Thursday, 30 January 2014

The future editorial policy of LBC 97.3 once it goes national

Copyright: Global Radio 2014
With the announcement that LBC 97.3 will become the UK's first national 'news talk' station when it launches on the Digital One DAB multiplex on February 11th, it raises issues about the future editorial policy of the station.

Since 2007, LBC was given the strapline of 'London's Biggest Conversation' with additional investment in re-focusing the station as radio's answer to the Daily Mail with right-wing commentators such as Iain Dale alongside political presenters Ken Livingstone, David Mellor, the current Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Deputy PM Nick Clegg who's Call Clegg chat show is partially responsible for the rise in LBC's share in the London area.

With the re-focus of LBC as 'Leading British Conversation' to compete with BBC Radio 5 Live, this will inevitably dilute the London-centric content the station has been famous for since October 1973.

Despite the current station providing national topics, there are elements of the station which are core London.  News, travel, weather, the Ask Boris feature on Nick Ferrari's breakfast show and other London talking points are still core to LBC's editorial agenda.

Will tube strikes, transport fare rises and local election coverage be reduced or axed as LBC's new found focus on national issues, such as Scottish independence take more importance as part of James Rea's new national station?

There is of course an alternative to LBC in the form of BBC London 94.9, the flagging licence-fee funded station which has a broader remit than LBC providing varied speech and music, yet doesn't have the slick format that LBC has, nor provides local news and travel between 1900-2200 weekdays due to taking the national evening show as part of the BBC's Delivering Quality First cuts.

London also has the new local television channel 'London Live' which launches at the end of March, which is owned by the Evening Standard newspaper which promises up to five and a half hours of current affairs content on weekdays.   However unlike LBC, it's targeting a younger audience and Vikki Cook, London Live's head of news promises a more irrelevant look at local news, which will hardly attract the LBC audience.

If LBC and Global Radio dump the local audience, it could be a massive blow not only in audience share, but the other local speech outlets aren't up to the job yet.