Anglian Radio, which runs five local radio stations in the East of England, is ending its membership of the commercial radio body RadioCentre.
The group says it follows this week’s news that a coalition of 13 commercial radio owners – responsible for 80 stations across the UK – has spoken out against plans for digital radio switchover. Significant players in the coalition such as UTV and UKRD are not currently RadioCentre members and Anglian Radio has told RadioToday that there is a growing feeling that RadioCentre doesn’t represent the views of the smaller stations.
Group CEO David Lovell said: “Their paymaster is Global in the main and that’s obviously the cause that they represent. That probably sums up why we’ve left – we don’t feel they represent the smaller stations quite as well as they used to in the past. The lobbying that RadioCentre was doing was very much biased towards getting DAB supported. They wanted everyone to play ball and we were saying ‘Look, it’s not going to help us, we can’t afford it, we can’t see any benefits and we want those feelings put across to government as well as the big boys’ views.'”
Anglian owns Town 102 in Ipswich, Dream 100 in Colchester, Norwich 99.9, North Norfolk Radio and The Beach for Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. The Beach is the only one of the five stations available on DAB – it’s been on the Norwich multiplex for the last few years and only went on under previous owners Tindle in order to get the analogue licence renewed by Ofcom for a longer period of time. “We’ve just had to go through re-application for our Dream 100 Tendring licence,” says David. “We identified that DAB to cover that area comes out of Chelmsford and Southend which goes down to the M25 in one direction, right down into Kent in another direction and only covers 68 percent of our patch. And I think 13 or 14 percent of listening in our area is on DAB. We’ve had to take the chance of losing our licence by saying we’re not going to commit to DAB. We’ve only got a licence for seven years instead of 12 because we wouldn’t commit to DAB. It’s lose all round as far as the little boys are concerned.”
Several other members of the coalition that has raised the DAB issue this week are also RadioCentre members, although there are rumours of others following Anglian out of the door. “I could think of another couple of groups that I would say are probably on the verge of doing the same,” Mr Lovell told RadioToday.
Linda Smith, CEO of RadioCentre, said: “RadioCentre represents a broad church of members from the largest groups to the smallest independent stations, each of them valued for their input and range of views. We work conscientiously to represent these 245 members stations from 45 separate companies, who make up 90% of the commercial radio industry by revenue and listening. It’s always disappointing to lose a member, but we will continue to offer a range of services designed to help commercial radio thrive, whether locally or nationally.”
With groups such as UKRD and UTV also not represented by RadioCentre, there are suggestions a new body could be formed as a result of the ‘coalition’ of local radio operators that has materialised this week. “Conversations have been had. Nothing concrete has been discussed to any depth but certainly that’s a possibility for the future,” says Anglian’s CEO David Lovell.
UKRD Chief Executive, William Rogers, told RadioToday: “Whilst I can’t comment on any particular discussions that may be going on between various radio operators, I would not be at all surprised were such discussions to be happening. The fact is that for some considerable time there has been a recognition that the interests of genuinely local commercial radio stations have not been effectively represented and I’m aware that frustration has been growing. It’s why UKRD left Radio Centre in the first place and having spoken to many people about the issues facing genuinely local radio over the next few years, there may well be a case for establishing a new grouping which will serve those operators better. Time will tell what eventually happens.”
Anglian Radio has given notice to resign from RadioCentre. RadioToday understands there is a six-month notice period for the group to serve first.