Monday, March 30, 2009

The Heart's gone out of local radio

I'm busily chasing up interviewees for a number of magazine features today, bracketed by a few already planned interviews on subjects as diverse as upskilling accountants to evolving the bonus culture.

My normal way of working is to have the radio on in the background (actually it's a download of the Killers' Day and Age right now), and more often than not it's tuned to BBC 6Music.

However, even the Beeb's trendy-for-40-somethings format can wear after a while, so I flick between half a dozen other stations depending on my mood - and how hard I'm having to concentrate on my work.

But I won't be tuning into 102.6FM anymore, since Fox became Heart - and the likes of Toby Anstiss tried to pretend he was broadcasting from Cowley rather than Heart's parent in London.

Okay, Fox wasn't great, but for most of its 20 year history it was a truly local station for those of us living in and around Oxford. When I was involved with Oxford United I worked with the station on a number of occasions and was very pleased to see local news presenters like Alex Forrest learn the ropes in the newsroom before moving onto regional, and now national TV.

But Fox bit the dust the other week to be rolled into Charles Allen's Global Radio. Now I've worked for Charles before when he was CEO of our parent company, Granada. He's a decent bloke, but his driving passion is not radio. It's about hitting bottom line predictions - and if the best way to do that is by cutting costs in his radio empire to the bone, that's what he'll do, never mind the impact on the listening public.

So now from Plymouth to the Pennines, truly local radio is being replaced by the same bland pseudo-national audio blancmange. Martin Kelner presents a pretty neat summary of the current situation in today's Media Guardian. Allen's not the only big bad wolf in the homogenisation of local commercial radio, but he's doing a pretty good job of ripping the heart out. What local commercial radio needed to thrive in these economically troubled times was ingenuity, creativity and, I believe, individuality. But that's hardly a bean counter's forte.


Anonymous said...

The FOX Nation, a new Website launching March 30th. Read more about it below and watch a video.

Mark Shanahan said...

Why? You're promoting a right wing American truth-twister?