Local Radio in Peterborough

07:23 Tuesday 20th September 2011
Peterborough BreakfastShow
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: It started in the back of a pub on Bridge Street in Peterborough. It became Hereward FM, then Heart Peterborough. Now it’s officially ending its 30 year association with the city. And whilst BBC Radio Cambridgeshire maintains our 3 hour Peterborough Breakfast Show from the city, for the city, Heart Cambridgeshire is leaving Queensgate for a new base in Histon. Simon Potter and Sharon McAllister both worked at Peterborough’s Lite FM, then at Hereward FM. Now reunited on air for one last time. Good morning.
BOTH: Hello.
PAUL STAINTON: We all worked together didn’t we at Hereward FM.
SIMON POTTER: That’s right. Other way round though Paul, sorry to be a pedant, but it was Hereward first then Lite FM. Other way round.
PAUL STAINTON: I know. I didn’t write that rubbish. I just read it. They were halcyon days almost. We made it up as we went along Sharon, but we were all in it for the local stuff, the local news, the local people. It was a very local station, Hereward FM, wasn’t it?
SHARON MCALLISTER: It was indeed. Yes. I have fantastic memories of it and it was all good fun. Stressful at times, but you were in the city. You were getting out on the local stories, meeting the local people, and you did have that connection with them.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. And Simon, the news was incredibly important, wasn’t it? The sport was incredibly important.
SIMON POTTER: Absolutely. We did four hours on a Saturday afternoon, no music, just talking about local sport. I’m coaching at the Rugby Club these days, little kids, and one of the players came up to me about a month ago and said, do you remember me? I used to come in every Saturday afternoon. And things like that just don’t happen any more. I remember there used to be a 30 minute news programme at 6 o’clock each evening, just about local news. Good work. People wanted it. We¬†had huge audiences in those days.
PAUL STAINTON: I can sit here and crow. I can say wow, great stuff. We’re the only local radio station left in Peterborough broadcasting from the city, but it’s not necessarily good news, is it Sharon?
SHARON MCALLISTER: Well when I heard it it made me feel sad, so I suspect it makes other people feel the same way really. Of course it is a commercial station, it’s a business, so all their decisions will be driven by money, of course. But it does feel like it’s a bit of a step backwards, when Peterborough is a growing city, to no longer have its own commercial station actually based in the heart of it.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. It makes me feel sad, even though I want to beat them every morning. But it does genuinely, because it’s where I learnt my trade. It’s where I started, and made lots of mistakes. And you wonder Simon where the broadcasters of tomorrow are going to come from really.
SIMON POTTER: Well that’s right. You are one of a number. I’m sorry to point out to you that you’re not the only great who came out of Hereward Radio.
SIMON POTTER: Fiona Phillips of GMTV fame, she started there.
PAUL STAINTON: Dominic Byrne.
SIMON POTTER: Dominic Byrne is on Radio 1’s Breakfast News. Adrian Durham, who’s on the national TalkSport radio station. Sasha Twining who does Sky News. There’s an awful lot of people who were young relatively inexperienced broadcasters who were there, and have now gone on to greater things. And as you say, where are they going to come from? But you’ve got to say no-one wants them anymore. You haven’t got any radio stations left in the country. They’re virtually all going. When Hereward set up, there was only 20 radio stations outside the BBC in the country. Now there’s about 400, but they’re only sharing 20 different programmes between them. So the whole thing’s gone full circle. Radio has come, and radio has gone again.
PAUL STAINTON: What’s wrong with us in Peterborough Sharon? Can’t we run an independent radio station and make some money in Peterborough?
SHARON MCALLISTER: Well you’d have to ask Heart I suppose. It’s difficult times, and I think all media that rely on advertising are feeling that. Years ago it was only really large companies that could afford to advertise on radio, the bigger groups in Peterborough. And then prices came down, and a lot of smaller local businesses ended up advertising with them that you would never have heard in the past. So it’s obviously been changing times for quite a long time to be honest. But I suspect that they probably think that they can make more money being based in Cambridge itself. I think also the positioning of it is important, because let’s bear in mind it is based in a really big unit in Queensgate Shopping Centre, which I would imagine, if they’re at a point now where they might be renegotiating their lease, it would be quite expensive I would think, compared to what it would have been back in 1980 when they first moved in there.
PAUL STAINTON: Simon, will we ever get a local radio station broadcasting independently from Peterborough again? Will we ever get Pick Your Poison? Will we ever get adverts like the coulour printers of Belgic Square?
SIMON POTTER: I certainly hope so. Let’s face it, Market Harborough and Spalding and Huntingdon and places like that can all have their own local independent radio stations successful and thriving. I don’t know why Peterborough can’t. I remember when Peterborough was the biggest place without a university in Britain. And lo and behold, we now have one. Now I think it’s fair to say that Peterborough must be the biggest town or city in Britain that doesn’t have its own radio station.
PAUL STAINTON: Shall we all shed a tear over a lighted candle when they move out? Shall we?
SIMON POTTER: To be fair Paul, it stopped being a local radio station years and years ago.
PAUL STAINTON: And on that note, we will leave it there. Simon Potter and Sharon McAllister, two former co-workers of mine at Hereward FM, many years ago. And as they were saying, many people have come through there and gone on to greater and bigger things. Where will the kids learn their craft? Well we’ll let you in.