Welcome to eRADIO with Broadcast Bionics       THIS WEEK - 23/06/10 The future, always so clear to me, had become like a black highway at night.

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THIS WEEK - 23/06/10

The future, always so clear to me, had become like a black highway at night. We were in uncharted territory now, making up history as we went along.

That line from the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day seems to sum up events so far this week in the wonderful world of the wireless.

So unless you've been under a rock, you'll know by now (since the news broke on RadioToday.co.uk), that Global Radio is handing back the keys to over a dozen buildings which house popular and historic radio stations.

33 Heart stations and two Hit Music stations will create 15 super stations. That's 20 radio stations which will cease to be. Sure, the transmitters will still be on, no doubt playing the occasional local advert, but if there's a local-but-important traffic jam, police incident or jumble sale, chances are it won't get a mention from one of the 15 centres of broadcasting excellence.

But for some reason, saying that five Hearts in Devon are going to combine to create one regional Heart, doesn't sound too nasty. But if someone suggested just a few years ago that Lantern FM, Plymouth Sound, South Hams Radio and Gemini FM would all merge to form one station with no local programming for each area, how would you feel?

These stations were set up to provide local radio. But now, as times change and Ofcom relaxes the rules, one by one the stations are disappearing under a regional brand.

It's the same in North Wales, the Home Counties, and more. Big cities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Plymouth will see their original stations leave, never to return.

But was this the way it was always supposed to be? Is Ofcom simply putting right what the IBA and the Radio Authority got wrong? If you had a blank piece of paper today with a map of the UK - how would you draw the radio industry?

Maybe this is the industry course correcting. Maybe it's just doing what it can to survive. Or maybe this is just the beginning and what Global is doing today, maybe Bauer, GMG, UTV, Orion, Quidem and the rest will do tomorrow?

Whatever it is, our thoughts go out to those people who will lose their careers, jobs and mortgage payments because of this.

The harsh reality is on the shop floor in Bangor, Barnstable, Bedford, Birkenhead, Bournemouth, Cambridge, Colchester, Crawley, Ipswich, Northampton, Oxford, Plymouth, South Hams, Taunton and Dunstable where the familiar surroundings of hundreds of people will vanish, just in time for Christmas.

We've dropped all our usual content this week to being you more on the Heart 15. Back to normal next week.

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ASK THE EXPERT

"What does Global Radio's announcement mean for the future shape of radio industry?"

Clive Dickens, Absolute Radio: The future of Commercial Radio is to digitally connect, using broadcast & IP, audiences to brands for fun & profit, this is achieved by investing people, creativity and research & development, not bricks & mortar spread un-evenly across South England. Global changes are bold, necessary & timely.

William Rogers, UKRD: I am sure this announcement has come as no surprise to anyone in the industry. It is a logical extension of the branding strategy being developed by Global and unquestionably creates a powerful quasi-national brand within previously more locally focussed markets. It also establishes a clear and defined point of difference between those who are proceeding along branding lines, like Global, and those, like us in UKRD, who continue to hold the view that localness will be key going forward and that smaller commercial stations will have to move even closer to their markets in order to compete and effectively deliver commercial viability. Whilst this will without doubt, produce a substantial competitor across the country, it also opens up opportunities for operators like ourselves who now have a range of different cards to play which were not available before.

Paul Chantler, United Radio: It's very sad for the 200 or so people who'll be losing their jobs - but it was inevitable Global would go down this route. From a corporate point of view, it makes perfectly logical sense commercially. From an efficiency point of view, they will be able to make big savings on people and buildings. And from an editorial point of view, the Heart brand changes to a regional rather than a local offering.

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LOOKING FORWARD

Tom Hunter was Managing Director of Fox FM (soon to disappear inside Heart Thames Valley). Here's his thoughts on this week's announcement.

The consolidation of stations was always the logical next step after the Heart rebrand.

With localness apparently no longer attracting big premiums, lower costs, and no big RAJAR penalties, you can see why Global has done it. As the MD who launched FOX FM in 1989, it is of course sad that it is no more. However I can see two big advantages developing from the news.

Firstly, it would be great to see new high standards and investment in talent and news from the new regional operations. Secondly, there must be an opportunity to develop some great new stations to fill the gap in the local markets. However there is a lot of work needed to find structures and formats that can really make an investment in local radio worthwhile. the world has completely changed since the glory days of ILR, and unfortunately most local stations haven't really moved with the times. Time, effort, and ingenuity is required to find new formats and structures that define and excite local markets. To do this the industry needs to attract new young talent, unencumbered by by the same old solutions, who can create local radio stations that work in this highly competitive, fast moving world.

I believe in localness, and I believe that this news represents an opportunity for everyone in the radio industry.

Tom is now Commercial Director at the National Broadcasting School.

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TEN QUESTIONS WITH... GLOBAL RADIO

The Ten Questions edition that wasn't meant to be.

Well, it turns out Ashley, Stephen, Richard and the rest of the management team at Leicester Square are just too damn busy to answer any of our questions.

We had ten cracking questions lined up, such as "Why have you very recently registered CapitalManchester.com?" and "What's the deal with galaxycardiff.com?"

We were even going to ask "When will you be merging Trent, RAM FM and Leicester Sound to create Galaxy East Midlands?"

However we did get a response to our question about how many people will lose their jobs, but it didn't actually confirm numbers. It just confirmed it was inevitable.

All questions the radio industry is asking, but as ever, will only ever find out the answers in a finely crafted press release.

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YOUR THOUGHTS

We've had dozens of emails from people affected. Here are just a few.

I work in Sales at Heart *********. Basically the presenters don't know much. Our afternoon presenter doesn't know if he will be coming in for work next week as the local programme manager doens't actually know. It's not been run well at all.

I'll probably be okay with my job, but so many sales staff will also lose their jobs! But all the staff in this station were lucky to survive the cuts last time, such as the evening staff and mids being let go for Phillipa, then they finally relax, now this time the cuts are more severe!

Just is so HEART-less to staff that have been through so much.

In a sales front I believe we will struggle. One of our main advertisers has told us it will drop its advertising once we become regional, as why would anyone 80 miles away care in plymouth? So the small businesses will go. Like a small sandwitch shop wouldnt broadcast to a region, but on a small local station they would!

I guess you could argue more big companies will advertise. I dont see it though.

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I would love to be able to listen to local commercial radio but this is finally the end. I have not been able to listen now for some years as with so little local content and very poor programming it has no relevance to the area in which I live. The music is repeated so often that you can almost guess what is coming next and the block advertising is just nothing but a turn off. We are now left with a monopoly in local radio with only the BBC catering for local needs. Is this what the 60's offshore stations fought for?

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1. As an advertiser, can I buy an area smaller than the new quasi-regional stations?
2. Why are Gloucestershire and Wiltshire surviving as standalone local stations?
3. Are the licences being merged, thereby allowing new small-scale stations to exist without breaking the 50% overlap rules in some places. Guess this might be relevant in a few lightly populated places like South / North Devon?

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I'm just starting out newsreading, I've been doing stints here and there but have had this gig for a little while and I must say I'm very worried about my prospects moving forward.

The breakfast DJ here for the next month, made the point local radio away from Global could see a surge with the 200+ people out of work having to move to smaller stations thus boosting the quality of their output.

The irony of the brand name - Heart exactly what they're removing from local radio.

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A note to the ones who are due to go... don't expect the dole to help you. All they will say is there is no skill shortage in your line of work, and they'll ask you to become a customer services operator and change your ways.

So, Ofcom made it so that you lose your job, the government underwrites it, offers no support or compensation and then the dole, which is run by the Government will tell you to change your job and hassle you because you have no job.

I worked in local radio for 23 years to be given that treatment, during which time I went bankrupt, became depressed and had all interest in something I used to love doing beaten out of me. My feelings go out to you. We've been treated badly and then turned over some more, and I haven't even started on the loss of local broadcasting, which is perhaps an equall scandal and tragedy.

In my area, some years ago, all the local MPs and Councilors heralded the new local radio stations as being of benefit to the communities they served. Some of them even claimed they had a hand in bringing local radio to my area. Where are they now?, now that their constituents, all local skilled workers are being turfed out of a livelihood. Where have they been since 2003?

Nobody in power who could have done something, did. Remind me why I should bother voting at all next time.

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Seriously? Is this what you mean by Obsessive??

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How can an outfit that holds local ILR franchise frequencies on both FM and AM just go ahead and scrap all local programs on AM and nearly all on FM?

If Global cannot make these local services pay, then they should either sell them or close them down and hand the licences back to Ofcom.

All they are trying to do is to run regional/semi national networks and the local audience can like it or lump it seams to be the attitude! It is interesting that Global are linking the stations in Reading and Oxford. The BBC tried that some years back and to say that it went down like a lead balloon is an understatement!

As for DAB, the major commercial stations only want to get the BBC networks off of FM because frankly none of them can compete in particular when it comes to program quality. Only Classic FM and Magic 105.4 come in any way close and as for Heart and the rest? they all sound much the same apart from some of the smaller stations like Reading 107 or Radio Jackie who at least make an effort to serve their local areas, if these stations can do it why not Globals stations?

My final thoughts are that our new Government needs to take OFCOM down to the dentists for some new teeth!

Good luck Global, I think you are going to need it! Lots of it!

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MEANWHILE

Before we dispair too much by this announcement, let's remind ourselves that there is still lots of excellent content, creativity and innovation within commercial radio.

Last week's Arqiva Awards proved this. Jack FM deserves a nod for winning two awards - one for it's cheeky imaging and another for Ali Booker's Cancer Diaries - two completely different styles of content, all on a station in a town that Heart is deserting.

Plus, with other winners ranging from The Bay in Lancaster to Radio Pembrokeshire's Sports Show, from Lucy Jones at Banbury Sound (beating Emma Bunton by the way) to Clive Dickens at Absolute Radio, there's still lots that we have to be proud of.

It may be a dark week for many people across our industry, but let's not give up quite yet.

Many thanks for your feedback, and for reading this week's special edition of eRADIO. Keep your photos, gossip and feature suggestions coming in. Just hit reply to this email - we read every one.

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