A series of takeovers by the owners of Carlisle’s CFM radio station raises competition concerns, the provisional findings of an official probe has concluded.

The Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) has raised the alarm after independent members of the CMA panel carried out a an in-depth, phase two, investigation into Bauer Media’s acquisition of Celador Entertainment Limited’s Lincs FM Group Limited, UKRD Group Limited and The Wireless Group Limited.

In its provisional findings, the CMA expressed concerns that the acquisitions could spell the demise of FRS, which provides more than 100 independent local radio stations with sales representation to national advertisers.

“If FRS were to shut down, local radio stations would have to seek sales representation from Bauer or Global (the largest commercial radio group in the UK), leaving local radio stations with little choice when trying to sell national radio advertising airtime and potentially leading to them paying higher commission rates,” the CMA said.

The investigation also found that the acquisition of The Wireless Group Limited, and its Signal 107 station specifically, now meant Bauer Media owned two stations offering targeted advertising in the Wolverhampton area.

The lack of choice, said the CMA, could see advertisers facing higher prices to promote their products and services in the city.

The CMA is now seeking views on its provisional findings by January 6 and said it will assess all the evidence provided before reaching a final decision ahead of, or on, the statutory deadline of March 17.

The CMA first raised the alarm over Bauer Media’s takeovers back in July.

It moved to an in-depth investigation a month later after Bauer Media was unable to address its concerns.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has already declined to intervene in the Celador Entertainment Limited takeover specifically, after the CMA referred it to the Government department.

Carlisle-based CFM forms part of Bauer's Hits Radio Network of stations, which also includes Metro Radio in Newcastle, Rock FM in Lancashire, and Radio Aire in Leeds.

Based at Kingstown, it broadcasts across north Cumbria and parts of south west Scotland.

During this year, Bauer Media has moved locally produced weekend shows on CFM to its network hub in Manchester. It has also axed local breakfast and drivetime shows on its West Sound station – which transmits across south west Scotland and parts of north Cumbria – replacing them with new shows broadcast from Glasgow.

Amidst the changes on air, Bauer Media has signalled its intention to apply for digital licence services across Cumbria after communications regulator Ofcom advertised their availability.