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Ideas and technique to help you promote and image radio

Time for more change

St Peter's church tower clock

The radio news in our little town of Petersfield (population 13,000) is that our local station Delta Radio is to merge with its counterpart, Kestrel FM, in Basingstoke, some 23 miles away.

The story is captured by the spoof news site, Petersfield Newswire.

A few years ago, a botched plan to move Delta Radio to Andover was reversed after protesting listeners put posters on lamposts in Petersfield that read “Have you ever been to Andover?”

Now the Tindle group is having another go.

Merging with a neighbour seems better for listeners than the alternative – handing the licence back to Ofcom – as it retains the same amount of choice on the dial.

But community groups in the area will still be blocked from developing radio services part-funded by advertising here even though the population served by the the newly-merged station will be greater than 150,000.

This is because the merger of Delta and Kestrel is actually a “relocation” with the combined station operating through two discrete licences, retaining a local breakfast show and split ads. Some will argue this demonstrates a loophole in the legislation.

Of the two parties in this merger Kestrel is the stronger. It’s better-performing and is in a more populous TSA. It gets to keep its name. Delta changes. You can compare the audience performance for Delta Radio with that of Kestrel FM. Despite the overall figures, Delta is very popular in Petersfield. You’ll hear it playing in shops, cafés and taxis far more than any other station.

Local listeners here have become used to change in their radio with most of the other commercial FM stations available in Petersfield passing through some kind of rebrand in the last year.

The interesting but idiosyncratic and underperforming Original 106 became the rather lovely The Coast, Ocean became Heart (you know how that goes) and Power FM turned to Galaxy in a slightly clumsy but ultimately successful rebrand. Only Wave 105 has maintained a consistent identity.

So there’s every chance that Delta can survive its rebrand but it will require careful on-air implementation, visibility in the town and an honest respectful approach to listeners who will find Wave 105, Heart, Coast and BBC Solent all waiting to welcome them if they feel duped.

Unfortunately the person best placed to lead Delta listeners through the change, breakfast host Stuart Clark, has already departed the station.

Picture: St Peter’s Church clock in the centre of Petersfield. It’s nineteen minutes past ten.