BBC Local Radio looking to attract younger audiences

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BBC Local Radio is changing its music policy in a bid to increase community visibility and appeal to younger audiences.

The network of 39 stations will also hold open auditions to find new radio presenters as part of its mission to reinvent itself.

Last year each station reintroduced a local evening show, with new talent making up the majority of the new programmng. Shows fronted by diverse new talent including the Lord Mayor of Sheffield Magid Magid, a finalist from The Voice, and the 24-year-old Director of Music at Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Now it’s hoped holding open auditions will uncover even more new talent, in a plan announced today by BBC England’s Head of Audio and Digital Chris Burns.

She has also revealed the BBC’s 39 local radio stations in England will work to modernise the music they play, focus on reflecting the communities they serve beyond just reporting news, and partner with other parts of the BBC to provide a platform for their local content including BBC Sounds.

Chris Burns says: “We need to change because the way in which our audiences are consuming audio is changing. The success of streaming services, podcasts and catch-up radio prove there is much more competition for people’s ears. But it also proves the demand is there. The market is expanding.

“This is an exciting time for radio and there is a unique opportunity for BBC local radio. As commercial radio becomes increasingly network-based and local newspapers face continuing decline, I want us to make localness our key feature. Our role is to reflect the communities and own the local conversation, on all platforms – linear and digital.

“And we must be the entry point for new talent into the BBC. BBC local radio has a great tradition of uncovering and nurturing new talent. That must be strengthened as we seek to engage younger audiences.”

Chris Burns was appointed to run BBC local radio in 2018 and started the role in November. She has outlined her plan for the service, focusing on uncovering and nurturing new talent, increasing visibility in local communities and appealing to younger audiences. The nationwide talent search is a key part of the plan. The audition process will also be turned into a podcast.

Stations will be launching their talent searches soon, with BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s search already underway. Similar searches have already been run by stations in Humberside, Leeds, Nottingham and Sheffield. The aim of the open auditions is to find potential presenters who wouldn’t normally emerge through the conventional BBC recruitment process.

The changes have been brought about following an announcement in November 2017 by the Director-General Tony Hall who renewed the BBC’s commitment to local radio. Lord Hall said BBC local radio stations should reflect their community and establish their own sound and personality.

Since then the 39 local radio stations in England have all recruited a community producer and launched new programming in the evenings and appointed presenters new to radio.

The new presenters include:

  • The Director of Music at Pembroke College, Cambridge Anna Lapwood (the youngest director of music in the college’s history) presents Classical Cambridgeshire on Radio Cambridgeshire.
  • Singer Letitia George, who was a contestant on The Voice, presents The C Word on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire.
  • Anand Bhatt presents The Curry Show, the BBC’s first ever radio show dedicated to curry.
  • Summaya Mughal is the new evening show presenter on BBC Radio Nottingham. Summaya was selected following an open audition.
  • The Lord Mayor of Sheffield Magid Magid is one of the presenters on Radio Sheffield. He is the first Lord Mayor to have his own show on a BBC Radio station.
  • Award-winning comedian Judi Love presents The Scene on BBC Radio London which discusses some thought provoking topics with artistic people.
  • Former Leeds United player Sanchez Payne is one of the presenters on the Monday Night MixTape on BBC Radio Leeds.
  • DJ and rapper Vital (real name Vernon Caisley) from Wolverhampton is the presenter of BBC WM’s Tuesday evening show which aims to promote local artists.
  • On BBC Radio Humberside, the line-up includes a new show for Kofi Smiles who became the station’s Face of Hull in 2017 following an open audition.
  • Kyle Walker presents The Dead Good Show on BBC Radio Manchester looking at topical issues that matter to young people.
  • Lucas Yeomans brings new music to his evening show on BBC Radio Stoke as he explores upcoming music acts from the region.

RadioToday’s take

At a time when commercial radio is offering more networking and streamlined brands, and offering more of a showbiz and entertainment factor, it’s only right that there should be an alternative in every marketplace to bring ‘proper local radio’ to the community.

But if group management is continuing to give local radio stations central instructions on how to do that then nothing will change. Locally, not centrally programmed stations using the backup power of the BBC is surely the way forward here.

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29 Comments
  1. AlexaPlayDespacito says

    Exactly what BBC radio should be. Giving young, passionate people their first step in the radio industry.

    Ditching the tired, old formats the increasingly diminishing 50+ oldies clamour for is an excellent way to rejuvenate BBC local radio. It is dynamic, inclusive and hopefully extremely diverse.

    Groundbreaking announcement that will change local radio forever, with young people finally taking the reigns. The future is what matters now.

    1. Mr Boltar says

      “Ditching the tired, old formats the increasingly diminishing 50+ oldies ”

      I hate to burst your yoof bubble, but the proportion of older people in the UK population is actually increasing.

  2. Terence Garwood says

    Then they should ditch this awful policy of being non stop local radio 5s going on about news and have a 75/ 25 % balance of music over chat and keep the chat really local and interesting a bit like Radio London and Medway / Kent when I was a kid

    1. Mike Rose says

      Precisely! Kent was beating the commercial rival during their first 6 months as well! This talent search is all well and good but they’ve missed out the one thing that would also make a difference. Presenters! Proper experienced presenters. Plenty in commercial radio being made redundant and ready for action…probably even enough to make the stations 24 hour like London already.

      1. Radio Geordie says

        Some did briefly but then had to ditch it as the Beeb had another swath of cost-cutting to justify the huge wages the likes of the Ginger Whinger was paid.

  3. Jeff Featherstone says

    So if commercial radio has the problem of advertisers not finding older listeners an attractive proposition, Radio 2 is seeking younger audiences and now BBC local radio is seeking younger audiences, the place where older listeners are served is where, and the BBC’s strategy fits into their public service responsibilities in what way exactly?

    1. Alan says

      I agree too, 100%

  4. Ron Dobbyn says

    I agree with what Jeff says .

    1. Jim Johnson says

      Spot on Jeff and Ron.
      Okay, give youngsters a chance to get into broadcasting, but ‘Aunty’ shouldn’t forget the ever-growing number of older folk who love to listen to friendly, meaningful chat plus ‘real’ music, not ‘new’ music that can be found on lots of other stations (including those operated by the BBC – 1, 1 Xtra & 6).

  5. Mark Budgen says

    What this actually means is music that has very low listenership but fulfils the BBC’s PC requirement. It’s actually patronising, not inclusive.

  6. Adrian says

    I read somewhere that the people in charge of the Radio 2 playlist were going to help out with local radio.If so (a) heaven help us and (b) since they have already brought the age group that station is aiming at down considerably (to my ears anyway) and cut back a lot of specialist programmes why do this to another network as well?,there are a lot of us older listeners who feel we are just not being catered for.I doubt a lot of youngsters are going to suddenly tune to BBC local radio because a load of modern music is being played along with all the talk and it may well alienate the older listeners-result could be BBC local radio audiences drastically falling and the corporation not serving the older population just like the commercial stations.They are supposed to be offering an alternative that independent stations no longer do so we should at least expect them to cater for the over 50’s somewhere and not go younger on yet another network.

  7. Stephen says

    Don’t mess with Richard Searling’s Northern Soul on BBC Radio Manchester or Stoke, etc. Or else!

  8. Bob Sutton says

    Listen to your local community station as this is where you will here local news, interviews and good music right across the board. My station is Burgess Hill Radio on 103.8 FM or as it is the norm these days online.
    Here you will hear young presenters giving their valuable free time and hopefully carving a pathway to a career in radio. So please give your support to your local community station where ever you are. Or better still, be part of it by offering your time as a volunteer in what ever capacity you will feel better suited.

  9. Moonman says

    Specialist shows aside. I don’t think there’s a problem with playing new tracks during daytime hours, as long as it’s not overloaded with them through an hour. And as long as your not playing something too rough for the general station sound, like Skepta or Post Malone. A couple of currents hour, then the rest 70’s/80’s/90’s/00’s. The next generation does have to come through I get that, but there has to be a compromise.

    The bigger issue that the newer music, is the fact that they actually should be able to do the job and present a radio show.

  10. David Naylor says

    Totally agree with the overall opinion of the posts here. Yet another BBC outlet chasing the same ‘ mythical’ younger audience. As the UK population actually ages, there seems to be an overall view in both the BBC and Commercial radio industry that it isnt happening…. No problem with this drive for the ‘ next generation of listeners’ BUT what do I , as a sixtysomething, listen to? Radio 2 perhaps needs a ‘sister’ station, Radio2 Classic – like Radio 1 Extra etc , catering for the more mature music tastes . Heres a radical thought, make it a national Easy Listening network with local daytime opt- outs – the current 39 local BBC stations…. Oh no, sorry thats what the commercial outfits are doing isn’t it?

  11. Dan Dean says

    AGAIN!!!…I say that this dated model should simply be ditched. A product of it’s time which has no place in the World as we know it.
    The cost of these stations is astronomical and the only reason they are kept alive is because the BBC would have to find alternative employment for all those people involved who are on staff, and the PR it would create be not what they want in the present climate.

  12. Paul Mabley says

    BBC Newcastle used to be a great station, largely down to it’s local content. However a new broom came in and swept clean, the end result being a commercial radio station without the adverts. Lot’s of music, naff ‘guess the year’ competitions and that godawful network thing that was introduced between 7 and 10 of a weeknight.

    Nowadays I rarely listen to UK radio. preferring the variety of internet stations, especially the US talk radio.

  13. Pat says

    Don’t forget, a lot of the older people who like BBC Local Radio and Radio 2 aren’t the sort who will seek out the music they want through all the outlets available today.So while you may target younger listeners on local radio they probably won’t tune-in but will still get most of their music from spotify,YouTube,etc,etc whilst you will be leaving a lot of people without a music radio service to enjoy.I would think the commercial stations won’t want the BBC locals treading on their territory music-wise either and why with all the commercial stations and BBC Radio 1 and 2 already sharing a lot of the same music why now spread it to the last bastion for some of easy listening music and chat without ads?.

  14. Barrie Hyde says

    What baffles me is that the majority of radio companies aim at the same audience demographic, ie the younger generation. Yet the grey hair fraternity have the most liquid income and therefore must be attractive to advertisers. Strangely they are ignored

    1. Bob Sutton says

      I couldn’t agree more!

  15. Len Groat says

    This is like an aged granny trying to chat up a toy boy…..

    ….sad…

    ‘Open auditions’ will mean every uneducated nutter without a good voice (and the VOICE is what radio si about !)

    ….will turn up (believe me we had them in droves at Trent in the 80s) and of course Aunty Beeb is STILL scared to use the ‘word ‘DJ’ !

    The NIGHTTIME audience is small and will never grow….

    ++ NOWHERE does it say they are doing anything with the truly AWFUL speech-led breakfast shows.

    SAVE licence-fee money for the HUGE hole in the BBC pension fund ( ! ) and just syndicate Radio 2 from 6pm !!

  16. Joe Smith says

    The BBC really haven’t got a clue have they?

    Commercial radio has all but walked away from local radio leaving the field wide open for the BBC and what does the BBC offer – “the BBC’s first ever radio show dedicated to curry.”

    Just have some intelligent presenters, a decent variety of music and some news and features relating to local events. It really isn’t rocket science.

  17. LISA says

    I listened to Radio Berkshire playing an hour of records such as the USA singer Andrew Gold’s ‘Lonely Boy’ and wondered what this had to do with local radio, and what was the point. After 10 years of BBC Introducing, surely they have enough choice of local music to play which would appeal to different ages without scaring too many people. There would then be some point to these stations playing music.

  18. Radio Fader says

    Yawn! Once again, older listeners are simply being cast aside in favour of younger people, most of whom don’t listen to the radio.

    Radio programmers have this dated view of older people sitting in an armchair all day, knitting, while listening to radio 4. Many older people now are more active, get involved in local communities and actually listen to the radio to find out what’s going on.

  19. Radio Geordie says

    They may have spent some money on local radio this year. But I’ll give it a year or maybe two before they revert back to the way they operated prior to the dreadful All England programme – regional programmes allowing for local opt-outs for sports commentaries.
    And they will do it because as always, when the Beeb need to cut costs, the Local Radio services are the first to feel the axe.

  20. paul beard says

    What does this mean for David Robey’s Woman over 45 only policy for his demographic on BBC Radio London? He sacked his best and most loved presenter to put this into place. Bringing in new young talent is needed in management as well. Starting with him.

    1. Joe Smith says

      Who did he sack Paul?

  21. Maybe I'm Right! says

    Well this comment section really is the pits isn’t it. I’ve longed for the day where I can listen to local radio without dying of old age from the music. Mixing it up a bit is a great thing. Younger presenters are a fantastic things because we’re all stuck now that Bauer is likely to Hits Radio the country up very soon.

    Speaking of Bauer, they’ve got rid of HEAT RADIO for you moaners to make way for some ex-radio 2 person to play classical music all day, and made this thing called Greatest Hits Radio. You’ve no need to moan! Change is good! 🙂

    1. Mr Boltar says

      BBC local radio shouldn’t even bother with music – whats the point? You don’t need to be based in a specific geographic area to play a track or host a band. It should be almost exclusively speech based concentrating on mainly local issues with discussion programs, phone ins and reports.

      But I suppose its easier and cheaper to get some muppet to press play than it is to hire someone who can hold a discussion in a bucket.

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