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Richard Eyre against networking

The outgoing GCap Media chairman, Richard Eyre, has questioned the move away from localness towards networked programming, and has called on the BBC to hand Radios 1 and 2 over to the commercial sector.

Speaking in a personal capacity at the Radio 3.0 conference, Eyre said: "piping in a mega-DJ from London" would mean sacrificing the key element of local radio: localness.

"I just feel there's a loss of integrity in that package," he said. "It just doesn't hold together as well as the local hero, blending in local conversation and local events and local issues for local people."

Eyre, who is [link=https://radiotoday.co.uk/news.php?extend.3425.2]standing down[/link] as GCap chairman on 6 June admitted that he would have looked into the possibilities of more shared programming. GCap has already unveiled plans to network three hours of daytime output, and a large part of weekends, across the One Network. XFM has also been given permission to network six hours of daytime output.

"The economics of radio in 2008 will mean that companies will not be able to resist," Eyre said. "But it's still handing over one of our best assets to reduce costs. The economics say delocalise. But the relationship says keep it local."

Eyre also used his first speech since he tendered his resignation to renew calls for the privatisation of Radio 1 and Radio 2 and for the BBC to use the money saved to invest in core public service areas and an enhanced online offering for young people.

"I think the time has come for the BBC to relinquish Radio 1 and Radio 2. Until now, it has seemed appropriate for me for the BBC to set out its stall to provide something for all licence fee payers," he said.

"The BBC's funding is under threat. The licence fee is increasingly hard to defend philosophically. BBC directors now have to find themselves running a ship that has been boarded by the pirates at Channel 4, who are trying to make off with a few sacks of their doubloons to supplement their own public service ambitions.

"I would much rather that they [the BBC] established their real priorities and attended to those excellently, rather than knocking another 10 or 15 per cent off everything."

Eyre said Radios 1 and 2 cost £93m between them to run last year, including £70m in content costs. He suggested that 10 per cent of that be invested online, with the rest going to other content areas.

"I know this is an enormous and hideous proposition for those people who have built and maintained these exceptional creatures." he said. "But look, BBC management does not own Radio 1 or Radio 2 any more than I own GCap." His comments echo those of Peter Bazalgette, who last month argued that the Radios 1 and 2 were not core to the BBC's public service remit.

Other speakers at the Radio 3.0 conference in London included newly appointed head of Channel 4 Radio, Bob Shennan, who refused to give a launch date for the multiplex but said he expected E4 Radio to launch by the end of this year.

Bauer's Mark Story, UBC's Simon Cole, Jeremy Kyle, Joel Ross, and Andrew Harrison from the Radiocentre also appeared. To see the full live blog, click [link=https://radiotoday.co.uk/page.php?123]here[/link].

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