A DISTRICT MP has welcomed an inquiry by the Competition and Markets Authority into the takeover of local radio stations Pulse and Stray FM.

Bauer Media Group announced earlier this year that it was buying up the Wireless Group which owns Bradford’s Pulse and UKRD which runs Yorkshire stations Stray FM, Minister FM and Yorkshire Coast Radio.

But Keighley MP John Grogan says the deal involving nine Yorkshire commercial stations in total would mean the enlarged group would own more than a third of local radio stations nationally and the deal could mean cuts to programming and staff.

He said: “Stray FM, which is based in Harrogate, is hugely popular in Ilkley, with station staff attending numerous community events. Pulse has been part of Bradford life since 1975.

“It was sad to see Pulse cut their live coverage of Bradford City this season - what cuts will be next? We do not want to risk a situation following a takeover by media giant Bauer where the vast bulk of the programming comes from London or Manchester with a few hours from Leeds.


“If these purchases had been cleared by the CMA, it would see further industry consolidation on a huge scale. Eighty per cent of local commercial local radio stations in Yorkshire and the Humber would then be owned by Bauer who would indeed own 36% of all local commercial radio stations nationally. Together with Global they would dominate the local radio market.

“It is my strong belief that Bauer have not purchased these groups and stations to simply run them as they are – namely individual stations with strong identities serving local areas and their respective economies and providing local news.

“Instead I fear they will focus on broadcasting a largely national product and concentrating more on doing business with national advertisers whilst shunning local business.

"Recently the media regulator Ofcom has weakened the regulations so that each local radio station only has to provide three hours of local output per weekday and the definition of local has been extended to whole regions rather than the area the station is meant to be serving.

“If this takeover goes through I would fear closures of studios across the UK, hundreds of job losses and yet more centralisation.”

He said he was worried Bauer would follow rivals Global who have closed 10 local studios. He said Bauer themselves have now ended all locally made weekend programming on several stations they control, including Radio Aire, which now share weekend programming output.

John Grogan tabled a motion in the Commons on the consolidation of the industry which attracted cross party support.

He added: “Ofcom appears to have given up on defending commercial local radio but at least the CMA is performing its role of scrutinising Bauer’s acquisitions on behalf of listeners and advertisers.”

Nick Osborne, founder of campaign group The Local Radio Group, said: “We welcome the decision by the CMA to carry out an in-depth, Stage 2 Inquiry. If the recent Bauer purchases are approved it will result in further consolidation to an industry that is already reeling from job losses on a huge scale. Potentially hundreds more jobs will be lost, not to mention the loss of truly local content and services on dozens of radio stations across the country.”

The CMA inquiry will look at the acquisitions and whether they constitute a substantial lessening of competition within markets.

The inquiry is due to report in January 2020.

In announcing the UKRD deal, Paul Keenan, CEO Bauer Media UK and European Radio said: “These stations are an excellent addition to our business and further extend our reach into completely new areas of the UK.

"This further demonstrates our long-term commitment and belief in commercial radio which has never been so exciting.”