My first blog post when I started at the Centre for Journalism was titled 'Radio is dead'. Something that I'd heard numerous times, yet something that I just will not accept. During my introduction to that blog post in January last year, I explained how radio content is actually gaining more demand than ever before, but it is the way that we listen to it that is changing dramatically. Well, this year, a key aspect of radio has died. Global radio, which owns various commercial brands including Heart, Capital and Smooth, announced in February that they would be networking their breakfast shows.
What does this mean exactly? Well, if you switch on Heart Breakfast in Kent you will wake up to James and Becky presenting a show tailored especially for the area, with an emphasis on local news, travel and events. If you tuned into Capital Breakfast Glasgow, you would have heard Des Clarke chatting with his local audience. Instead, a new single national breakfast show will now replace them on each station. On Monday, the new national Capital Breakfast Show with Roman Kemp will begin. It will be broadcast in all locations that Capital currently reaches across the UK but will be broadcast from London – losing that slightly more local feel. Meanwhile, only nine local Drivetime shows will remain, from a previous 14.
Heart will follow suit later on in the year. Their current 22 regional breakfast shows will end, and, in their places, a single breakfast show will begin, covering England, Scotland and Wales. A total of ten Drivetime shows will remain on Heart, out of a current 22, and will cover larger areas. All local and regional weekend programmes on all brands, including Smooth Radio, will also be replaced with national programmes provided instead.
Of course, these stations were never completely local; they were always commercially focused. That is the whole reason that Global not just survives but strives. Yet they had a local aspect and they reached a local audience who tuned in for that specific reason; to get their local presenters, talking about local news, local travel and local events. Global has said that they will be still providing local news content, however these newsreaders will be focused in the larger hubs – and may be more out of touch with individual local areas, especially compared to the current news teams.
Global’s radio stations reach over 25million listeners each and every week and the changes are being made in a hope to be able to compete more strongly against stations such as BBC Radio 1. Whilst I believe that these changes will deeply impact the reach that Global currently has within local communities, it will be interesting to see how their audiences react to the new national breakfast shows. Capital’s National Breakfast show starts this Monday and it will be interesting to see people’s opinions, ahead of similar changes for Heart and Smooth later this year.