Global Radio is capitalising on a relaxation of radio regulations initiated by the Digital Economy Act to streamline its Heart FM operations, by turning what are currently 33 separate local stations into just fifteen regional services.
As previously reported, Global rebranded a string of stations from what had been GCap’s local FM network so that they became Heart operations in the first half of 2009, enabling stations to share more programming and marketing initiatives. Two more local FMs, Crawley’s Mercury Radio and Harlow’s Ten 17, will also be rebranded Heart ahead of the upcoming revamp.
Because these stations all now share the same name, and already carry networked Heart programming, presumably Global hope listeners won’t especially notice the fact their local radio stations are becoming less local. Those working within the Heart network will notice though, given the streamlining effort is expected to result in about 200 job losses.
The move will also see numerous local radio studios close as the areas those facilities service get merged with neighbouring regions. Among the towns due to lose their local studios are Bangor, Barnstaple, Bedford, Birkenhead, Bournemouth, Cambridge, Colchester, Crawley, Ipswich, Northampton, Oxford, Plymouth, South Hams, Taunton and Torquay. Though Global say that those Heart studios that do stay open will benefit from a network-wide multi-million upgrade of facilities.
Confirming the changes, Global top man Ashley Tabor told reporters: “[The recent change in OfCom rules] enables commercial radio to organise itself more efficiently and take advantage of new technology to enable our people to work smarter. Although this has meant some brave decisions for our business, these changes considerably strengthen our company by providing listeners with higher quality programming and our customers with a far superior service”.
According to Radio Today, the new OfCom rules will also have an impact on Global’s Gold network, which mainly broadcasts on AM, often using the AM sister frequencies of the old local FM stations that are now part of the Heart network. It seems the more relaxed OfCom rules mean that Gold stations won’t have to carry any locally made programmes, meaning breakfast shows previously produced on a frequency by frequency basis will be removed.