Local Radio, Nationwide

I’ve never quite understood why some people dismiss programmes they have neither heard nor seen. Perhaps the most memorable example in radio’s recent history was the furore over the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand affair, with the actual number of complainants who’d heard the original broadcast could probably be counted on your fingers.

What’s worse is when the dismissal is accompanied with misleading or untrue information, which has been the case this week in preparation for the new all-England BBC Local Radio show presented by Mark Forrest. This show will replace the existing 7-10pm shows on 39 BBC Local Stations across England and the Channel Islands. Some of those shows are being moved elsewhere in the schedules, some are being cut. Crucially, though, local or regional news or travel will continue as now, as will midweek sports commentaries.

Mark Forrest – presenter of the new show.

But the way that some people are talking, you’d think it was the end of the world. Over at the self styled BBC Radio Forum a tweet read “BBC Local Radio will cease on 7/1/13”. After corrections from several people, including myself, a well respected lecturer in journalism and a local radio presenter, the Forum backtracked somewhat, explaining thar “tweets are automated” – apparently a defence for that misleading headline. When I challenged this, I was accused of acting with “faux authority”, whatever that means.

But that wasn’t enough. The next day the Forum published another thread entitled “BBC Gears Up For All England Show With Cheesy PR Masquerading as A Blog.”

Certainly no pre-judging there, then.

Fortunately, someone with less of an agenda on this is Richard Horsman, whose blog attempts to bring some balance to the debate. And hopefully I can add some more.

Some contributors to the Forum have said that the new show will be a “programme of repeats”. Untrue. Some local content may indeed be rebroadcast nationally (more of which in a moment). But that content will be used to generate new lines of discussion as part of the mix. Either way, it wouldn’t be a repeat to 38 of the stations involved. And, indeed, many stations already have a “best of” weekly show.

Some have questioned why stories from, say Merseyside, would be of any interest to those in Cornwall. To me, that smacks of a very inward looking view of life. Even one of the Forum’s founders, Tamsin “Tiger” Vincent, suggested that local programming could be maintained by, for example, broadcasting a compelling interview with a holocaust survivor. Is she saying that this would have no interest outside her local area?

Then there was criticism of the pilot shows, which have largely been broadcast in the small hours of the morning. People didn’t like the format, or the content. Well, the point of a pilot is to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s also to sort out the complex system of technical distribution.

Finally, there was a time honoured call that local radio should be local. Always. Well, for a couple of decades at least, most evening shows have been regional. Before that, stations often closed at 7pm. The alternative to the new evening show would be shared programmes within regions in the afternoons. Something which the unions,staff and listeners campaigned against and won.

They say everyone’s a critic. And in this online world, everyone can be. Constructive criticism, having established the facts, is fine. The Forum have backtracked some more now, saying that they were criticising the BBC’s publicity machine, not the show. And the show’s conception in the first place.

Clearly, I wish Mark and the team the best of luck tomorrow night. If there’s a glimmer of a positive review from a certain corner, I’ll eat my hat.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. I think we’ve more than addressed any misguided assertions about ‘us’, Kevin Stanley, on Mr. Horsman’s blog and on our own forum. I’d describe none of it as backtracking, more as having to explain the obvious and I don’t feel there would be of any benefit to your readers to go over it all again here, they are welcome to visit Richard’s blog or our forum and make up their own minds.

    And in much the same way listeners will listen to the new show and make up their own minds.

    Perhaps some on the forum will listen and comment, much as you and Richard will do so. But even if someone of the standing of Maggie Brown decides to review it and loves it, it’s of little meaning if she, you, Richard, I or anyone else aren’t tuning in in 6 months time. Are you planning to? Is Richard? I doubt it. Given that it’s a plan ‘B’ (or C perhaps?) – a compromise – is there a measure of it’s success? Does it matter to the BBC or the Trust? I’m sure it matters to those making the programme but when the Tust decides to give licence fee payers something they know hasn’t been asked for, where’s the motivation for them to care?


    1. NewsMutt says:

      Well thanks for predicting what myself or Mr Horsman might or might not be listening to in six months time. Tell you what, I’ll let you know in – err – June.

      It’s interesting, too, that you think reviews of shows are sometimed meaningless, since you chose to pre-judge a brand new show based on its pilot runs, rather than the real thing. One thing we can agree on that nobody specifically asked for this show, not least myself who campaigned – like you – against the cuts. And I continue to do so.

      But if cuts must be made, an off peak show like this is a compromise. That doesn’t mean we should write it off before it’s started, which your own forum seems intent on doing. And a disclaimer for the record, my views only.

  2. I’m sure as a journalist you will appreciate that just because you may have chosen to edit some words out of my reply to you, it doesn’t suddenly make them untrue. In the same way that just because you choose to continually repeat your opine that ‘we’ have pre-judged something we’ve yet to hear doesn’t make it fact.

    I have said if people are so moved they can read our position on the forum or on Richard’s blog and make up their own minds.


    1. NewsMutt says:

      And I’m sure that – as someone who has banned me from commenting in your own forum – you will understand why I may choose to express my own opinion on mine, which includes the discretion to edit comments as I see fit.

      Equally, just because you choose to retract a misleading headline that “local radio will cease” – it doesn’t mean it was never published in the first place.

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