Unions NUJ and BECTU have both publicly voiced their concerns as yet more hours of local radio are lost to national networking. I Agree with them.
For the last two decades, local commercial radio has been decimated by corporate group ownership, networking of programming and the clinical application of single branding.
Gone are commercial radio stations with local character, shaped specifically to serve a particular community.
Brighton has lost Juice, Wrexham has lost Marcher, Birmingham lost BRMB, the list is huge.
One of the major mainstay’s of any local radio station is its breakfast show. Not so any more says Ofcom at the behest of Global.
Changes in local radio rules will see breakfast shows networked (one show broadcast from London for all radio station brands in the Global network), with the only locally or regionally produced programming being weekday drivetime.
In Birmingham for example, Ed James has hosted Heart breakfast for 18 years (since 2001). That show will be networked and broadcast from London. Ed James’ breakfast show is immensely popular in the West Midlands, hence why he has hosted it for so long. His following is in the ranks of those heady days of Les Ross.
It just goes to show how much the media conglomerates, lining the pockets of shareholders, really care about listeners.
Luckily for Ed James, he’s being moved to Heart Drivetime in Birmingham. He’s one of the lucky ones. There are many many talented folks up and down the country that lose their jobs at the end of this month, with little or no prospect of moving into a similar one.
The Federation of Entertainment Unions, of which the NUJ and BECTU are a part of said in a statement; “These changes have been made following the unnecessary decision by Ofcom to deregulate the conditions for local FM licences (by, for example, reducing the minimum amount of local programming from seven a day to just three), at a time when local radio is thriving, with growing audiences and local advertising revenues.”
“These ill-considered changes have taken place without adequate Parliamentary scrutiny of their potential effect on local jobs and in an industry without a recognised trade union, and the FEU supports calls for an urgent review of the decision by Ofcom.”
The approach by Ofcom is indefensible. The pressure put on Ofcom by Global is abhorrent.
Simple solution: Let Global have its national network on DAB and one single FM frequency for Heart and Capital. Then re-let FM licenses to local groups through Ofcom, providing professional, commercial, LOCAL radio.