And Finally Artist News Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #152: Star Radio v TFM

By | Published on Friday 12 April 2013

The New TFM

I was sure we’d had a local radio-based Beef Of The Week before, but apparently not. One featuring a local paper, yes. Even one featuring a local council. But none involving a local radio station. So, to make up for lost time, here’s one that features two local radio stations going head to head.

The stations in question are both based in Teeside, or at least they were, though that’s sort of the source of the beef. Last Friday, media firm Bauer Media announced on its Teeside-based radio station, TFM, that from Monday lucky listeners would be able to tune in to The New TFM: bigger, better, bolder, brasher… and basically based in Newcastle. Which might only be 40 miles away, but means that Teeside FM no longer has a base in Teeside and, critics say, is basically syndicating shows from Bauer’s Newcastle station Metro FM with a bit of local news thrown in to fool the listeners.

For its part, Bauer said that the change – enabled by alterations in radio rules stemming from the 2010 Digital Economy Act – meant TFM would “benefit from even greater creativity”. Because there’s nothing more creative than shutting an office, sacking a bunch of people, and forcing the rest to start commuting into Newcastle. Timothy Kirkhope, MEP for the area TFM serves, was not impressed, telling The Northern Echo: “This is a worrying pattern which is developing around the country, in which local and regional stations are being merged and amalgamated and I feel quite strongly about it”.

Meanwhile TFM’s rival in the region, the local outlet of the Star Radio network, leapt on the opportunity to have a dig at its competitor; helped by the fact that owner UKRD has generally resisted the temptation to follow the bigger radio companies in the rampant networking of shows across its various local stations around the country. And the dissing was led by radio veteran Robin Banks, who now hosts the station’s breakfast show.

As the ‘new’ TFM was going live, Banks broadcast an obituary to the Bauer station in the form of an hour long special called ‘When TFM Was Great’. Playing highlights from the station’s 38 year history, Banks told his listeners: “It’s not the new TFM is it? Come on Bauer, just tell everyone what it is, a relay of Metro Radio with a bit of pre-recorded news! Don’t spin it as something new and exciting. Listeners aren’t stupid!”

Banks also used the special to make calls to Metro FM and Bauer Regional MD Cath Ellington, asking the media firm to sell TFM to UKRD, so that it could be kept a truly local operation. Meanwhile a call was put out to any former TFM staff members who had found themselves suddenly out of work, telling them to call Star Radio to discuss working there instead.

And while the offer to buy the TFM licence was presumably not real, apparently the job offers were. Star’s MD Mark Reason subsequently told Radio Today: “I’ve now spoken to quite a few of the former and current TFM employees. For various reasons I can’t comment on how many will end up joining us at Star, but it will most likely include talent from presentation, sales and other areas”.

Of course compared to the night he got pissed, sneaked into the studios of Kiss FM, where he was working at the time, and took the pre-recorded show off air so he could replace it with an hour of sweary rambling, Banks’ TFM dissing was quite mild, but it’s nice to know, in the increasingly dull world of commercial radio, there’s still a place for some good old fashioned on-air rival bitching.