Tomorrow a swathe of well liked and well listened to local radio stations will be abolished to become part of the Heart FM group. This move, which will see much local content gone, with only the breakfast shows retaining any real local link are part of Heart FM's attempt to pretend to be a national network (whilst not paying for a national radio license), but essentially is about saving money.
The question for me is will they retain listeners ? Our local station, Radio Broadland, has been going for 25 years and has a good listener base, but this is based firmly on the fact that they are local, the people who phone in are local, the DJs make reference to local events and people like this familiarity. My guess is that listeners will abandon Radio Broadland/Heart for other local stations which retain the local link. This is good news for Radio Norwich and North Norfolk Radio, who sound very much like Radio Broadland used to 10 years ago, but it really is bad news for local radio across the country.
There have been ongoing attempts by numerous radio stations to merge across the country for a number of years and become parts of national radio chains. The sad thing is that this removes from the listeners the very reason local radio stations exist. The whole point is that Radio Local, what ever its name in your area, is meant to be "a local radio station" for "local people". It's a bit like taking a packet of crisps and turning it in to a packet of nuts. They might both serve the same purpose, but they are totally different things.