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18 October 2011

Sharing Thoughts on DQF & Local Radio

I've been known to have a bit of a go at The Guardian from time to time.

I get a bit narked with that paper's holier-than-thou attitudes on the craft of journalism, its obsession with phone hacking, and the general tone of commentators whose opinions are so self-evidently correct, politically and otherwise, that any further discussion is clearly a waste of everybody's time.

But I exempt from this general withering scorn Martin Wainwright and the Northerner team, together with columnist Martin Kelner, probably better known to ordinary mortals as the co-host of the Monday to Thursday breakfast show on BBC Radio Leeds.

In particular I commend to you Kelner's views on the DQF debate, quoted in this excellent article in Radio Today
"My conclusion – and, believe me, this is intended purely to help the BBC maintain its position as the greatest broadcasting organisation in the world – is that the BBC are the right people to run local radio, in much the same way as the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation are the right people to run Barnoldswick Parish Council."
Read on to discover how Kelner argues for a return to something not unlike 70s-style commercial radio, locally run stations free of central control harnessing the talents of those currently labouring for love in community radio, but with the whole thing paid for out of the licence fee.

Meanwhile Wainwright makes  a passionate plea for local radio in  this Northerner column, highlighting the achievements of BBC Radio Cumbria and the diversity of a station like BBC Radio Leeds.

In contrasting the efforts of the government to kick-start effective community action scemes across the country with the many successes of BBC Local Radio has already achieved in this field Wainwright notes:
"Good luck to the pioneers organised by Locality, the latest in a line of arms length attempts to galvanise social action, but they will be hard put to it to match BBC local radio."
Wainwright concurs with the view I've expressed in this blog that BBC Local Radio will find it difficult to muster an effective campaign against the cutbacks
"The 7,500,000 listeners whose only BBC involvement is with local radio are not the sassy, experienced campaigners who reversed plans to do away with Radio 6 Music last year."
And that remains the key issue in this debate. There is no doubt that BBC Local Radio is loved by its audience, and Wainwright puts a big number on that audience. The output is created by people who love what they do and (by and large) do it well. They certainly don't do it for the money.

Probably, as Kelner notes, they could do it better without the stultifying hand of central control.

They could get rid of the current jingle set for a start; I thought they were OK eighteen months ago but now they're staring to grate on this listener almost as much as the Autoglass 'one more thing!' radio ad campaign which marred my enjoyment of my favourite DAB station over the summer.

And am I the only one to see some (possibly sinister) forward planning in creating a common on-air brand identity for Local Radio before announcing plans for wholesale programme sharing? That move came well in advance of the telly tax freeze.

As usual, comment welcome. And it's free.

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