MINSTER FM’s first-ever presenter has hit out at media giant Bauer’s decision to effectively close the station from this weekend by absorbing it into the generic Hits Radio Network.

Kathryn Apanowicz, the partner of the late Countdown presenter and Minster FM co-founder Richard Whiteley, was the station’s first presenter on its first day of broadcast, July 4, 1992. “It was fabulous, it was new, it was fun,” she said. “It was just something alternative, and I’m completely sad at what’s happening.”

The Dunnington-based commercial radio station will end in its current form on Sunday, and Hits Radio will begin broadcasting on its wavelength from Monday.

Despite assurances from Bauer earlier this year that the station would continue broadcasting local news, travel and weather, The Press understands that news, travel and weather bulletins are already being cut back.

Actress and broadcaster Kathryn, 60, who lives in Wensleydale, said she was 'appalled' at the development. During the pandemic and lockdown local people relied on stations like Minster FM for their local news and updates, she said: not everyone wanted to go online for their news.

"Some people might say 'it's just local radio'," she said. "But that's not right. It is really good, solid broadcasting. There are many people of my age group - and people younger - who, when there is anything happening, turn to their local radio station.

"It is short-sighed of the company (Bauer) to think that just broadcasting homogenised record after record from London is enough. I don't want to listen to that. What we need is a good radio station for York and for Yorkshire."

What was happening to Minster FM was part of a wider pattern of decline in local radio stations, both commercial and on the BBC, she said.

She said that yet again, the North of England was being short-changed. There was no way a generic greatest hits station being broadcast from London would be interested in breaking local news, she pointed out.

"If there was a local campaign in Easingwold, it wouldn't get a second on national radio. They wouldn't give a hoot! It's just very upsetting."

More than 7,000 people signed a petition calling for the station, which has been based in the same Dunnington building since it first broadcast in 1992, to be saved. Local politicians also criticised the closure. Council leader Keith Aspden said it was ‘incredibly disappointing’, while Labour group leader Cllr Danny Myers described it as ‘a kick in the teeth'.

In a statement earlier this year Graham Bryce, managing director of the Hits Radio Network, said: “We want to reassure ... listeners that the station is not closing, but is evolving. The station will retain local content that listeners highly value such as local news, information, traffic and travel."

A spokesperson reiterated that today. "Our teams are still absolutely committed to delivering local news and information including traffic and travel," she said.

To coincide with the relaunch, Minster FM - along with fellow Yorkshire stations Stray FM and Yorkshire Coast Radio - would be offering free advertising airtime to charities, hospices and other not-for-profit community organisations, the spokesperson said.

All three stations would also be launching a ‘Getting North Yorkshire Back to Work’ campaign to promote local job opportunities on-air and online.