Wakefield Lib Dems Campaign to Save Ridings FM

Lib Dems urge Bauer Radio to rethink Ridings FM shutdown

Liberal Democrat Councillor has criticised Bauer Radio’s decision to close Ridings FM, saying that the move will “erode Wakefield’s regional identity on the airwaves”. In an open letter to Bauer Radio, Councillor Tom Gordon opposes plans to merge Wakefield’s local independent radio station with seven other stations across Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. Ridings FM, which currently serves Wakefield, Pontefract, Castleford, Featherstone, Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, is set to be replaced by the region-wide Greatest Hits Radio, in a move which has been reported will put 80% of presenters’ jobs at risk. Cllr Gordon and the Wakefield Liberal Democrats have started a petition and hope to gather enough signatures to show that enough residents support Ridings FM for it to remain viable.

Commenting, Councillor Tom Gordon said:

“This move by Bauer Radio endangers Wakefield’s regional identity on local independent radio. Local presenters will soon be replaced by national programmes produced in London”.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has proved just how crucial local coverage is, with residents across the district relying on Ridings FM for the latest public health guidelines and news about local businesses, services and transport. Region-wide coverage will not be able to replace this with the level of detail that residents depend on”.

“Radio Today estimates that 80% of presenters will face redundancy because of this rebrand, whilst Bauer Radio has given no assurances over the state of jobs for off-air support staff and producers. As Wakefield recovers economically from the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses should be making attempts to protect jobs, not to cut them”.

Make sure you sign our petition to keep Ridings FM on the airwaves, just click here.

The open letter sent to Bauer Radio can be read below:

“Dear Bauer Radio,

I am writing to ask that Bauer Radio reconsiders the decision to strip Ridings FM of its regional brand, and to abandon plans to merge Ridings FM with seven other stations and rebrand as Greatest Hits Radio.

This rebranding poses a substantial risk to local independent stations with strong regional identities. Replacing locally-produced shows with mainly syndicated programmes made in London featuring national presenters will almost certainly guarantee the loss of the Wakefield link between the presenter and the listener. Presenters with regional accents will become a rarity, as will those with a deep understanding of Wakefield and its traditions and local culture. Much-cherished community events, such as the Wakefield Christmas Lights Switch On and Thornes Park Firework Display, may well struggle with reduced media outlets to cover them.

In addition, the ability of Ridings FM to reach a large audience very quickly has proved vital during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Having the capacity to share public health guidelines, particularly to young audience which other mediums find hard to reach, has had an overwhelmingly positive impact to inform people across Wakefield of the best practices in protecting themselves from the virus, and of the measures put in place by local businesses, services and transport. As much of this information over the last few months has been quick to change, local radio has been absolutely crucial in being able to spread information effectively across a population, proving that “local news” is far more than just traffic updates. I am sceptical that a move to a local multiplex model, with local coverage being replaced by region-wide coverage, will be as effective in providing localised news to a community as Ridings FM currently is.

Finally, I am incredibly concerned by Radio Today’s estimates that 80% of radio presenters across the network face redundancy, and that Bauer Radio have given no assurances over the state of jobs for off-air support staff and producers. As Wakefield recovers economically from the Covid-19 pandemic, nobody should feel that their job is vulnerable. Regrettably, these plans will expose many local people employed by Bauer Radio to job insecurity at precisely the time where large companies should be making attempts to protect people’s jobs. Furthermore, this rebrand and the increase in airtime being given to London-based national presenters will only diminish the number of locally-based media jobs, a blow to Wakefield College which offers various courses in Media and Creative Studies to young people across the district.

It is clear that Bauer Radio’s plans to rebrand Ridings FM are incredibly disappointing for Wakefield, not only for the staff employed but also for local people who rely on the station for the latest news. I urge Bauer Radio to consider the impact of this decision on Wakefield residents during this difficult time, and to abandon their plans to merge the station.

Best regards,

Cllr Tom Gordon
Wakefield & District Liberal Democrats"

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