [those that aren't the Guardian or Observer newspapers], then we will do so.” He assures those concerned that it is “an excellent opportunity to develop and flourish”.
For now, it may take a few months before the results of the sale are seen as the stations will continue to be run separately until a merger is agreed by the Office of Fair Trading.
In the mean time, enjoy that regional and community aspect that lies in such stations, because the way things are going, ultimately, we could all be listening to one or two big station that dominates the air waves.
Post by: Daisy Bambridge, Production Support @tnrcommunications