When England catches up with Scotland

By Art Grainger
Posted 19 December 2014, 2.33pm est

Hmm! That's surprising.

With the relaunch of the cluster of "1" and "2" commercial radio stations in Scotland (e.g. Clyde 1, Clyde 2, Forth 1, Forth 2 etc), the launch of "1" & "2" stations in the North of England, for which England catches up with what Scotland has been doing for the past 25 years (i.e. City 1, City 2, Rock FM 1, Rock 2, Metro Radio 1, Metro 2, TFM 1, TFM 2 etc) and the launch of "3" in Scotland and the North of England (i.e Clyde 3, City 3, Rock 3, Metro 3, TFM 3 etc), the new schedule for the "2" stations has just been released, ahead of launch on January 5th.

Much to my surprise, most of the programs that are going across the network of the "2" stations (aka The Greatest Hits Network) in both Scotland and England will in fact be coming from Glasgow and Dundee.

The breakfast show will be separate for Scotland and England.
Mid-mornings will come from England.
Mid-afternoons from Scotland.
Drivetime will be separate for Scotland and England.
Mid-evenings will come from England.
Late-nights will be from Scotland and through-the-night will come from Scotland.

In the weekends, most programs will come from Scotland, except when England has Mike Read in the mornings, as well as its own phone-in program on Sunday mornings (called England's Talk-in, when Scotland continues with Scotland's Talk-in).

England will also get its own sport and music program on Saturday afternoons, in-line with what already happens in Scotland.

There's to be a party show and soul show on Saturday nights (so no more traditional Scottish music on Saturdays in Scotland).

Sadly, music mogul Billy Sloan has lost his Sunday show in favour of a country show on Sunday evenings.

All stations will still have their own dedicated local news bulletins, Whats-On's, travel news, adverts (of course) and a few other local features.

The "3" stations will only be available on DAB digital radio and on the internet - not FM or medium wave. The "1" stations will be on FM, DAB and internet. The "2" stations will be on medium wave, DAB and internet.

It's an interesting development because the AM stations in Scotland have historically done better than their sister stations in England with bigger audience reaches. This could have been due to maintaining their local heritage brands and local programs prior to networking. It was only when the Scottish stations networked most (and eventually all) programs that we saw considerable drops in the audience. Of course, the AM stations in England had already lost their local heritage brand and were renamed as Magic, for which most stations barely had more than 3% reach. When Magic became increasingly networked, the audiences slipped again. I wonder if resurrecting the Heritage brands will see an audience recovery in England. In Scotland, with a promotional campaign, I think there may be a slight increase in reach for a wee while - but the figures will eventually head southwards and downwards again.


5 years, 5 months ago

Just a thought. With such a high proportion of Scottish presenters on the AM stations in England, these stations could be mistaken as being quite Scottish for much of the day.

Ironic, really, considering that in Scotland the bigger complaint is the very high level of English voices on Heart Scotland, Smooth Radio Glasgow, Capital Scotland and XFM Scotland.

5 years, 5 months ago

Art, I will wait to listen and see what i think to pass judgement. However, I have already ready some very angry comments from long time Magic listeners on the personal Facebook pages of some of the Magic presenters and some of the magic pages. Listeners are unhappy that the music seems to be including more "modern" stuff. Not sure how true this is but as a 55 year old, whilst I have heard some good tunes from the 90's and later, there really is not much of the more recent material that I like, and this is the general complaint amongst the vocal comment that I have seen. I know radio has to evolve and move on, and maybe this is the way forward.

My eyebrows were raised at a TALK show on Sunday morning. I thought these were music stations? Sunday mid morning is a popular time for having the radio on in the background, preparing Sunday lunch, washing the car or whatever. Not sure if a phone-in is going to go down well at that time.

5 years, 5 months ago

Well, Brian, I can tell you that the Talk-In has been a staple of Sunday morning radio in Scotland for the past 40 years and draws considerable audiences. It is the very last remnant of old-style ILR up here and has proven to be quite successful, so much so that it has been expanded from 1 hour local programs to a 2 hour national program, with higher production values and a larger pool of callers. There are never any caller-gaps in the newer program that require the presenter to pad over time, which was often the case when the Talk-In was 1 hour long and each station had it's own version.

5 years, 5 months ago

Magic's soon to rebrand AM network appears to be re-positioning itself more akin to the old GMG Smooth Radio format where a mix of well known classic hits are mixed in with more modern music from the 90s and 00s.

Like Brian, I'm skeptical that a phone-in will work on what is a classic hits network in England. It'd be like Gold suddenly reverting from playing 60s and 70s music for a sudden flip in format to heavy speech. We know that English and Scottish radio can be culturally different and while it appears the phone-in on the AM stations in Scotland works thanks to it's heritage, this is new ground for the classic hits stations south of the border.

5 years, 5 months ago

I think it's always "been different" in Scotland, because their radio evolved differently. GWR never happened up there for example. Consequently the wave of very tight, heavily researched, heavily produced, nothing-left-to-chance stations which one former GWR person described to me as "formatted in such a way that they were unable to be shit" which England and Wales have had for 20 years now, is a relatively new beast north of the border and to a lesser extent in Northern England.

5 years, 5 months ago

Aye - and the radio stations in Scotland have held onto their audiences for much longer as well, whilst also ensuring that listeners stayed tune to their station for a few more hours when compared to their counterparts in England. It's only when programming on the Scottish stations were radically altered towards networking that we saw considerable drops, with some heritage stations losing half of their (quite considerable) audience in just 12 months.

A point I keep making is that I don't know of any other kind of business who would happily ensure that they make decisions to shed a load of their customers, then further ensure that the customers they have left consume less of their product(s), then happily report how successful their business has been - even though the trends show that over the mid to long terms that the consumer base and consumer consumption is going to keep heading downwards, which means a slow death of the business. It simply wouldn't happen, not without decision makers being brought to question and possibly losing their jobs.

Even John Myers and other commentators are noticing just how much less people are listening to commercial radio, when he guested on the Radio Review (and he did say commercial radio, rather than radio overall).

From what I see, Bauer are trying to arrest the decline by bringing back the successful heritage brands and making themselves future proof, by allowing their audience to grow old and simply move across within the brand. It will be interesting to see what alterations are made to programming in the years to come.

5 years, 5 months ago

I think what we can safely say is that Global is a follower of the GWR maxim of over-tight, over-researched, over-produced, over-edited radio with no room for creativity, and community radio is proving that listeners want radio that sounds more human and not so perfect. I like listening to people who accidentally stumble over a word or two, and then make a joke out of it, or try to pronounce a tough name, and don't quite get it right, and acknowledge the fact. It says "human being", rather than "machine programmed to be perfect".

5 years, 5 months ago

What's missing from this debate is the fact that Bauer with it's local brand policy is removing regional breakfast shows from the ex Magic AM stations for a all singing, all dancing national breakfast show from within England.

So you have a policy of removing a national brand name from the AM'ers, replaced by the likes of the oddly named TFM 2 and Rock FM 2 which are on AM, with some local news and information dropped in from the local FM sites with programming from Newcastle, Glasgow or Dundee.

I think the English audience will probably be more welcoming of the Scottish presenters than the other way round, although I suspect with some of the City 2 Magic AM target audience, they'll moan about losing their fav presenters etc.

5 years, 5 months ago

Worthwhile remembering the history here. A typical listener in Hull got a wholly local gold service, followed by a gold service with a new name that was shared for most of daytime except breakfast (but from Hull), then a complete change of presenters and name and an easy service that was completely regional (from Sheffield), then a new name and a gold service from Sheffield, then a new name and an easy service from Sheffield, then a gold service from Sheffield with a Hull breakfast show, then a gold service from Newcastle with a regional breakfast show, and now a new name and a gold service from somewhere else. The situation in Liverpool is even worse.

In the last fifteen years, perhaps surprisingly, this service has only lost a third from its figures. Liverpool has fared much worse, with figures more than halving.

I'd agree, incidentally, that Rock FM 2 is an absurd name for a station, given that it isn't on FM, it doesn't play rock, and '2' normally conveys 'less desirable than 1'.

(For disclosure purposes: I was a swing jock on Magic AM for South Yorkshire).

5 years, 5 months ago

James - a few inaccuracies in your timeline of what Hull listeners have been treated to on AM over the years. Here's my take on it....

Oct 1988 - Viking Gold - Local Gold service with The SuperStation sustaining service between 10pm and 6am
May 1999 - Classic Gold - Regional gold service (from Hull) with local breakfast and sport programmes
1992 - Great Yorkshire Radio - Regional easy service from Sheffield
1994 - Great Yorkshire Gold - Regional gold service from Sheffield
Feb 1997 - Magic 1161 - Local easy service, initially with overnight sustaining service from Sheffield
Dec 2001 - Magic 1161 - Easy service from London with local breakfast and drive
Jan 2003 - Magic 1161 - Gold service from Newcastle with local breakfast, drive and late
Jul 2006 - Magic 1161 - Gold service from Newcastle with local breakfast
Apr 2013 - Magic 1161 - Gold service from Newcastle with regional breakfast from Leeds

I'd argue that the figures suggest that since 1999 (when the service was fully local), the audience trend looks pretty flat. Total hours fluctuate either side of 850k. Reach fluctuates either side of 80k. Average weekly hours fluctuate either side of 11.

Market share looks to have taken a dip between 2003 and 2006 when the station adopted a "greatest hits" music policy (not unlike the one it will have from Monday!). Share looks to have recovered post 2006 when the music policy switched to a traditional 60s/70s gold format, despite the loss of local drive and late shows at the same time. This may have been influenced by the availability of the station online and on DAB in later years, and also the availability of Magic 104.4 on Freeview, as I am led to believe that RAJAR ticks for "Magic" in the north were credited to the local AM service.

(For disclosure purposes: I was a weekend/swing jock on Magic 1161 between 1998 and 2013)

5 years, 4 months ago

Art, I was not dismissing, or saying that I do not like phone-ins, I was just merely commenting that I believe maybe a talk show at that time is ill placed. It may well have done well north of the border, but it will be a very different thing for those who used to listen to a music show around that time on a Sunday morning. It will be interesting to see how it does.

I have been listening to the new TFM 2 today, and although I am not a particular fan of late 80's and 90's music, it has been a pleasant listen. I am going to give it a good go to see if I can cope with it. Just out of interest, are Clyde 2 and Fiorth 2 still in stereo on DAB up there?

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