Commercial property: How radio and TV make their mark

Edinburgh's Forth House has massive redevelopment potential
Edinburgh's Forth House has massive redevelopment potential
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With online search engines and social network companies attracting an increasing slice of global advertising spend, the radio industry has faced upheaval over the last two decades with a squeeze on revenues.

Over that time many UK radio groups have restructured, consolidating operations, increasing networked programming and centralising core operations.

These changes mean their commercial property requirements are, in many cases, no longer what they once were.

This is continuing to create movement in the market, with radio stations no longer needing big studio and office complexes.

The most recent example of this trend is Edinburgh’s Forth House, currently home to Bauer Media Group’s stations Forth 1 and Forth 2.

This prime site on the city’s Forth Street, near the top of Leith Walk, is being marketed by Scarlett Land & Development for sale alongside its physically connected neighbour Playfair House. Home to the broadcaster since it went on air in 1975, the radio station is a tenant of Forth House (and therefore not party to the decision to put the building up for sale). However one might speculate about the redevelopment potential of the building for conversion to a hotel, serviced apartments, student accommodation, residential flats or offices. Two other Bauer stations, Ayr’s West FM and Westsound, now have no locally produced programming. After 35 years of broadcasting from the town, the stations’ on-air operations moved to Radio Clyde’s studio complex in Clydebank Business Park this year as Bauer focuses investment on areas providing “differentiation and a deep connection” with listeners.

The changing nature of radio’s property requirements can be a positive development that creates opportunities.

Global Media Group, the owner of the Capital, Heart and Smooth radio brands, has recently consolidated its Scottish operations, taking an entire floor in Glasgow’s prestigious 1 West Regent Street.

The group centralised Scottish operations from different locations across Glasgow to these premises, a highly rated new-build commercial development in the heart of the city.

The site lets it make efficiency savings, attract high-profile celebrities to the stations and operate from a large, open-plan and virtually column-free floor plate which can be easily reconfigured in the future.

With full-height curtain wall glazing on all four elevations, its premises also provide great cityscape views to show off to advertisers and help the group attract and retain talent.These changes to the property requirements of radio operators follow similar moves in the television industry, with STV and BBC Scotland disposing of older bases to move to modern headquarters at Pacific Quay in Glasgow. The conversion of the BBC’s former HQ at Glasgow’s Queen Margaret Drive to residential and offices is edging towards completion.

Developer Stanhope is in the final stages of its redevelopment of BBC Television Centre in London, and ITV plans to demolish its famous studios and office tower on London’s South Bank.

This trend shows how radio and other traditional media organisations are adapting in this challenging era. It also creates commercial development opportunities. Like a great song on the radio, that is sweet music to many ears in the sector.

Roland Smyth, Of Counsel and real estate specialist at law firm CMS