The Chartered Institute of Journalists has condemned a decision by the UK’s largest commercial radio company to cut dozens of local radio morning programmes. The Institute warns that the resulting loss of jobs and local and regional identity in radio programming is as damaging as local and regional newspaper closures.
Global Radio plans to replace more than 40 local breakfast shows with three nationally produced and presented programmes on the Capital, Smooth and Heart networks. Paul Leighton, chairman of the Institute’s broadcasting division, blames the rationalisation on Ofcom which last year gave the green light for local programming cuts during daytime scheduling from seven hours to only three hours. It also ended the requirement for local stations to produce their own breakfast programme. “Ofcom’s hands-off and deregulatory policy might be good for Global Radio’s profits,” says Leighton, “but it’s not good for broadcast journalism and the role of radio in local democracy.”
The Institute is unhappy that Ofcom no longer places an obligation on local commercial radio to operate properly-staffed newsrooms in the towns, cities and communities of their broadcasting catchment areas. “The local breakfast programme is the peak-time of radio listening and for that to become some kind of Trojan horse so that Global can compete with BBC national radio networks is a very disappointing development,” Leighton explains. “Slashing local content utterly betrays the prime motive behind Parliament’s original vote to approve the creation of independent local radio.”