Tune in to Minster FM after today (104.7 FM for most people) and you’ll find that your friendly local radio station has gone.

No more local news bulletins from Dave Dunning; no more dragging yourself out of sleep in the company of Ben Fry and Laura Castle, North Yorkshire’s ‘brightest way to wake up!’

Instead, the airwaves that used to bring you Minster bring you instead...Hits Radio Network, a generic national station belonging to media giant Bauer that will feature mainly pop hits.

You’ll even get to hear Simon Mayo for three hours a week: though it’s not clear quite how much he knows about York.

Yes, sadly, the city’s main commercial radio station is going the way of so many others - absorbed into generic brands that have more resources but little in the way of local connection.

Bauer, which bought Minster FM’s parent company UKRD (which also owned Yorkshire Coast Radio, and Stray FM) last year, has insisted that it is ‘still absolutely committed to delivering local news and information including traffic and travel’.

As part of its commitment to local communities, Bauer says, Hits Radio Network will be offering free advertising to charities, hospices and other not-for-profit community organisations, and will be launching a ‘Getting North Yorkshire Back to Work’ campaign to promote local job opportunities on-air and online.

But The Press understands that even before today, news, travel and weather bulletins were being cut back.

Last week, in a blast across Bauer’s bows, one of Minster FM’s early presenters, Kathryn Apanowicz, hit out at the changes.

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’. 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.”

She wasn't the only one who felt that way.

More than 7,000 people signed a petition calling for the station 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'. All to no avail.

It is all a far cry from the heady days when Kathryn, an actress and local BBC radio journalist, had agreed to join York's new commercial radio station.

Right from the beginning, the station was broadcast from the same Dunnington office that remained its home until the end.

Minster FM was born on July 4, 1992, making it North Yorkshire’s first commercial local radio station.

The first voice on air at 6am that day was that of York town crier, John Redpath: and the first song was Saturday In The Park by Chicago, chosen for its lyrics which mentioned July 4.

Kathryn had been persuaded to come to the station by her partner, the Countdown host Richard Whiteley, who had founded Minster FM with a group of businessmen.

“Her was very excited about it,” Kathryn said. And he had every right to be.

Minster FM was different to Radio York, which had been launched nine years earlier.

It was less... staid.

“It was fabulous, it was new, it was fun,” Kathryn said. “It was just something alternative.”

For someone used to BBC radio, it was also surprisingly hard work.

“I’d never done commercial radio,” she said. “You had to hit targets. It was the commercials that paid your wages!”

Kathryn only stayed with Minster for a few months. But all these years on, she still has a soft spot for it. “What's happened is just very, very sad,” she said.

In those early days, the station quickly became a part of the community it served. Minster presenters were always to be seen out and about: switching on York’s Christmas lights with Berwick Kaler; visiting schools; opening new shops in the city centre and joining local children in raising money for good causes.

There have been the occasional sticky moments down the years - such as when the station parted company with presenter (and former Emmerdale actress) Roxanne Pallett in 2018.

Pallett was taking part in Celebrity Big Brother when she accused housemate Ryan Thomas of punching her. She later admitted she had ‘got it wrong’.

But in the main, Minster has been a traditional local radio station - commercial to its core, but with the community at its heart and values that reflected those of its listeners.

In a quirk of fate, Ben Fry, one of the station’s last and most prominent presenters, is also now the York Bellman - successor to town crier John Redpath, the first voice heard on Minster FM all those years ago.

York still has local radio stations, of course. There’s Radio York - though it, like other BBC local radio stations, has been suffering cuts of its own. There’s also YO1 radio (102.8FM and yo1radio.co.uk) and Jorvik Radio (94.8 FM and jorvikradio.com) - not to mention our very own York Hospital Radio.

But for those of us used to waking up to the bright, breezy sound of Minster FM - and to its useful mix of news, weather and travel reports - things won’t be quite the same again.

Not even Simon Mayo can change that.

Stephen Lewis