David Holdsworth has announced a new direction for BBC local radio stations, with a focus on personalities and production.
Local news will continue to be important, but local radio journalism, David says, also needs to have personality through engaging interviews, debate and conversation with the audience.
It’s expected stations which concentrate on news for the majority of their output (i.e. all talk-breakfast) will start having more music and personality programmes rather than hard news and talk shows.
David, Controller of English Regions, says now is an important moment for Local Radio – music will be reviewed and more training will be offered. Research has concluded that the stations need to reinforce their role as a companion; “Put simply we need to avoid stifling the personality in our output, while continuing to inform, champion and challenge,” David told local radio staff this lunchtime.
BBC local radio will continue to target 50 – 70 year olds and will work on providing “intelligent competitions” and “craftier trails” and cross promotion.
Here’s the letter sent to all staff today:
I am writing to everyone in BBC Local Radio about work and research we have been conducting on the long term direction for our stations.
The background is one of rapid change. Many of our listeners are using their phones and the internet to stay up to date with local news, sport, weather and travel.
Competition in radio is intensifying, and even more digital stations will be launched soon.
Despite all of that Local Radio provides a crucial and unique public service. No-one else on the dial can get close to the way you keep people in touch with where they live. The research reinforces that our listeners recognise that, but what they cherish most are our personalities and our friendly tone.
So in a nutshell our conclusion is that we are at the point where we need to reinforce our role as a companion – with presenters and output that will cheer you up as we involve you in local life.
Put simply we need to avoid stifling the personality in our output, while continuing to inform, champion and challenge.
Many of our Editors have been involved in the work to define our future for a digital age. They will be taking you through the conclusions of the research and this change of emphasis.
We will continue to focus on older listeners with a core target of those aged between 50 and 70, while never overlooking those who are over 70 and have often enjoyed a long and loyal relationship with our stations. I want everyone to have a chance to discuss our target audience and our aims. So every Editor will be doing that in special meetings in the coming weeks, drawing on what I think are fascinating new audience research results.
We will be offering training with more emphasis on production and presentation skills. We want to be craftier about the way we trail and cross promote and make it easier for you to run intelligent competitions. We are reviewing our music and the way we schedule it on the air. And of course all the time we are looking to make digital platforms complement what we do on the radio – with Local Live scheduled to launch in all areas by next summer.
This is an important moment for Local Radio. Our public service role is always highlighted at Charter Renewal time and just last week the BBC Trust launched its 5 yearly review of the service. The challenge is to ensure our content is showcased in a way that delivers growing audiences.
I want to finish by being clear that we are not giving up on high quality journalism. Talking to the Local Radio family is always tricky – messages pass through a number of hands. So to be clear. News remains at the heart of Local Radio. Holding individuals and institutions to account will become even more important as power is devolved. The point is our journalism also needs to have personality through engaging interviews, debate and conversation with the audience.
This work is about getting to know our audience better, developing the overall sound of our service and celebrating and valuing the variety of content and programmes we provide.
I hope you will be able to make one of the sessions in the coming weeks.
With best wishes