After a month of buyouts and announcements, the dial’s been moved on local radio. Global Radio recently announced it would no longer air regional breakfast and drivetime shows in favour of national programming, while NewsUK has sold off most of its local radio stations to invest in its national stations talkSPORT and Virgin Radio.
The move from Global, described as “a huge step for the commercial radio sector”, will see 40 of its local breakfast shows replaced by national programming across the Capital, Smooth and Heart networks. Drivetime, evening and weekend programmes will also be reduced, and ten of its 24 local stations – including Cambridge, Norwich, Essex and Kent – will be closed. The announcement comes as part of Global’s longer-term project to bring hundreds of local stations into several national brands – and puts over 100 jobs at risk.
Until last year Ofcom required that local radio stations produce their own breakfast show, but under new regulations introduced in October 2018, local radio stations now have a minimum requirement of just three hours of local programming during the daytime.
While commercial radio is seeing success – reaching record ad revenues of £713m in 2018 according to the latest RAJAR reports – the decision’s likely been made by Global to allow it to invest in its national programming as competition intensifies from digital services such as Spotify.
In the print industry too there’s been a shift from local to national. Earlier this year the Essex town of Harlow saw the closure of its last remaining local publication Harlow Star – and in doing so became the largest region in the UK without a local newspaper.
Meanwhile an independent review into journalism in the UK released in February suggested that local newspapers are important not only to the future of sustainable journalism but contribute to “a functioning democracy” – and recommended that public funds should be used to support local public-interest news. Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright responded with a rallying cry to the industry, claiming it can “overcome the challenges it faces from a changing market”.
Local media isn’t just of benefit to the public interest but can be to advertisers as well.
A huge amount of Brits still have a strong sense of local identity, with 90% agreeing they are proud of the area they live in (“Consumer Catalyst”). Local media allows consumers to feel a part of their community – even if it’s as simple as hearing local voices and regional accents on the radio, as argued by broadcaster Mark Lawson.
Brands can tap into this, ensuring they speak to consumers in a meaningful way, and allowing all minorities (regional or otherwise) to feel represented in advertising – as we at the7stars discussed in our whitepaper “Representing?”.
In an era of increasing uncertainty, fake news and “post-truth”, local news is also a trusted medium, with 74% of Brits agreeing they trust the information in their local newspaper, and 73% saying the same about local commercial radio – compared to just 22% for social media (YouGov).
A separate report from Oxford University released last year found that local newspapers have a “trust ranking” higher than any national publication – at 6.42 compared to score of 6.35 out of 10 given to best performing national The Times.
National campaigns can bring unprecedented scale and drive fame for brands but when it comes to building trust – arguably a metric more important than it’s ever been before – local can still be a hero.