Exclusive : Jealousy Reigns

Andy Gray and Richard Keys – the saviours of talkSport?

Commercial radio’s big business. Unlike the BBC, it relies entirely on advertising and private investment to keep going. So perhaps it’s no surprise that, from time to time, the green eyed monster takes over some of those running the sector.

Scott Taunton, the boss of UTV Radio, has questioned the role BBC – and Five Live in particular – for apparently concentrating too much on exclusive sports rights. In this week’s edition of E-Radio – referring to a BBC document on the subject – he writes

For the first time, this new report has revealed the scale of the BBC’s ambitions in sports radio… we learnt that BBC Sport has set 5 Live a target for 62% of people to rate it as best for sport on radio – higher than its target for TV. 5 Live apparently missed this target last year, suggesting it will be trying even harder to persuade listeners that it is better than the competition.

One of Lord Patten’s first tasks as BBC Trust Chairman will be to review 5 Live and 5 Live Sports Extra. It’s an opportunity to reassure 5 Live that it is free to be just what was always intended: a committed news station. That doesn’t mean abandoning sports output, but those targets to dominate sports radio are inappropriate.

With talkSPORT enjoying record audiences, commercial radio offers a credible and free to air alternative to the BBC. As the BBC is forced to make savings, sport is an area where commercial radio is ready to step up and ensure that listeners remain well served.

Of course, being a commercial station, talkSport has every right to be aggressive in its attitude to what the BBC does. After all, Five Live is its main competitor. However, Scott Taunton conveniently misses some of the key findings of the BBC Trust’s report, not least

  • The BBC is effectively managing the bidding process, with an experienced team leading negotiations, and bids are routinely analysed to consider whether they represent the best value for money
  • The BBC did not succeed in winning three of the eight acquisitions attempted during the period covered by the report, suggesting that it is operating at market rates

    But this kind of broadside is nothing new. Successive commercial radio bosses have moaned that parts of the BBC are “too commercial”. Radios 1 and 2 have come under frequent fire in the past from the sector. Since the launch of national networks in the form of Smooth, Capital and Heart those moans seem to be diminishing.

    Perhaps it’s a sign that some parts of the commercial radio industry have decided to get their own house in order first.

    Support grows for Local Radio

    Still, it’s not all bad news as this article from Gloucester’s local paper demonstrates. The County Council leader is planning a motion condemning any plans to close BBC Local Radio stations. And with 93 thousand listeners every week, BBC Radio Gloucestershire deserves that kind of support.

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    © NewsMutt 2011. Eradio article reproduced with permission.


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