Local Radio a Real Loss

It’s been coming for a while, but the time is almost here. On the first of September, Spire FM will become Greatest Hits Radio.

Ever since 1992, Salisbury has had its own local radio station. It proclaimed to be the Spirit of Salisbury and delivered #properlocalradio. Love it or hate it Spire FM has done some great things in this little city of ours. It’s coaxed us through some hard times, it has helped celebrate the good times and many people don’t remember a time when it wasn’t there.

It has had many voices behind the microphone from Ian Axton, through Chris Ewington, via Pat Sissons and Craig Hicks to Martin Starke. There have been many changes down the years, the station has evolved – its a hugely trusted new service with the current news team led by Faye Tryhorn and recognisable voices such as Henrietta Creasey providing up to date, accurate news, sometimes, 24 hours a day.

It’s given away great prizes from cars to cash, its broadcast from all across Salisbury and surrounding villages from Fetes to Armed Forces Day celebrations and most Sarumites can sing many of the advert jingles that just get stuck in your head.

Salisbury is an often forgotten enclave in the world of news and media. We are on the periphery of broadcast areas for both TV and Radio and to the outside world, you wouldn’t know that very much happens here or that there is anything to be celebrated. That is understandable when you are competing locally with much larger towns and cities like Swindon, Southampton and Bournemouth. Even BBC Swindon, sorry I mean BBC Wiltshire forget that Salisbury exists unless we hit the world headlines or the football club reaches the 3rd round of the FA Cup.

Spire FM and its team helped the city, through the reliable passage of information – checked for accuracy and disseminated like no other media or news source had the power to, through the Novichok episode. Radio has a power that no other medium has. It can react fastest and is trusted like no other. People again have turned to local radio in large numbers during the Coronavirus pandemic, viewing radio as a friend that provides them with comfort and factual news. Spire FM has excelled at this and is probably under-appreciated by many.

Spire FM has filled that void and soon a large part of that hole will open again. Yes, the behemoth multinational media company that is Bauer will still provide some sort of news service to Salisbury, but we will lose most of the local content, instead, it will be replaced with national and regional output. Salisbury will no longer be the focus, the reason for broadcasting, the reason to exist. Salisbury will lose a part of its voice. Salisbury will once again be on the edges, under-appreciated and sometimes forgotten.

I for one am sad that Spire FM will no longer broadcast to our city and surrounding area. Who is going to tell me when it’s going to take an extra 10 minutes to get to work because the traffic lights have failed. Who will update me on how the football team did yesterday as I drive to the supermarket?

I am not alone in feeling like this, a campaign was run to try and save the station. Sadly, I was aware it was too little too late, Bauer completed the purchase of the owning UKRD group long before the petitions were started and the majority were conscious. Nobody locally really had any power to prevent the inevitable. Spire FM disappearing is the latest loss amongst many others in this round of rebranding, nationalisation and buyouts by both Global (Heart/Capital etc) and Bauer.

You might like the change in music output that Greatest Hits Radio will bring in playing the best of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, but you may also miss hearing the latest tracks and some of those huge songs from Ed Sheran or Taylor Swift from the last 10 years. It’s certainly true that there is far more choice of stations than there has ever been before, but we no longer have a truly local choice.

The question is – what is next for local radio in Salisbury?

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