Anyone involved in the radio industry, and plenty of people elsewhere, are aware of the cuts being made at Global Radio, cutting locally made output in favour of more shared national content. This means many regional stations will be closed down and local breakfast programmes will be replaced with a single breakfast show broadcast across all the stations in the group.
I’ve worked in lots of local radio stations, and this move – although not unexpected – has made me feel really sad. Local radio offers something really unique, listeners connect with it and develop a relationship with the presenters in a way that doesn’t happen with national programming.
I’ve been in a station when the whole area has come to a standstill because of a road traffic collision or snow, or when there’s been a terrible crime, or when a local hero has done something amazing. In each of these situations, people turn to their local radio station to get the latest and share their reactions with others. Although there will be an increase in news output across Global, it remains to be seen if this will be enough to feed listeners’ appetites and their need for local information from a trusted source.
According to Rajar 88% of us still listen to the radio each week, and despite the increase in podcasts, audio streaming and information available via social media, this figure remains steady.
It’s a problem in print journalism too, with newsrooms slashing the number of journalists and sharing stories with others in their group in order to save money and make the most of dwindling advertising revenue.
But it’s important to protect this. The role of the journalist is to represent the rest of us – journalists have access to officials and representatives we don’t, and they can ask the questions we can’t. Local radio and local newspapers allow this to be done at a local level; by the time a national outlet has noticed what a city councillor has done, it’s probably too late.
The BBC offer this service without the reliance on advertising, but even they’re not bullet-proof and have to justify their claim to a large proportion of our licence fee regularly.
Community stations are rapidly increasing in number, but many of these rely on volunteers and won’t have the heft of other outlets when it comes to getting hold of information listeners want in a timely way.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that this move by Global is a step closer to losing our valuable local stations, and all of the good which comes with them.
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