John Myers' report on local radio as part of the Digital Britain review has been published today. In his report, the former-chief executive of GMG Radio has recommended an entirely new philosophy to local radio’s approach.
Utilising both the carrot and the stick, Myers has recommended that stringent music policies and local programming be dropped once his newly titled Local Impact Test – which must provide evidence of local consumers' satisfaction with the content provided by their local radio station – had been completed satisfactorily.
The report also stated also that if regulations don’t move with the times then they could be the death of a slew of small stations. Going so far as to warn that with the current financial climate and a dearth of radio advertising, there was a real possibility that up to 50 local stations could disappear from the landscape within the next two years. Consequently, he recommended the idea that some smaller stations be allowed to share one licence.
He also called for radical proposals concerning stations serving a population of fewer than 700,000 people – around 200 in the UK. Most importantly perhaps, stating that it didn’t matter where the service might be situated. Meaning that a regional station might be allowed to be based anywhere in the UK, which could dramatically alter the working set-up for commercial networks like Real, Smooth or the regional Galaxy stations.
However, Myers said regulation should be strengthened in one area, with local stations of all sizes required to broadcast "at least 12 local news bulletins a day … accompanied by clarification of the rules concerning the definition of 'local news'".
Myers also said that the BBC should take the "lead role" in paying for the rollout of the DAB transmitter network. "It will be the BBC that has to dig deeper to fund our pathway to creating Digital Britain," he said.
He said the industry, regulator and government should take a "more ambitious approach towards digital migration", including taking national and regional stations into the digital only world "as early as possible".
Myers was commissioned in February to write the independent review of local radio recommended in communications minister Lord Carter's interim Digital Britain report.
Responding to the report, RadioCentre CEO, Andrew Harrison said: "Commercial Radio has committed to a very bright future in the digital age. This operational commitment must be supported by a new-look regulatory framework that is in step with the realities of running modern media businesses. The replacement of outdated analogue regulation is a critical part of that reform.
"The proposals set out in the Myers review bring some really visionary thinking, from an experienced radio practitioner, about how to operate and regulate great local services for listeners in the digital age. It is crucial that government and Ofcom now put the report’s full proposals quickly into place."
He added: "The idea of a Local Impact Test is exciting and right for the digital age. Research with local listeners will confirm how well local stations are serving local communities, rather than judgements from London based civil servants. As a sector, we work daily with local listener research and fund a world class audience survey run by Rajar; we are extremely enthusiastic about working with Ofcom to help devise how the Local Impact Test will be introduced.
"Commercial Radio is justifiably proud of the impact it makes on its local communities and it seems only right that our listeners should have the final say on how we are doing".