The recent proposal to make BBC Local Radio content more “personality driven” risks diluting the distinctiveness of the service, according to Radiocentre.
The body has published its response to the BBC Trust Review of the BBC’s Local Radio stations, and says there should be at least 70% speech outside of breakfast.
“The personalities on BBC Local Radio have always been an important part of its offering and will remain so, but this should not be at the expense of a commitment to news, debate and local knowledge. If BBC Local Radio drifts away from these core requirements it will risk becoming too similar to other BBC services or local commercial radio stations,” Radiocentre says.
Radiocentre recommends that BBC Local Radio’s “all speech” programmes, which are broadcast at breakfast time, should remain 100% speech and primarily news focused. In addition, the BBC Trust should seek to formalise a higher speech commitment for BBC Local Radio of 70% during weekday.
It points out that BBC local radio only ever hits the headlines when there is a controversy of some sort (such as when presenter David Lowe lost his job after unintentionally playing the wrong version of The Sun Has Got His Hat On), or when it is under threat due to budget cuts as the BBC enters more straitened financial times.
Radiocentre also says there may be further scope for efficiencies in management and facilities.
Siobhan Kenny, CEO of Radiocentre says: “If BBC Local Radio remains primarily speech orientated and limits the amount of music played during the daytime, it will not only deliver what its core older audience wants but also continue to offer something different to other BBC stations and local commercial radio. We hope that BBC Local Radio stations will be able to evolve in this way rather than drifting away from their core audience.”
You can read the full response online here. (PDF)