News UK to sell local radio stations to Bauer

Magic owner's third acquisition this week adds 850,000 more listeners.

Wireless: arrival of Evans preceded departure of local stations
Wireless: arrival of Evans preceded departure of local stations

News UK is doing a deal with Bauer Media that allows it to exit local radio in England and Wales, and concentrate resources on national stations such as talkSPORT and Virgin Radio.

Among the 15 licences changing hands are Swansea’s Wave 80s, Wolverhampton’s Signal 107 and Blackpool’s Radio Wave 96.5. Financial details were not disclosed.

The sale will take place later this month and follows the announcement of Bauer’s acquisition of 34 regional stations from Celador Radio and Lincs FM Group earlier this week.

The deals narrow the gap between Bauer and number one commercial radio player Global, which claimed to have 25.3 million weekly listeners to Bauer’s 18 million in the just-published Rajar audience figures for the fourth quarter of 2018.

The stations Bauer is buying from News UK subsidiary Wireless Group will bring it 850,000 weekly listeners, while the other 34 stations will bring it 1.1 million.

Paul Keenan, chief executive of Bauer Media and European Radio, said: "We are delighted with our acquisition of Wireless local licences. This group of established, successful stations complements our existing portfolio and extends our reach and local advertising offer to new areas of the UK."

Wireless Group still retains a number of Irish stations, but the deal represents the first streamlining of operations since it was acquired by News UK for £220m in 2016. It comes amid substantial investment in Virgin Radio, including the hiring of star DJ Chris Evans to launch an initially ad-free breakfast show last month.

Wireless chief executive Scott Taunton said: "Wireless is a key priority for News UK and this deal allows us to continue investing in our growing digital and national stations, talkSPORT, talkSPORT2, TalkRadio and Virgin Radio, and our successful Irish businesses."

Taunton also paid tribute to the "thriving" local radio stations being sold and their staff’s "dedication to local journalism and commitment to serving their local communities", adding that they "will find a good home with Bauer".

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