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Broadcasting watchdog must reverse decision to let commercial radios reduce local programming and content

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8 May 2019

The Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU) is concerned about changes being made within local commercial radio and the decision by Global (which owns Capital, Heart and Smooth) to reduce the number of locally-produced programmes it makes, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs in local radio and the closure of eleven local studios. It has published the following 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.

“Many hundreds of local radio presenters, producers and journalists now face an uncertain future. The replacement of local voices and programmes with more content centrally produced from London, far away from the communities they serve, will have a detrimental impact on media industries across the UK. In the context of cuts to journalists’ jobs and closures of local newspapers, this will add to the serious decline in local news for UK citizens.*

“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 Local Radio Group has produced a comprehensive report on the changes, documenting Heart local breakfast shows are due to be cut from 22 shows to just one national show, while 14 local breakfast shows on Capital have already been revised to just one national show and Global’s Smooth brand will also be losing local breakfast shows to make way for just one national show.  

A motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for a review has received considerable cross-party support. Shadow Culture Secretary, Tom Watson MP, has called the move a ‘travesty’ and Lilian Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South, demanded a Commons debate on the issue. She said:

"Commercial radio is booming in terms of both ratings and revenue but, as a result of totally unnecessary deregulation of FM licence conditions, Global, which owns Capital, Heart and Smooth, is axing local breakfast and drive-time shows. This means that studios will close completely in 10 towns and cities from Kent to Kendal, and more than 100 presenters, producers, journalists, engineers and other staff face losing their jobs in these and other locations, including Nottingham. At a time when many people feel that their area is being left behind, their concerns ignored and their voices unheard, is it not time that we debated the loss of local news and the centralisation of our media in London?"

Tags: , broadcasting, radio, commercial radio, Global, Capital, Heart, Smooth