RAJAR Q1/2019 snippets

The RAJAR ratings for the first quarter of 2019 have been released. While they’re not as relevant as they were in the days of huge competition on the dial, there’s still the odd bit of interesting information to be gleaned.

The Voice in North Devon has become the first community radio licensee to enter the RAJAR ratings system. The station operates on two FM frequencies in the North Devon area as well as being receivable on DAB across the county. In their first survey, The Voice picked up 11,000 listeners – that’s an impressive 7% of the population in their patch.

Another RAJAR debutant – and there aren’t many these days – is 96.3 Nation Radio in Scotland. 50,000 people a week are listening to the station’s output, making it Glasgow’s least popular rated radio station by some distance with just a 3% population reach. As mentioned last month, Nation Radio Glasgow has no studio – all presenters work from home, making the output somewhat soulless. There’s no substitute for a physical radio studio.

We also got to find out how Love Sport has managed in its first year since launching in March 2018. The station is, to use a sports analogy, propping up the league table in London with just 32,000 listeners (officially a 0% reach), behind entirely automated digital-only rock jukebox The Arrow.

As if in response, owner Kelvin MacKenzie has appeared in London’s Evening Standard newspaper claiming to have raised £3.5 million to “take on talkSPORT”. He’s trumpeting the station’s “350,000 web users”, saying “8 million people listen to sports radio” (on other stations) and expressing an interest in buying The Sun from News UK. As mentioned last month, Love Sport is due to move to a lesser AM frequency at some point.

Radio news bits

A slightly Welsh-themed news section this month. We start in the far north-west of the country, where Global Radio’s Capital Cymru has unexpectedly dropped all networked programming and is now broadcasting entirely yn Gymraeg. Evening network programming has been removed and replaced with automated non-stop music, a mix of the usual Capital playlist and slightly incongruous Welsh songs.

Last month, I mentioned that KCFM in Hull has been sold to Welsh operator Nation Broadcasting. The brave new world of radio the Nation (read: unimaginably cheap) way has now come to East Yorkshire, with just three hours of weekday programming from the station’s studios each day. All other programmes are now being broadcast from Nation HQ in South Wales.

Staying with Nation Broadcasting, their flip-flopping over the future of Radio Ceredigion in west Wales continues. When they applied for the station’s licence renewal last year, the company chose to go with a service consisting of a 24/7 relay of South Wales regional Nation Radio. The regulator was nonplussed, but faced with no other bidders chose to approve Nation’s application, the alternative being dead air.

Fast forward to a month ago, and Nation did an about-turn, applying to the regulator to increase local programming and bring back the Radio Ceredigion name. Fast forward again, to 30 May, and Nation announce that instead they will be replacing Radio Ceredigion with Nation Radio from 1 June after all. Nation Radio is now broadcasting, with no local content, on the 96.6, 97.4 and 103.3 frequencies previously occupied by Radio Ceredigion.

Another one bites the dust – Bob FM (Hertfordshire, 106.7 and 106.9 FM) has been replaced by Heart following Communicorp’s purchase of the independent variety hits station. Irish media tycoon Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp run stations on behalf of Global to do an end-run around competition issues. The vast majority of Communicorp’s stations run Heart, Capital or Smooth programming, with just XS in Manchester doing its own thing – and that’s only because Heart, Capital and Smooth are all already available in the city.

Communicorp have also bought Connect FM (Northamptonshire, 97.2 and 107.4 FM). This is expected to be replaced by Smooth Radio programming shortly.

Community radio bits

35 applications have been received by Ofcom for community radio licences in their latest round. Some of these applications are more interesting than others – and there are more than a few familiar names in the mix.

One of the more unusual applications comes from Alfred – that’s the station name! – in the pretty Dorset town of Shaftesbury. The people behind Alfred promise a predominantly speech-based service in contrast to the usual mix of music and talk heard on community radio stations. As they put it:

Alfred will air continuous Shaftesbury features presented by local voices. We won’t pad it out with pop songs or ‘prattle’.

Alfred is a project headed up by Keri Jones, formerly of Radio Pembrokeshire and Radio Scilly. Keri knows more than most people about putting together quality local radio in small areas on a budget, so if anyone can pull off a speech radio station in a small town, it’s him. The station is currently producing a podcast illustrating what its output might sound like.

A radio station for a distribution centre. That’s what Cross Counties Radio are proposing with their application to broadcast to an area in and around Magna Park, one of Europe’s largest warehousing and logistics centres, close to the town of Lutterworth in Leicestershire. According to the application, Magna Park contains “26 blue-chip mega-sheds” and employs 11,000 people. The station broadcasts from the offices of Magna Park. Unless it’s able to criticise the park’s operations when necessary, I’d question whether it should be awarded a licence. A corporate mouthpiece is not a community radio station.

After a sudden closure back in 2012, Cheshire FM (Northwich, Winsford and Middlewich) is bidding to make a return. Original licensee David Duffy is linking up with commercial radio veteran John Evington for the venture, which is already broadcasting as an online station. The pair are partners in a number of existing radio-related businesses, including Manchester’s Niocast small-scale trial multiplex and some digital radio operations in Ireland. Duffy was not involved with the previous incarnation of Cheshire FM at the time of the closure.

New stations and frequency changes

The student/community radio station at De Montfort University in Leicester, Demon FM, has closed. The service previously broadcast on 107.5 FM and will continue as an online-only station. The number of broadcast student radio stations on FM and AM has dwindled over recent years as audiences move towards online and app-based listening.

Liverpool Community Radio has announced on its website that its broadcast frequency will be 106.7. The keen-eyed reader with a good memory will note that this is the frequency vacated in 2009 by the ill-fated Knowsley commercial station variously known throughout its life as KCR, The Rocket and Mersey FM. LCR (not to be confused with KCR) has run several RSL stations in the past and will broadcast programming focused on the Kensington neighbourhood of Liverpool’s inner city.

Vixen 101 has one of the best top-of-the-hour jingles in radio. It’s the only place where you’ll hear big, deep-voiced American VOs saying things like Market Weighton, Gilberdyke and South Cave. Now, they can add Pocklington to their list – a relay has been approved to extend the station to the East Yorkshire town. The frequency is not yet known, but Pocklington previously had a community radio station, West Wolds Radio on 103.1 FM. This is a good guess.

Koast Radio, currently broadcasting on 106.6 to Ashington in Northumberland, has successfully applied to extend its service to the nearby towns of Blyth and Morpeth. This will be achieved through a transmission power increase.

Thank you for reading – more radio next month! Please do let me know if you have any comments or suggestions by using the comments form below (please note comments will be public but your email address will not be displayed).