Spirit FM campaigners 'devastated' by Ofcom ruling amid massive community outcry

A massive community campaign supported by this newspaper to save the name and current content mix of Spirit FM has been rejected to regulator Ofcom.

Campaigners were left 'devasted' after Ofcom ruled on Tuesday (July, 21) that Bauer could share programming across radio stations in Chichester, Guildford, Aylesbury, Southampton and Bournemouth.

Bauer is planning to rebrand a string of stations including Spirit to Greatest Hits Radio.

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In its report, Ofcom acknowledged the huge show of community support particularly for Spirit.

The team at Spirit FM

"The large majority of the responses we received were specifically in relation to Spirit FM, the service for the area encompassing Chichester, Littlehampton and Bognor Regis, with respondents generally concerned about Bauer’s plans for the station since acquiring it last year.

"One of the responses came from the organiser of the “Save Spirit FM” campaign, and included an online petition of 9,210 signatures opposed to Bauer’s plans for the station.

"Cllr Eileen Lintill, Leader of Chichester District Council, felt that Ofcom and Bauer should reconsider their respective positions. This view was supported by the Leader of the Opposition on Chichester District Council as well as several other organisations in the area including the Chichester Liberal Democrats, Get Bognor Social, the Middleton-on-Sea Village Fete Committee and a local Brownies and Rainbows group.

"Respondents spoke of how “Spirit FM has spent 24 years building trust with its listeners and relationships with local businesses, charities and community groups."

The Editor of the Observer Gary Shipton has written in this passionate terms in this newspaper asking for the unique brand and content qualities of Spirit to be preserved and protected and praising the station's superb staff.

Steve Freegard, former Spirit FM presenter and lead campaigner for Save Spirit FM, said he was 'devastated' by the news but admitted 'it was always a likely outcome'.

"Because of the regulations they gave themselves this was the only avenue of protest we had open to us.

"I do believe people feel passionately about what they have here. I'm devastated that we weren't about to get Ofcom to at least do something with this. All I feel is gutted for the people that tried, but I'm not giving up yet."

The next step for Steve is the collation of a survey which will be presented to Bauer to show the community's views on the changes.

Graham Bryce, group managing director of the Hits Radio Brand Network said: “We recognise the depth of local support for the station among loyal audiences who care about the presenters and staff, as well as the content that they produce.

"I want to personally assure those listeners that the station is not closing. It will retain local news content, which we know is highly valued by listeners, as well as local information, and traffic and travel.

"It will also remain engaged in local charitable activity, retain its presence in the community and reflect the major events and stories that we agree are important to listeners.”

He added: “Our consultations with employees in Spirit FM are ongoing, so we’re unable to talk about the specifics of the process or any individual cases.

"What I can say is that our top priority right now is to support those affected over the coming weeks and months. All our employees are hugely valued members of our community and have played an integral part in building the station into what it is today, and creating strong relationships with local listeners.

“We are committed to ensuring the future of radio in local markets and serving the needs of our listeners and advertisers. The changes we are making are designed to ensure that local radio stations can thrive into the future and benefit from multi-platform digital distribution in an increasingly competitive, digital and voice-activated world.”