Peterborough Bids Farewell To Independent Local Radio

07:50 Monday 28th November 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Now let’s take you back, way back on your Peterborough Breakfast Show, to 1980. (MUSIC – ABBA SUPER TROOPER) Abba, number one, Dexy’s Midnight Runners in the charts. and the birth of independent local radio in Peterborough. (JINGLE HEREWARD RADIO ) How does that feel, Stewart Francis?.. How nice is it to hear those original jingles? July 1980, Hereward Radio 225, a milestone for the city really, wasn’t it?
STEWART FRANCIS: Well as you say, it was a long time ago. It was the first time local radio had come to Peterborough. Hereward Radio was about the 18th or 19th commercial radio station to be opened in the UK. So we were kind of pioneering local broadcasting in this area.
PAUL STAINTON: In the back of a pub, if memory serves.
STEWART FRANCIS: That’s correct. The old Rose and Crown on Lower Bridge Street, which was later demolished to put ASDA in. And although they haven’t demolished Queensgate, they’ve succeeded in demolishing local commercial radio. And I’m angry, I’m sad this morning. There are people that have tried to bring it to the authorities’ attention, and they’ve been ignored, including our local MP, the Leader of the Council. These are our elected representatives, and they haven’t even had a reply from the commercial radio regulator Ofcom. It’s absolutely disgraceful. The claim that Peterborough cannot support its own commercial local radio station is ridiculous. And how you can take licences to broadcast, that were awarded under competition, many people wanted these licences, and wanted to provide services to Peterborough, and suddenly say, oh I’m sorry, this is all too difficult, it doesn’t work, we can save money, and therefore we can take the Lite FM licence and broadcast from Kettering with the station over there. And Heart FM, a major company, which is owned by Global Media, taking its services out of the city and putting them in Cambridge, and then mixing them up with lots of other services in East Anglia, it just beggars belief Paul. And there are many of us very very sad, and I’m sure many of your listeners who also remember Hereward Radio, and used to listen to both the BBC and commercial radio in the city, which is healthy competition and kept us all up to standard, I think everyone will be very sad today.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. I’ve got a mixture of emotions. On one hand, I’m think, well, thank you very much. We’ll have your listeners. We’re going to be the only station in Peterborough broadcasting, once a day. But on the other hand, I worked there with you, lots of memories, and even Dottie did work experience there. There’s so many people, I learned so much, I met so many people. And I feel sorry for the kids of Peterborough really, who are not going to be able to learn radio at their local independent local radio station.
STEWART FRANCIS: Well I think that’s right. You’re right. So many people came through the ranks at Hereward. It was an enormous privilege for me. I came to the city in 1980. I’m still here now. I love the city. It’s continued to thrive. It has its ups and downs, like any city. But it continues to thrive, and you know Paul, the importance that you are actually sitting here in a studio in Peterborough. I saw you on Friday night, or last week sometime, at a big dinner at the Business Awards for the city. You’re talking to the local people. You understand how the city clicks. That is what the DJs and the journalists at the local radio stations also had as well.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes, back in the day, this is my era (JINGLE FM 102.7). I remember that. I remember singing all the adverts, Griffin Print, the colour printers of Belgic Square. And everybody who worked there knew about Peterborough. It’s not the case now, is it?
STEWART FRANCIS: Well it’s an important point you make there as well. Commercially, of course it is another outlet for companies in Peterborough. They can advertise in the Evening Telegraph, and the Evening Telegraph’s a great newspaper, but not everybody reads the Evening Telegraph. So it was another outlet for many companies, who grew their businesses on the back of a successful commercial radio station. When Hereward Radio started in the ’80s, fifty per cent of the city of Peterborough listened to it. Those audience figures have never been matched. The interesting thing is, that is when the radio station was under local ownership, it was under local guidance, it had a newsroom with local journalists working at it. It had DJs who understood what local people wanted to listen to, music-wise. And those were great days. But I don’t want to sound like a dinosaur, because the fact is things do move on. What I’m saying is that this city deserves its own commercial radio station. The local authority agrees with that. The local MP agrees with that. And lots of people who’ve written to the Evening Telegraph actually agree with that. It’s now time for Ofcom  and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to actually ask some serious questions, and say how did this happen. How did Peterborough lose local radio? Nobody’s put that in a Green Paper, White Paper, or anything else. It’s just gone by default.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s astonishing, in a city that is growing, getting bigger, multi-cultural, younger than most other cities.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s astonishing. From Wednesday I’m going to have no competition in the morning.
STEWART FRANCIS: Yes. Absolutely.
PAUL STAINTON: Bring it on. C’mon people. Bring it on.
STEWART FRANCIS: Well I could say, listen to Paul, but they are already of course.
PAUL STAINTON: (LAUGHS) You old soak you.
STEWART FRANCIS: That’s what you’ll broadcast in your dotage Paul. You did point out at the beginning this was a long long time ago.
STEWART FRANCIS: It’s so nice to be back on the radio, in the home of elderly presenters.
PAUL STAINTON: Thank you. But I will be shedding a tear this week. Quite genuinely, I’m just looking at a picture of Jim Warwick, the old engineer, turning on the black and white studio in Hereward for the first time, which is on the internet.
STEWART FRANCIS: Yes but does anybody remember that Jim Warwick, our Chief Engineer, became WinCo Warwick, the character who we put up in this light aeroplane, that actually he was flying himself, as well as broadcasting? It’s like driving a car with a mobile phone. You’re flying down the A1, broadcasting. We’d say, come in WinCo. Can you let us know what the traffic is? (SFX-STATIC) Sorry WinCo. (SFX-STATIC) Has he crashed? No no. And that was our Chief Engineer. That’s how everybody mucked in in those days.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. No more Pick Your Poison from Peterborough. No more laughs with Paul Coyte, my good self and others. No more Adrian Durham on the news. No more of those people that came through, unless somebody does something about it. Stewart, thank you for coming on this morning. Appreciate your points. Stewart Francis, one of the men who helped bring independent radio to Peterborough, back in the day, 1980. He set up Hereward FM, or Hereward 225 as it was then, former Managing Director. And then of course it moved through various guises, various conglomerates.And tomorrow it disappears from Peterborough for ever. Hereward FM, Heart FM, moved to Cambridge. It’s going to be a sad day for all of us that have been through that.