Journalist and former Radio Borders DJ Andrew Gray shares his thoughts on the closure of the studios in Tweedbank...

It may look like just a tin hut on the edge of an industrial estate.

But for decades the small, blue and white prefabricated building by the Tweed was the very heart of a community.

As the home of Radio Borders, it housed a hugely ambitious radio station that punched way above its weight and connected people across the region.

Now Bauer Media, the station’s owner, has decided to close the building on the outskirts of Tweedbank. Bizarrely, the company has concluded that the best way to run a local radio station for the Scottish Borders and North Northumberland is to have no local base.

For those of us who worked for Radio Borders in its most exciting years, this is a sad moment.

But Bauer’s decision is also bad news for the Borders as a whole and for everyone who cares about truly local media, diversity in broadcasting and nurturing talent in rural areas.

The move reflects the much larger demise of local radio across the UK, which has taken place with the blessing of regulators and successive governments. The vast majority of supposedly “local” commercial broadcasters are now run by a few big groups trying to maximise profits by piping the same programmes to stations around the country.

Even before this latest blow, Radio Borders had become a sickly shadow of the broadcaster that recorded the highest-ever audience share for any UK station soon after its launch in 1990 and went on to win big national awards.

Don’t be fooled by a few local ads, jingles or news stories: The breakfast show is the only programme made just for Radio Borders. All the others are already “networked” from studios outside the area. And now even breakfast for Borderers will be served from Edinburgh.

It’s all a far cry from Radio Borders’ heyday. Under its inspirational first boss, Rod Webster, the station became as much part of the Borders as Reivers and rugby.

From that Tweedbank hut, the station broadcast from morning till night to a community of 100,000 people. In wild storms and heavy snow, it stayed on air even longer.

Alongside the daytime shows, there was local news, specialist music programmes, sports broadcasts, features and phone-ins.

Equally, the studios became a magnet for people from across the Borders. They would stop off with a “What’s On” event, a dedication or request, or for an on-air interview.

I started in that metal box by the Tweed as a 17-year-old schoolboy DJ with a weekend chart show. Over the next couple of years, I did pretty much everything you could do in radio – hosting daytime programmes, interviewing politicians, recording voice-overs for commercials, editing tape and anchoring outside broadcasts.

At Radio Borders, I and many others, learned a huge amount about broadcasting, creativity and teamwork — excellent preparation for long media careers.

With the closure of the Tweedbank studios, what are the chances of a teenager in a rural area getting that kind of experience today? And if people from those backgrounds don’t get that chance, how can their lives be reflected by the media?

Announcing Bauer’s decision, senior manager Victoria Easton-Riley said the Radio Borders team had “jumped at the chance” to use the company’s new state-of-the-art studios in Edinburgh so a move there “made sense”.

She insisted the station would still provide “the best local news and entertainment, life-changing competitions and of course the biggest hits and the biggest throwbacks too”.

But what you need to make great local radio is not fancy studios, contests that listeners fund themselves via premium-rate text messages or music that anyone can stream online. What you need is a talented team of people in the heart of their community who love radio and connect with their audience. That old tin hut by the Tweed had all of that in spades.

Andrew Gray is a journalist based in Brussels. He has worked as a correspondent and bureau chief for Reuters news agency and as a senior editor at Politico.