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As UTV reviews its radio assets, who might buy its UK stations?

By | Published on Wednesday 14 January 2015

UTV Radio

Speculation is rife in the radio industry this week as to who might buy the thirteen British local radio stations owned by UTV Media after the Belfast-based company confirmed it is currently assessing “options” for its UK local radio business which “may or may not lead to the disposal of some or all of these stations”.

The stations that might potentially be up for sale include the Liverpool Juice outlet, Pulse in Yorkshire and the Signal operations in the Midlands. It’s assumed that the UK’s biggest commercial radio operator, Global, wouldn’t bid given its last big acquisition caused a stack of competition law problems that would likely occur again.

Its main rival Bauer might be interested, as might Global’s friendly competitor Communicorp UK. As previously reported, the British wing of the Dublin-based Communicorp Group was set up to buy the FM licences Global was forced to sell after its purchase of The Guardian’s old radio business, though it mainly operates Global-owned formats on those frequencies via a licensing deal.

Word has it Communicorp UK is now keen to grow, and RadioToday says talks between it and UTV have already taken place. Whether it would look to use UTV’s frequencies to run additional outposts of Global’s Capital, Heart or Smooth brands, or whether it would develop its own service (it also owns the only remaining Real XS station) isn’t clear.

There may be other bids too for the UTV stations though, from the other smaller players in UK radio, most notably UKRD and Orion, the latter of which has a solid base in the Midlands so might be especially interested in the Signal stations.

It’s not thought UTV’s TalkSport or its various radio stations on the island of Ireland are part of the review. And now, given we’ve mentioned Signal Radio not once but twice, let’s remind ourselves of the greatest radio jingle ever made.