8 May 2019
Unions call on broadcasting watchdog to reverse decision allowing commercial radios to drop local news
The Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU) is concerned about changes being made within local commercial radio and the decision by Global (which owns Capital, Heart and Smooth) to reduce the number of locally-produced programmes it makes, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs in local radio and the closure of eleven local studios.
“These changes have been made following the unnecessary decision by Ofcom to deregulate the conditions for local FM licences (by, for example, reducing the minimum amount of local programming from seven a day to just three), at a time when local radio is thriving, with growing audiences and local advertising revenues.
“Many hundreds of local radio presenters, producers and journalists now face an uncertain future. The replacement of local voices and programmes with more content centrally produced from London, far away from the communities they serve, will have a detrimental impact on media industries across the UK. In the context of cuts to journalists’ jobs and closures of local newspapers, this will add to the serious decline in local news for UK citizens.*
“These ill-considered changes have taken place without adequate Parliamentary scrutiny of their potential effect on local jobs and in an industry without a recognised trade union, and the FEU supports calls for an urgent review of the decision by Ofcom.”
The FEU is an alliance of unions in the creative industries representing workers in TV, radio, theatre, film, music, gaming, cinema, publishing, new media, professional football and other performing arts.
BECTU is part of Prospect and represents workers in broadcasting, cinema, film, digital media, independent production, leisure, theatre and the arts.
Equity is the UK trade union for professional performers and creative practitioners.
The Musicians’ Union represents more than 30,000 musicians working in all sectors of the British music business.
The National Union of Journalists is the voice of journalism and media workers in broadcasting, newspapers, magazines, books, public relations and new media, including photographers and illustrators.
The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain represents writers in TV, film, theatre, radio, books, poetry, animation and videogames.
*The government-commissioned Cairncross report into the future of the press said between 2007 and 2017, the number of local newspapers dropped from 1,303 to 982 and the number of journalists fell from 23,000 in 2007 to 17,000.
1. Local Radio Group has been leading the charge in raising awareness of what’s been happening and campaigning against this change. It has produced a comprehensive report at https://thelocalradiogroup.co.uk and is on Twitter at @LocalRadioGroup
2. LRG has documented how Heart local breakfast shows are due to be slashed from 22 separate shows to just one national show, while 14 local breakfast shows on Capital have already been revised to just one national show and Global’s Smooth brand will also be losing local breakfast shows to make way for just one national show.
3. A motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for a review has received considerable cross-party support (details here) and its Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee recently questioned Global’s Chief Strategy Officer (here). Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary, Tom Watson MP, has called the move a ‘travesty’ (here) and Labour MP, Lilian Greenwood, has called for a Commons debate on it (here). It was debated in the House of Lords on 25th April (here).