Harrogate-based Stray FM has changed its name and brought in celebrity presenters to host shows as part of major changes to local radio across the UK.
From today (Tuesday 1st September 2020), ‘Greatest Hits Radio Harrogate & The Dales’ is broadcasting on FM across Skipton and Ilkley, while ‘Greatest Hits Radio West Yorkshire’ is available in Keighley, having replaced Pulse 2 from Bradford.
Popular local presenters have been replaced by national names such as Mark Goodier, Andy Crane, Pat Sharp and Simon Mayo, who are hosting shows from London or Manchester. Their programmes will be aired on local radio transmitters from Scarborough to Swansea and Blackpool to Basingstoke. Owner Bauer Media says there will still be some local news and information broadcast on what is now the ‘UK’s largest commercial radio network’.
Dee Ford CBE, Group Managing Director Radio of Bauer Radio, said: “We’re so pleased to be officially bringing the all-new Greatest Hits Radio Network to air today. It will be a major part of the UK’s biggest commercial radio network – offering the most popular music format in UK radio brought to life by the most loved and trusted broadcasters. Listeners from all corners of our nation will benefit from the local news and information they value and from having local teams support on-air and off-air initiatives. Advertisers, both locally and nationally, will be able to access deeply engaged audiences on all broadcast platforms.”
The move follows a change in the rules on ‘localness’ for commercial radio in 2018 by the media regulator Ofcom. Stations are now only required to have 3 hours a day on FM local radio services that is presented from the region where it broadcasts. Listeners to the former Stray FM service will hear a 3-hour regional drivetime programme from studios in Leeds, which will be shared across stations in Scarborough, Bridlington, York, Harrogate, Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield, Chesterfield, Hull and Grimsby.
Stray FM’s former owner, UKRD Group, took over the broadcast licences for Skipton and Ilkley in 2012 and merged programmes with ones from Harrogate. The station had previously been called Fresh Radio, having launched in Skipton in May 1997 as Yorkshire Dales Radio.
Nick Babb, who was the last voice on Fresh Radio in January 2012 before its sale to Stray FM, also presented the final local show on Stray FM on Sunday afternoon.
Nick is one of the founders of a new digital service - Rombalds Radio - aimed at people across Skipton, Keighley and Ilkley. His partner in the business is Stuart Clarkson, who also presented shows on Yorkshire Dales Radio, Fresh and Stray. Rombalds Radio takes its name from Rombalds Moor, which runs between the Aire and Wharfe valleys.
Stuart and Nick have put together the new digital-only station, which launched on 10th August, and brought in popular local presenters including Nick Bewes (Fresh Radio), Alex Cann (Stray FM), Elisa Hilton (The Pulse, Real Radio Yorkshire), Jeremy Gartland (Fresh Radio & Stray FM), Glenn Pinder (Stray FM & Radio Aire) and Tim Steere (BBC Radio Leeds).
Rombalds Radio is available via its own free app, smart speakers and at rombaldsradio.com. It hopes to be available on DAB digital radio in the future when a new ‘multiplex’ is created for the Skipton, Keighley and Ilkley areas.
Stuart Clarkson from Rombalds Radio said: “We’ve been blown away by the support from local listeners and advertisers over the last three weeks and are looking forward to welcoming more people to try us out as these changes kick in. We play great music from across the decades and our experienced friendly presenters chat about things going on round here that you might want to know about.”
Nick Babb added: “I’ve lived in Ilkley for almost 40 years and Stuart is a Silsden lad born and bred who went to school in Skipton - so we know this area incredibly well. We’re delighted to bring local radio back to listeners here - download our app for your phone or tablet today and tune in!”
Meanwhile Cowling-based community radio station Drystone Radio, which began broadcasts in 2009 via a transmitter in Sutton-in-Craven, has announced plans to expand. The not-for-profit station, which is run by volunteers, will bring its eclectic mix of programmes to Ilkley on 102 FM later this year after Ofcom offered every existing community radio station in the UK the chance to extend their coverage areas.
Drystone Radio owner David Adams told the Craven Herald last month: “We’ve been serving neighbouring North Yorkshire for over 20 years - permission to extend our service into Wharfedale is a huge vote confidence from OFCOM”.