Today sees the first time Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp group has made a move in the UK radio market. But what exactly has he bought?
Communicorp now owns seven large regional radio stations in England, Wales and Scotland, making them the fourth biggest group behind Global Radio, Bauer Media and UTV.
But this isn’t a straightforward purchase. Global Radio bought the radio assets of The Guardian newspaper in June 2012 but was eventually told to sell half of the stations it bought due to competition issues.
But the UK’s competition commission only had a problem with Global Radio controlling the local sales aspect of all the stations in the same market, so sought permission to offload the radio stations but franchise out the radio brand, most of the programming and national sales.
And because most radio stations in the UK are operating under as brands, it would have been a backward step to split them up after years of national marketing for Heart, Capital and Smooth.
So in steps O’Brien, agreeing to run the stations under the same brands, but with local shows at breakfast and drivetime. These stations will be more than likely co-locate with their former Global Radio team mates, but keep the local sales team in a different room. The UK stations will be managed by Mark Lee.
Now Communicorp will operate Smooth Radio in the North West, North East and East Midlands in England, along with Real Radio in Yorkshire, Real Radio XS in Manchester and Capital FM in South Wales and Central Scotland.
Communicorp now owns 27 radio stations around the world, operating the largest independent radio groups in Latvia and Bulgaria plus stations in Jordan, the UK and of course Ireland.