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08 October 2011

DQF - Why 'Radio England' is a Really Bad Idea

It's sadly indicative of  BBC 'reflex thinking' that the proposed solution to saving money on evening programming for Local Radio is to create a new network:  'Radio England', which they plan to roll out across all English stations from 1900-2200 each weekday, and for big chunks of the weekend.

Except when it isn't.

Stations will opt out from 'Radio England' when there's sport on involving a local team. When it's snowing. Whenever any local manager who cares for his or her service can think of a reason. Or even half a reason.

If anyone ever asks me to run a station (highly unlikely; even more so after writing this)   the very last thing I'd ever want to do is close down from Sunday afternoon to Monday breakfast.

Evenings and weekends on BBC Local Radio should be the testbed where the corporation grows its new radio talent. Presenters, yes, and also providing an outlet for new music that gives exposure to local bands. Offpeak can also boost the BBC's oft-repeated aim to increase diversity by developing talent from under-represented communities, giving them the confidence to make the leap into mainstream roles.

It would make much more sense, if there's an immediate need to be seen to be saving money, to use the BBC's existing digital-only stations to fill any gaps in the schedule; for example, giving FM exposure to the Asian Network or 1Xtra in areas with appropriate populations. It might mean schedule changes for those existing networks, but would boost awareness of them to new audiences.

Or what about highlighting new music from the English regions on a national platform as part of the 6Music evening schedule? That would help justify the hit Local Radio has taken to save 6Music, the darling of the iPhone generation. It would also expose 6Music to listeners without the means to access DAB.

Wake up. The Beeb doesn't need another quasi-national network.

Clapped-out B-list telly celebs will be revising their CVs as I write this, hoping for a comeback gig. It's the easy option, if you're setting up a big show, to go for the name that will at least attract a glimmer of recognition from Cornwall to Tyneside. Big talent needs producing (Russell Brand, anyone?).  Managing. Engineering. All of which starts gobbling up any savings.

If the BBC's going to survive its latest crisis it needs to start thinking and working smarter.

Get rid of the reflex to set up something new and shiny to solve a problem. Start making better use of the resources they have. And think really hard about the purpose of Local Radio, not least (as I argue in the post below) with regard to training the next generation of talent.

1 comment:

  1. The BBC has missed a massive opportunity with DQF. It should be switching off the BBC News Channel (and it should do it immediately). Instead of endless repeated packages and correspondents commenting, offering opinion and speculating for hours on end because there's airtime to be filled, leave local radio alone. Even better: cut the 1830 regional TV news programmes to 15 minutes (it's obvious to me that my local one is reduced to padding after about eight minutes) and improve local news on the BBC local radio stations. They are more suited to covering their patches rather than massive chunks of the country than the TV newsrooms have to do. These are, more often than not, areas so big that one side of them has nothing (and probably doesn't want to anyway) to do with the other.