Loss of popular local radio station 'a slap in the face' to Wakefield residents

The loss of a popular local radio station would be a "slap in the face" to the people of Wakefield, a councillor has said.

By Holly Gittins
Monday, 1st June 2020, 12:31 pm
Updated Monday, 1st June 2020, 12:32 pm
Ridings FM, which has served as a local station for Wakefield and the Five Towns for more than 20 years, is to be rebranded as part of a national radio network.
Ridings FM, which has served as a local station for Wakefield and the Five Towns for more than 20 years, is to be rebranded as part of a national radio network.

Ridings FM, which has served as a local station for Wakefield and the Five Towns for more than 20 years, is to be rebranded as part of a national radio network.

The station was formerly owned by Lincs FM, but was one of dozens purchased by industry giant Bauer Media last year.

The acquisition had been under investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority, after concerns were raised that the loss of local stations may make it harder for remaining independent stations to secure national advertising.

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But a deal was agreed in April 2020, and the merger allowed to go ahead.

Bauer Media have now confirmed that Ridings FM will rebrand as Greatest Hits Radio, which promises to offer "classic hits from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s alongside regional drive time and networked breakfast shows."

Listeners are promised an "optimum mix of local content... alongside content from nationally known presenters."

Dee Ford CBE, Group Managing Director Radio, Bauer Radio comments, “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.”

The news has been met with dismay in the local community, with several local councillors voicing their concerns about the loss of the local station.

Councillor Michael Graham said that the station plays a "vital part" in the district's community, and described the potential closure as a "slap in the face" to listeners.

Councillor Tom Gordon said: “This move by Bauer Radio endangers Wakefield’s regional identity on local independent radio. Local presenters will soon be replaced by national programmes produced in London.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has proved just how crucial local coverage is, with residents across the district relying on Ridings FM for the latest public health guidelines and news about local businesses, services and transport. Region-wide coverage will not be able to replace this with the level of detail that residents depend on.

"As Wakefield recovers economically from the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses should be making attempts to protect jobs, not to cut them."