Monday, 11 November 2013

BBC London 94.9 - The black sheep of the local radio family

BBC London 94.9 has had a turbulent and interesting history, providing some great radio in it's 43 year history, especially as GLR when managed by Matthew Bannister and playlisted by Trevor Dann when they introduced the Adult album alternative format.   However, one thing has always been an issue, few people listen to it.

It has 1.0% market share in London and 4% reach because of the large amount of choice provided in the capital.   BBC Local Radio works best in smaller markets where the core information of news, travel and weather are tailored to the area.   LR is also great at giving local organisations airtime, but due to the vast population and area 94.9 covers, a jumble sale in Enfield is not going to be relevant to another listener in Croydon and so on. 

In the capital however, listeners who'd otherwise be tuning into Paul Ross and Penny Smith for their diet of local news and information listen to Nick Ferrari on phone-in station LBC 97.3 which now has 1.2m listeners or the most popular radio station in London, BBC Radio 4, where the Today programme is the unofficial de-facto breakfast show that Londoners wake up to.

So, how do you solve the issue of the BBC local radio station that has a very small share, but keep the core elements of local PSB, such as news, travel and weather?

My suggestion is that BBC London becomes an opt-out of BBC Radio 5 live. 

Why?  As mentioned above, BBC London has always had a very small share, so instead, you replace BBC London with 5 Live which has 1.3m listeners in the capital, which considering it's on AM and DAB impressive, with local output at peak times, so Paul and Penny would continue to be on at breakfast, alongside Eddie Nestor at drive, otherwise 5 live listeners would be able to listen on FM for the first time to national presenters, such as Victoria Derbyshire and Richard Bacon.

During 5 Live Sport, the existing BBC London sports team can opt-out for London commentary of sports events as now when the national Mark Forrest show is networked across the local radio network.   

I'd also suggest that the 5 Live London opt would also provide local information during matters of emergency instead of national programming, such as during severe weather.  This has been one of BBC London's strongest points and one for LR in general.

Sadly for BBC London, the dilemma of trying to provide something for everyone simply isn't working and listeners have voted with their ears to Radio 4, 5 Live or LBC, alongside pirate and community radio provide hyperlocal output for ethnic minority groups.