New Stray FM pledges get 'cautious welcome' by Harrogate MP

Harrogate's MP has given a cautious welcome to new assurances from the new owners of Stray FM over the future of the radio station, its local nature, its staffing and its commitment to community interests in Harrogate.

Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 9:54 am
Updated Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 9:58 am
Harrogate MP Andrew Jones about Stray FM pledges - "We now need to see what those principles will mean in reality; how they will manifest themselves in what we hear when we tune in.

Andrew Jones, MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, said the new information from Bauer's bosses he had received after he raised the town's concerns about Stray FM had been "much more optimistic" than he had expected, though the "devil would be in the detail."

The future of much-loved local radio station Stray FM was cast into doubt earlier this year when owners Bauer Media revealed that the station was to become part of their Greatest Hits Radio network.

Harrogate business and community figures, including Andrew Jones, voiced concerns about the future of local news reporting, community support, advertising and local events which Stray FM has keenly supported.

Bauer Media Group bought Stray FM in early 2019.

Mr Jones wrote to the Group Director of the organisation, Dee Ford, raising concerns about the future of the station and asking for assurances about its role. In respect of news coverage Ms Ford has told Mr Jones.

Ms Ford said: “our plan at this stage is to deliver local news much as it is currently delivered by Stray FM. In fact, we expect access to the size and scope of the wider Bauer news team will enable the local team to better cover major local stories and issues.

"With respect to your question concerning the retention of a Harrogate-based news team, while we are yet to make any final decisions on specific staffing requirements, we expect to retain these roles.”

The Harrogate MP also raised questions on the station’s support for community events and charities.

Ms Ford said: “Greatest Hits Radio will still have locally based journalists and reporters covering inherently local issues.

"All money raised locally for our charity, Cash for Kids, will be spent to improve the lives of local children.

"Local businesses will have improved options for making sure their advertising reaches target audiences and the local economy will be supported as Greatest Hits Radio seeks to play its part in the recovery of the UK economy.”

In respect of local businesses having the ability to advertise on the station Ms Ford concluded: “While we expect to bring in more national advertising, local advertising will be prioritised and local businesses will always have access.

"For local businesses seeking to advertise, we intend to expand our offering by providing them with access to our enhanced digital platforms and a broad radio portfolio, providing them with enhanced marketing solutions.”

Mr Jones said: “This is positive movement on the issues local people have been raising and, frankly, a much more optimistic position than I expected we would be in.

"Any new arrangements for our local radio have huge shoes to fill and it is good to hear that several key principles about keeping it local, supporting local organisations and prioritising local advertising are understood and will be kept.

“However, we now need to see what those principles will mean in reality; how they will manifest themselves in what we hear when we tune in.”

Mr Jones continued: “So, alongside local businesses and our community, I want to meet with senior management at Bauer Media to hear exactly how the promised local news will be delivered, practical examples of the community support they expect to do and the kinds of packages they will offer to local advertisers.

“It would be great too if we could retain some sort of local branding so that, if we can confirm the news content and the community and business support, the station doesn’t feel like a one-size-fits all operation even when it is still very much grounded in the community.”

“In conclusion, this is progress and I am pleased certain principles about being a locally-based community-grounded radio station are confirmed.

"As ever, the devil will be in the detail and that is what we need to look at next."

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