Some of the decisions made by Bauer about which networks the acquired stations should join don't make a lot of sense.
Using brand licensing for the stations now owned by Nation in the Solent area brings 3 Bauer brands to the area. When we looked at the South and South West, the assumption was that the stations acquired by Bauer in the South would be used to extend the coverage of The Wave 105, which is relatively close to the format of the UKRD stations and seemed to be a good match. The decision to license Hits Radio and GHR to the stations acquired by Nation means there will be a significant crossover between these and The Wave. Effectively, the stations will be competing with each other in the same market. The assumption for the South West was that these stations would also follow the format of The Wave 105 or of Pirate FM, but be based centrally at Bristol.
It seems that Bauer has gone for the one size fits all option and thrown most of the new acquisitions into the GHR network. GHR is understandable for the ex UKRD stations in the North West and for the ex Lincs FM stations in Yorkshire where Bauer don't need extra stations so are mopping up the frequencies to bring GHR to FM. Possibly allowing for the closure of the medium wave transmitters, or reallocating medium wave to one of the digital services, as Bauer did in the West Midlands before handing back the MW licences.
Bradford, Stoke and Swansea are no brainers, easily dropping into the AM/FM split pattern of most of Bauer's legacy stations.
The East and North Midlands stations could have been integrated in a much more creative way. Rather than dumping ex UKRD Peak FM and ex Lincs FM Group Rutland Radio as isolated islands into the GHR pool, Rutland and the Matlock frequency of Peak FM could have been merged into Gem, consolidating its rather odd coverage area.
The Chesterfield transmitter of Peak could have been added to Hallam FM. Similarly, the Worksop transmitter of Trax FM could also have been added to Hallam FM. Matching FM coverage to the DAB service area. Bauer have stated that they intend to organise stations at a multiplex level and this would have made more sense than the current patch work approach.
The East Anglian stations joining GHR makes sense if the Norfolk regional version of Kiss is transformed into an East Anglian Hits Radio network station. At the moment, it has no local services and is a local repeater of the national station. Similarly, if the Severn Estuary version of Kiss also becomes Hits Radio, then it would make more sense for the South Western acquisitions to join GHR than to be linked with Pirate.
North Yorkshire is probably the biggest mystery of all. It is a massive gap between the Yorkshire Hits Radio group stations and TFM in the North East. The most logical move would have been to merge Minster, Stray and YCR into a new Hits Radio station for North Yorkshire and the HR format isn't too far away from the UKRD formats, providing blanket coverage of Hits Radio across the entire region. Instead Bauer is merging all 3 into GHR and significantly changing the genre of the station.
It will be interesting to see how the RAJAR figures move over the next 12 months or so...