Exmouth-based company bucks trend in UK radio after buying out larger network
Exe Broadcasting, the Exmouth-based company that controls Radio Exe, has bought out the radio station’s minority shareholder to bring it into complete local ownership.
Almost five years on from turning ailing Exeter FM into a successful new station, Radio Exe, Exe Broadcasting’s acquisition of London-based Devon Radio Ltd’s 40 per cent stake means that for the first time in more than 20 years when Lantern FM in Barnstaple was acquired by Orchard Media (and before that when DevonAir Radio was acquired by Capital Radio in 1987), Devon has a commercial radio station wholly owned by local people.
Devon Radio Ltd, which owns The Breeze in South Devon and 36 per cent of Radio Plymouth, sold its shares in Radio Exe today under an agreement it entered into in June 2011 when Exe Broadcasting rescued Exeter FM from the threat of closure. The value of the deal is not being disclosed.
Since then, Exe Broadcasting has rebranded Exeter FM as Radio Exe, brought back former Gemini FM presenters Ben Clark and Chris Dinnis, promoted Radio Academy award-winner Ashley Jeary to a regular daytime programme, and built strong links with local businesses, charities and opinion-formers. Its Pride of Devon Awards have become part of the annual Devon calendar and it has just launched the inaugural Devon Performance Awards, in association with Stephens Scown solicitors.
Earlier this month Radio Exe received its highest-ever listening figures. It now reaches 29,000 adults who listen for a combined 217,000 hours a week. Exe Broadcasting director Paul Nero says: “It’s not always been easy and we haven’t always got everything right, but we’ve watched with interest as supposedly knowledgeable people predicted Radio Exe would be swallowed up into a larger company. That’s never been on the cards. We’ve always made clear that, despite generous offers over the years, right now we’re buyers, not sellers.”
As part of the sale, Devon Radio Ltd’s Paul Smith CBE, who is also chairman of its ultimate parent company Celador Entertainment, has resigned as a director of Radio Exe.
Radio Exe chairman Rex Rozario OBE says: “We’d like to thank Celador for their interest in Radio Exe and send them every good wish for the future.”
The move has been backed by Exeter’s MP, the former Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Ben Bradshaw and by Sir Hugo Swire, MP for East Devon.
Mr Bradshaw says: “The trend in British radio has been completely one way: national stations buying local ones and effectively closing them down. I’ve watched the hard work and commitment that local broadcasters have put into Radio Exe and it’s no surprise that they have prevailed in keeping Exeter’s station local.”
Sir Hugo Swire says: “”Local broadcast news is in decline in most parts of the country, but not here in Devon. Radio Exe covers a wide part of my constituency, and I'm pleased to hear Exe Broadcasting is now strengthening its commitment to getting more local stories on air.”