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Local Radio Company urged to rethink newsroom merger

20 February 2009

A commercial broadcaster in the south of England is planning to merge the newsrooms of ten local radio stations.  The NUJ is calling on The Local Radio Company to think again. 

The company wants journalists in Portsmouth to cover news and sport from places like Aylesbury and Eastbourne – ninety and seventy miles away in completely different directions. The plan could lead to between six and twelve redundancies.

The news centre in Portsmouth would have a news editor, five news reporters and two sports reporters. They will supply 45 to 90 second local bulletins – to be read by a disc jockey after the Independent Radio News (IRN) national news.

The stations included are Mix 96 at Aylesbury, Mix 107 at High Wycombe, Wessex FM in Dorset, Spire in Salisbury, Isle of Wight Radio, Spirit in Chichester, Quay in Portsmouth, Fire in Bournemouth, Sovereign in Hailsham, and Arrow in Hastings.

Some stations will also have a "content manager" – paid less than a journalist – to record audio for news and programming.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ Deputy General Secretary, said:

"This plan represents more than cutbacks. The news service across the south is being totally gutted.
"Loyal staff – who work long hours for low pay – are being forced to re-apply for what are effectively their old jobs while listeners are being short-changed by radio stations they regard warmly as part of the local community.
"Ofcom – the regulator – have not intervened so it is left to the NUJ to stand up for journalism.
"We call on The Local Radio Company to rethink these plans which will be disastrous for democracy and debate.
"The NUJ has formed a chapel for journalists affected by these changes. The more people who join the union the better we will be able to resist this scheme."

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