AN MEP is demanding an investigation by Ofcom into the closure of TFM Radio’s offices in Teesside.
Yorkshire MEP Timothy Kirkhope, leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, was involved in drafting the original white paper on independent radio licensing in the 1970s and said the closure and mergers of local stations was now becoming too common.
He said he would be asking Ofcom why they did nothing to prevent TFM owner Bauer Radio closing the station’s Thornaby offices and moving broadcasting to Metro Radio in Newcastle.
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And he said the independent radio licence for the Tees Valley should be re-advertised in the wake of the closure.
Bauer made the announcement to staff and the public on Friday. Broadcasting starts from Newcastle at 6am tomorrow (Monday, April 8) morning but TFM branding will be kept for licence reasons.
Mr Kirkhope said he would be pressing communications minister Ed Vaizey to investigate why Ofcom did not stop the merger.
“This is a worrying pattern which is developing around the country in which local and regional stations are being merged and amalgamated and I feel quite strongly about it,” he said.
“The local input is disappearing. I think that Ofcom really should have looked into the TFM case and thought about re-advertising the licence.”
North-East businessman Graham Robb, a former reporter for Radio Tees, now TFM, has written to Ofcom to urge it to consult local people regarding the changes.
Ofcom rules currently mean the two stations can be merged without consultation as the area is one approved broadcast area – the North-East.
Mr Robb, director of the North-East board of the Institute of Directors, along with Stockton South MP James Wharton, and Mr Kirkup, have all pledged to lobby ministers about the changes.
In a letter to Ofcom, Mr Robb said: “I believe any decision to change this licence will severely undermine other important aspects of Government policy for Tees Valley.
“I believe Ofcom might make a terrible mistake, which could be open to legal challenge, if it allows this change without consultation.”
TFM has been broadcast since 1975. Bauer holds the licence until 2025.
Cath Ellington, Bauer North-East managing director, said the changes would mean TFM was better resourced while retaining its local connections and appeal.
“TFM is a much-loved radio station on Teesside and we are confident this move means it will benefit from even greater creativity, improved content and allow the station to further grow its audience share.”