Opinion: Could Global decision be the tipping point for local audiences?

Global Radio shakeup – could this be the tipping point for local audiences, asks Howard Kosky, Founder and CEO markettiers4dc.

Global Radio has announced it will be axing around 60 of its local breakfast and drivetime shows this year, closing studios and replacing community voices with London-based presenters. According to RadioToday’s recent analysis, this means a 70 percent drop in presenter numbers across the UK.

No-one can deny commercial radio is booming with revenue-breaking records for the third consecutive year. But while bosses are patting themselves on the back over the financial efficiencies of the shakeup, will BBC Local, independent and community radio stations make a play to acquire the large number of ‘displaced listeners’ that don’t want to hear London voices? Could this latest move be the tipping point for audiences outside the capital?

We’re clearly seeing a domino effect from Ofcom’s change in localness guidelines and how local stations react to this will be interesting. It creates an opportunity for them to fill the void and maintain hyper-local relevance but will the requirement from audiences justify the investment?

Chris Burns, BBC England’s Head of Audio and Digital recently announced that BBC Local Radio is changing its music policy to increase visibility in local communities. This could turn out to be particularly well-timed and may prove to be an astute play from an audience acquisition perspective.

If regional audiences aren’t given the content they want via the channel they choose, they will go elsewhere. The rise in on-demand audio options and accessibility has made sure radio listeners are no longer held to ransom. Audience loyalty is not a hand that can be forced, it needs to be earned, and maintained, by giving audiences what they want.

There will be some exceptionally talented presenters that find themselves affected by this announcement. From Kent to Manchester, local and regional news channels have been reporting on the news with a focus on the much-loved presenters the region will be losing from its airwaves. Judging by the reaction on social from the very communities that will be affected there is a sense of being overlooked by decision-makers in the country’s capital.

Often in radio, listener loyalty lies with the presenter’s personality and the content, it’s not about the station or celebrity status. Only time will tell how this shakeup is really going to play out for everyone involved.

Howard Kosky is Founder and CEO of markettiers4dc.

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  1. David King says

    Surely now is the time to cut the red tape for community radio stations around the whole country, and allow them to raise more revenue through advertising and sponsorship! Otherwise, these small organisations will be trying to operate with both hands tied behind their backs. Or maybe that’s deliberate. Just saying….

    1. sj says

      Absolutely. I haven’t got a problem with letting the big groups build national networks and do whatever they like with their cash. But now’s the time to make sure community radio stations are given the help they need to thrive.

  2. PhilG says

    Morning show will never be the same without Martin & Su Heart SX

  3. Darren Stephens says

    It’s’ the little things that will drive audiences away. Things like travel news being relayed by people who don’t know the area, and can’t even pronounce themes of places. It shouldn’t matter, but it grates a lot. And stations where that local knowledge is clearly there (hello, Dave Llewellyn on BBC Tees) do forge strong bonds with listeners. Rationalisation of this type might be sensible form a financial perspective, but it may have unintended and less palatable consequences.

    1. Craig Strong says

      On the original RSL for Smooth Radio, which I was part of, we took a news feed from Red Dragon I believe it was..
      During one news bulletin, they had interviewed a local mayor as the RSL was from a town in Derbyshire, unfortunately because the newsreader had no idea about how to pronounce local area names, she referred to the mayor as ‘The Mayor of Ear-Wash’ and not the correct pronunciation of ‘Error-Wash’!

  4. Mark Budgen says

    Tabor has already said he won’t be happy until he runs ALL independent radio stations in the UK. This is so wrong and anti competitive.

  5. A says

    Community Radio now need to allowed to be cash generative. Otherwise they’ll never have money to pay for quality presenters.

  6. Will says

    I mean they’re coming from London but not all of them have London voices. For example Kevin Huges on Heart does Heart in Wales. Sarah Story on Capital who did it Capital in the North West and Liverpool. Smooth will there be something similar? Maybe Darren Parks on Breakfast across the UK as Smooth North West does fantastic and keep Carlos on Drive for the north west?

  7. Michael V says

    For myself, I turned away from Global in 2011 when they axed the Galaxy network & the last of the local names for the big merger into the Capital & Heart brands. They have nothing on Radio 1. Their playlist is not as varied. It’s all pop boy & girl band stuff. There’s so many going to be out of a job. Maybe these presents could make a come back eventually with a few new local area radio stations on DAB/online. It’s been done before.

  8. K says

    I have grown up listening up to my local station. If people want to listen to national radio stations they will, why can’t people have the choice. Many people including myself don’t want to listen to some ex reality or pop star presenting, they want people they tune in for day after day. Normal people they can relate too. Heart Essex have had the same breakfast presenters for near 20 years, people laugh with them and they are popular. Don’t expect those loyal listenings to move on

    1. Michael V says

      Well said K. That’s very true.

  9. Dan Dean says

    Anoraks always fail to see the big picture in anything because it is a passion, nothing wrong in that, we should all be passionate about something. As for radio, Kylie and Sigourney at Cut And Blow Anytown wont give a monkey’s toss about who / what / where it is / comes from / etc…..as long as they have a diet of music that they are familiar with then that will be fine, who presents it ,or form where, they really don’t care….and as for News….they get it from other places….that is if they have any interest in news, so things will simply carry on as normal and it will all blow over.

  10. Peter says

    I dont know about other people but the main reason I listen to a radio station is because of the music they play.I have no interest in National/Local News,Weather and Traffic Reports it’s the music.Hence the 2 Station Apps on my tablet are Planet Rock and Absolute Classic Rock.

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