Competition Commission prevents Global dominance
The Competition Commission felt that the takeover of GMG Radio - which includes Smooth and Real Radio - would affect regional advertising markets in seven locations across the UK, two of which are in Wales.
In Wales, Global Radio has been told to either ditch Real Radio or Capital in the South and either Real or Heart in the North of the principality. Depending on the outcome of the process, Wales' only nationwide commercial radio station, Real Radio Wales, which operates on two licences (South and Mid/North Wales) could be broken up.
Other areas that could see changes to radio station ownership include the East Midlands (the third time the region has been affected by radio competition issues), South and West Yorkshire, Central Scotland and the North East where Global would have to surrender at least one station, while in Manchester and the North West, two stations need to be sold.
Global would be permitted to licence its brands, which include Heart, Capital and Gold, to the new owners of the stations, in a similar deal that was struck between Global and Orion Media when Global was forced to sell the East Midland's 106 FM service. Orion ran the station as Heart until the end of 2010.
The Guardian is reporting this evening that Global Radio "may be lucky to recoup half the £70m-plus it cost to buy GMG Radio, the owner of the Real and Smooth networks, in the face of a forced sell-off of stations in a very limited buyers market."
Global has meanwhile noted the Commission's findings and has confirmed that it will be in discussion with the Commission to "to finalise the stations that may be disposed."
It is still too early to speculate how this may affect the line-up of Global stations on digital platforms, including DAB, although the anticipated replacement of Real with Heart across Northern England would come at a time when the regional DAB multiplexes are being closed down, and services are being transferred to local DAB line-ups. Where both Heart and Real are being offered on DAB, any takeover would help ease the amount of capacity needed on local multiplexes to accommodate displaced regional services.