Global slashes Heart network to 15 stations

Global Radio is to halve the number of stations in the Heart network with the loss of up to 200 jobs following changes made to local radio regulation by the Digital Economy Act.

Ashley Tabor: group chief executive at Global Radio
Ashley Tabor: group chief executive at Global Radio

The Digital Economy Act provides for local radio stations to co-locate and share programming within defined territories. Global Radio will now create 15 new "centres of broadcasting excellence" which will incorporate the 32 Global-owned Heart stations as well as Mercury Radio and Ten.17 FM.

In addition to broadcasting network content, such as Toby Anstis' late-morning slot, the 15 stations will have their own breakfast and drive-time shows as well as local news on the hour throughout the day.

The jobs of up to 200 employees could be at risk due to the changes, with Global stating that the majority of those are on freelance contracts and no local sales positions are threatened by the changes.

As part of the changes five separate stations in Devon will be combined as Heart Devon in Exeter and five stations in Wales and the North West will become a single station based in Wrexham.

Orion Media-owned Heart East Midlands will continue to broadcast from Nottingham but Global station Mercury Radio will join the Heart network as part of Heart Sussex and Global station Ten.17 FM in will become part of Heart Essex.

Ashley Tabor, founder and group chief executive at Global Radio, said: "The Ofcom statement 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."

Stations are expected to start being closed next month and the consolidation will be completed by the end of the year. Global Radio said it plans to invest £7m on the restructure, enhancing the local sales team and local facilities such as new systems and hardware.

The 15 remaining Heart stations will be:

Birmingham- Heart West Midlands
Brighton- Heart Sussex
Bristol- Heart West Country
Peterborough- Heart Cambridgeshire
Essex- Heart Essex
Exeter- Heart Devon
Fareham- Heart South Coast
Gloucester- Heart Gloucestershire
Kent- Heart Kent
London- Heart FM
Milton Keynes- Heart Home Counties
Norwich- Heart East Anglia
Reading- Heart Thames Valley
Swindon- Heart Wiltshire
Wrexham- Heart North West & Wales

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