One of the main media trends of the lockdown has been a reacquaintance and reliance on radio. It almost feels an old-fashioned instinct, to turn to the wireless in times of trouble, but that is exactly what has happened, with listening figures up across the board on both BBC and independent stations: local commercial stations have seen digital listening rise by 40 per cent on average.

All of which made the news that bit stranger last week when media group Bauer announced the launch of a new national radio station in September. You might not have heard of Bauer, but they’re the owner of a raft of local independent stations, including Spire FM in Salisbury and The Breeze in Andover, Basingstoke and Winchester.

Last year, Bauer bought up a raft of over fifty local radio stations. That raised concerns about what their intentions might be. I wrote an article at the time and was deadpanned back by their press office about how they’d assess all their new businesses before making any decisions. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) were also concerned and in May 2019 set up an investigation into the deals. That investigation reached its conclusion this March, allowing the deals to go ahead.

Barely has the ink dried on that decision before Bauer has announced plans to rebrand the vast majority of its newly acquired stations as national network Greatest Hits Radio. Out will go local DJs, bar a regional drive-time show (there will be one for the whole of the South West). In will come nationally syndicated programming, playing an Alexa-style selection of tracks from the 70s, 80s and 90s.

According to media website RadioToday, the move will lead to a reduction of on-air presenters across these stations from 200 to around 40, and that’s without adding in the fate of all of those who work hard behind the scenes as well. Speaking on RadioToday’s podcast, the group’s managing director Graham Bryce argued (not entirely convincingly) that the changes would lead to enhanced local news coverage. But he conceded, too, that locally popular stations like Spire (the most listened to station in Salisbury) would see their numbers fall as a result of the changes. He admitted that the support these local stations currently give to the community, from sponsoring awards to switching on Christmas lights, is unlikely to continue in the same way.

There may be all types of business rationale behind these decisions – cutting staff numbers to save money and selling national advertising to make more. But is losing a local voice a price worth paying for this? At a time when listeners have turned (and returned) to local radio, it might be a decision to reconsider.