Bauer Radio

Bauer Radio is a UK-based radio division of the Bauer Media Group.

The Bauer network is divisible into two main groups, the Bauer City and Bauer National portfolios, with City consisting of locally focused services primarily broadcast on FM/AM and local digital platforms to a given coverage area, and National consisting of national and quasi-national music-genre services delivered mainly through digital platforms, with some services also offered on FM/AM.


Bauer's network of local FM stations was originally known as the Big City Network. In 2006, many of the former Scottish Radio Holdings stations were added to the network and branded as Big City Network Scotland and Northern Ireland, although all stations kept their original logos, with the exception of CFM, which took a version of the 'cog' logo used by other BCN stations in England. West Sound was the only AM station in the network although it did not carry any of the networked programming carried by the FM stations.

In April 2011 Bauer Radio announced it would be restructuring its radio portfolio into two divisions: locally focused and heritage stations, including many of the Big City stations, South Coast station Wave 105 and London station Magic 105.4 FM would also become part of the "Bauer Place" division, with branded music-category stations such as Kiss and Kerrang Radio forming a second sub-brand, "Bauer Passion" – the Big City Network identity was dropped as part of the restructuring.[1]

In April 2013, Bauer announced it would merge its two North East England stations, Metro Radio and TFM. Both stations broadcast shared programming from Newcastle and Manchester while carrying separate branding, news bulletins and advertising.[2]

In September 2014, Bauer announced it would be restructuring its radio portfolio as from January 2015. Magic AM in England was dropped in favour of the stations reverting to their heritage station names.[3][4] The stations now form part of the new 'City 2' network serving both Scotland and Northern England. A 'City 3' network on DAB replacing The Hits Radio (in most areas) launched on Monday 19 January 2015. As part of this restructuring, the Place and Passion network banners introduced in 2011 were replaced by the current Bauer City and Bauer National divisions. (The 'City 3' network was withdrawn in favour of reverting to the networked The Hits service from September 2017.)

At the beginning of March, 2016, Bauer moved two of its stations, Planet Rock and Absolute 80s, from Digital One onto the Sound Digital multiplex, reducing the availability of these stations (areas including East Anglia, the South West, parts of Kent, Cumbria, and large areas of Wales and Scotland had no Sound Digital network transmitters at all.) The issue was reported in local press in some areas[5] Planet Rock and Absolute 80s on D1 began broadcasting just a retune message loop from 18 April and the switch-off occurred on 30 April.

On 6 May 2016, Bauer announced it had bought Midlands radio group Orion Media for an undisclosed fee, reportedly between £40 and £50 million.[6][7] It was subsequently confirmed that Orion's stations Free Radio (West Midlands) and Gem (East Midlands) would become part of the Bauer City portfolio, with Gem introducing a version of the City sonic logo device to its presentation from August 2016.

On 16 August 2018, Bauer announced that it had bought Jazz FM for an undisclosed sum.[8]

In February 2019, Bauer purchased Lincs FM Group[9], Celador[10] and the local stations owned by Wireless Group[11] and the following month Bauer purchased the ten FM stations owned by UKRD.[12]



Bauer purchased the Absolute Radio group of stations from TIML in 2013. The core Absolute Radio station had been established as one of the three Independent National Radio franchises in 1993, broadcasting on AM radio and from 1999, national DAB; since 1995, a relay of the station (with split local advertising, and at some times split programming) has been available in London on 105.8 FM. Initially branded Virgin Radio, the station took the name Absolute Radio in 2008. The station has since launched a number of sister stations, currently comprising five decade-themed services and a dedicated classic-rock station.

Greatest Hits Radio

  • Greatest Hits Radio – a classic hits pop music service aimed primarily at the over-40s. Eighteen stations, mostly on AM and DAB, in the West Midlands, Northern England and Scotland.


  • Heat Radio – contemporary pop, linked to Bauer's Heat magazine. Online and on Freeview; formerly on DAB.
  • Heat Radio Soundtracks – online only station dedicated to soundtracks from movies and TV.
  • Heat Radio School Disco – online only station dedicated to school disco anthems from the 1990s, 2000s and early 2010s.

Hits Radio

Hits Radio is a national CHR network of 21 local radio stations, which provide opt-outs from the national station and are available on FM and DAB in Northern England, the West Midlands and Scotland.

It was launched on 4 June 2018, following a merger of the Greater Manchester FM station Key 103, which had launched in 1974 as Piccadilly Radio, and digital service The Hits Radio, which had launched in 2003 and which broadcast over Freeview and DAB (from January 2015 to September 2017, The Hits' programming content had been broadcast on DAB as a network of localised Bauer City 3 stations).

Hits Radio programming is simulcast on both the Manchester and national versions of the station, although there are local news, travel and advertising opt-outs for the Manchester service. The station's output is broadcast on Hits Radio network stations outside of local programming hours.

A separate service of network programming for Scotland, broadcast from Clyde 1 in Clydebank, is broadcast on the Scottish FM stations outside of local programming hours.

Jazz FM

  • Jazz FM[14] – national DAB service of jazz, blues and soul, based in London, acquired by Bauer in 2018.


  • Kerrang Radio – a service of modern rock music, broadcast on Freeview nationally and online; the station's DAB slots outside London were turned over to Absolute Radio 90s in December 2014, and its London DAB transmission ended in May 2018 to make way for Hits Radio. Kerrang! launched as a digital station on Freeview in 2002, expanding to DAB in London from 2003 and other areas from 2004. From 2005 to 2013, the station, as Kerrang! 105.2, broadcast to the West Midlands on FM from studios in Lionel Street, Birmingham. It was removed from FM to be replaced by Planet Rock (then by Absolute Radio from 2015), with the Birmingham studio closed and the Kerrang! Radio brand retained as a digital-only station run from London.
  • Kerrang Radio Unleashed – online only station dedicated to the heavier side of Kerrang!.
  • Klassic Kerrang Radio – online only station dedicated to classic tracks from the past 20 years of the alternative rock scene.


Kiss plays predominantly rhythmic (dance/urban) music. The East and West versions of Kiss were previously SRH-owned Vibe stations. The three services now simulcast most programming content (from London), though retain the ability to split where needed, including for local advertising and news bulletins.


Magic is a national station broadcasting via DAB. It had previously broadcast on FM in London and on MW across northern England and began broadcasting across the UK via the Digital One multiplex in January 2015. Mellow Magic and Magic Chilled launched in March 2016 as part of the Sound Digital national DAB multiplex and Magic Soul launched in the summer of 2016 as a pop-up service Magic Soul Summer, before being retained – under a shortened permanent title – from the autumn. Magic at the Musicals launched on 21st November 2019 on DAB+ in London.

  • Magic – a melodic adult-contemporary music service aimed at 25 to 54 year olds, available on DAB nationally and on FM in London.
  • Magic Chilled - plays laid-back modern hits (principally mellow chart pop of the 1990s and 2000s).
  • Magic Mellow (also known as Mellow Magic) - playing melodic classic hits and love songs.
  • Magic Soul - plays a mix of soul, funk, Motown and R&B music.
  • Magic Workout - online only station playing the classic dance tracks.
  • Magic at the Musicals - DAB+ station playing show tunes.

Planet Rock

Planet Rock is a DAB radio station, which plays primarily classic rock music. The station was established in 1999 and was initially run by the GWR Group; it was sold to Malcolm Bluemel's 'Rock Show' consortium in 2008 and from there to Bauer in 2013. Planet Rock is a digital-only service, transmitting on the DAB network (and through digital TV and online platforms). On 1 March 2016, Planet Rock ceased being a fully national station due to the station transferring to the Sound Digital multiplex, which is not available across all of the UK. Devon, Cornwall, parts of Scotland, Wales, East Anglia and other areas of the UK will no longer be able to receive Planet Rock on DAB.

Former Lincs FM Group stations

In February 2019, Bauer purchased these stations from Lincs FM Group

The Breeze network

SAM FM stations

Anglian stations and Fire Radio

Former Wireless Group stations

On 8 February 2019, it was announced that Bauer are to purchase the local stations from Wireless Group

Former UKRD Stations

On 5 March 2019, it was announced that Bauer are to purchase the UKRD Group.

Other stations

Former stations

  • 3C – country music station, based in Glasgow, acquired as part of SRH takeover, broadcast on DAB in various areas and Freeview nationally; closed 2007; replaced on Freeview by a relay of Clyde 1 for a time.
  • Mojo Radio – classic rock, early pop, blues and soul; broadcast on digital TV and online; ceased broadcasting in 2008.
  • Q Radio – rock, alternative rock; broadcast nationally on Freeview and online; closed on 7 May 2013; replaced by Kisstory.
  • Smash Hits Radio – contemporary pop hits; following its removal from DAB it continued over Freeview, until being withdrawn to release a slot for KissFresh

DAB multiplexes

Bauer is a partner in one of the UK's national commercial multiplexes, operates twelve wholly owned local DAB multiplexes, and jointly owns a further three with Global Radio; the firm was also formerly a minority partner (of Wireless Group) for local services in three further areas. Bauer operates the following DAB multiplexes:

Sound Digital

Bauer has a 30% holding in Sound Digital, operator of the second national commercial DAB multiplex to launch in the UK; this began transmissions in spring 2016 and several Bauer stations broadcast on it, some transferred from other multiplexes. The other partners are Wireless Group (30%) and Arqiva (40%).

Bauer Digital Radio

Bauer's wholly owned digital multiplexes are primarily located in areas where the firm operates local FM stations; the original group of Bauer (formerly Emap) DAB multiplexes are located in the following areas:

Score Digital

As part of Emap's takeover of Scottish Radio Holdings, the firm gained control of Score Digital, the DAB multiplex operator owned by SRH. Competition guidelines required the merged firm to divest of one of the multiplexes obtained in this deal, and so the Ayr multiplex formerly run by Score was sold on to Arqiva. The remaining Score multiplexes have since been relabelled as Bauer multiplexes.[16]

The ex-Score DAB multiplexes are located in:


The Wireless Group and Emap entered into a venture to run the following three DAB multiplexes. These multiplexes were initially branded as TWG-Emap multiplexes; following the sale of TWG to UTV (creating UTV Radio), the multiplexes were relabelled as UTV-Emap, and following the sale of Emap's radio assets to Bauer, the blocks were renamed again as UTV-Bauer. Bauer owned 30 per cent of the UTV-Bauer venture, but sold its stake in November 2013[17]. Now wholly owned by Wireless Group, the business is known as Switchdigital.[18]

CE Digital

Bauer and Global Radio jointly own CE Digital Ltd, each holding 50% of the venture. The CE operation was established by Emap in partnership with the Capital Radio Group, which through mergers subsequently became part of GCap Media and later Global Radio. The 'CE' multiplexes take their name from the initials of Capital and Emap, and have not been renamed despite the identity changes of both operators.

CE Digital operate the following DAB multiplexes:


In 2008 Radio City 2 started annually releasing hundreds of balloons (with messages attached) from the roof of the Radio City 2 "in memory of loved ones that we miss at Christmas time." This practice continued on an annual basis until December 2016. On 22 December Radio City 2 and Pete Price – a radio presenter at Radio City 2 – were contacted by numerous scuba divers and environmentally savvy members of the public begging them to cancel the planned mass balloon release at midnight on 22 December. The balloon release went ahead. Two leading diver journalists contacted Radio City 2's owner – Bauer Media Group – appealing for this practice to be stopped. Bauer Media confirmed that no company within the Group would conduct a balloon release in the future. An exception to this was made by Key 103 on 24 May 2017, 2 days after the Manchester Arena terror attack in memory of the 22 victims that died.[19]


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