Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 135 - 139)




  135. Order, order. Good morning gentlemen, may I thank you very much for agreeing to come and see us this morning during our inquiry into broadcasting? For the purposes of the record would you like to introduce yourselves and if there are any opening comments you would like to make, please feel free to do so.
  (Mr Goode) May I first apologise? For those of you who know, this is not Mr Richard Findlay. In fact it is Mr Russell Walker, who is the Head of News at Radio Clyde, our largest radio station. For the information of the Committee, Mr Findlay unfortunately lost his mother in the last few days so he sends his apologies.

  136. Please send Mr Findlay our condolences. We are sorry to hear of his bad news.
  (Mr Goode) I shall certainly do that. Thank you. I am David Goode, Managing Director of Radio Operations in Scottish Radio Holdings. Just to put Scottish Radio Holdings in perspective, we have been going in essence since Hogmanay 1974 when Radio Clyde launched. Over a period to now, we have accumulated seven independent radio stations in Scotland and we have 85 per cent of an eighth, which is South West Sound down in Dumfries and Galloway. Our licences are granted by the Radio Authority. We had to put forward a promise of performance to win those licences and we are held fairly tightly to meeting those promises. We cannot vary the flavour and the output of our services dramatically. The services themselves, as you will appreciate, are primarily entertainment and light information based, music based; that is the major element of our programming. We measure the effectiveness of our services through RAJAR, which is the Radio Joint Audience Research, which is subscribed to by both the BBC and ourselves. It is a standard measurement of audience across the whole of the UK. In addition we use research of our own, such as the Scottish Radio and Listener, which I shall refer to later, and focus groups to give us an independent feel about the detail of what our listeners are wanting and how they are reacting to us. In audience terms, we remain clear brand leaders in every single one of our station areas and in Glasgow Radio Clyde has a brand share bigger than all of the BBC stations put together. Following my television colleagues some of our sums of money pale into insignificance but as a group we spend around £1 million a year in Scotland purely on news. We have a shareholding in IRN which is the newsgathering service for the whole of the independent radio sector. We also have correspondents both here at Westminster and we now have one at the Scottish Parliament. We employ around 30 people directly in gathering news and an additional 20-odd people who support that newsgathering service in terms of secretarial and administrative staff. I have to say that our correspondent in Edinburgh last year, Colin McKay, won the inaugural award for Young Parliamentary Journalist of the Year. We are proud of it so we tell anyone who likes to hear. We are also very pleased to see the increasing credence given to our services, particularly in the political sense. The Prime Minister has appeared on Radio Clyde's breakfast show in the last three years and he has also been up to Inverness and Moray Firth and that is a development we welcome and should like to see go further. Most of the other issues will come out, so I shall pause there.

  137. Would you like to expand a little on what changes have occurred in the news and current affairs output of Scottish Radio Holdings in Scotland since devolution?
  (Mr Goode) The obvious change is that we have appointed a correspondent to go across to the Parliament in Edinburgh. Apart from that, it is important to stress at this point that we have this title Scottish Radio Holdings, but our policy and our philosophy are measured by the success we have, whether you measure it through RAJAR or indeed the other audience research. I have some copies of the research which I should be happy to distribute afterwards if that would be helpful.[5]

  138. Yes, it would be.
  (Mr Goode) We insist that each of our individual radio stations, which are of course separate licences given to us by the Radio Authority, operate almost independently. Clearly from the centre we will give support where necessary and that of course is in terms of making sure that legislation and those sorts of issues are properly covered together with financial support, sales of advertising etc. We make sure that each individual radio station is run by the management of those individual stations. How they gather the news is very much up to them and what particular pressures they think are relevant to their particular areas.
  (Mr Walker) To give you a snapshot of Clyde's news—I cannot speak for every station though we are broadly similar—we have 28 bulletins a day through the day, eight of those are headlines on the half hour. We also produce business news for both Clyde 1 which is FM and Clyde 2 which is AM for breakfast and for drive-time shows. We do 17 bulletins on a Saturday and Sunday and 12 for our digital service 3C during the week and six on weekends. The FM bulletins are generally three minutes long with AM at five minutes and we have two-minute bulletins on both stations at drive time and breakfast time and lunch time which are shorter bulletins. It is important to stress that though the durations of those bulletins are fairly constant and fixed, if there is a story which deserves wider coverage, we are quite flexible in changing both the duration and frequency of bulletins. On a normal day we would not have a bulletin between 7 pm and 10 pm. September 11 happens and new bulletins are going out 7, 8, 9, 10 pm, on the half hour and we provide a lot of SNS bulletins which is the Scottish Network Service throughout the rest of our network, which comes from Clyde. That is a snapshot of the number of bulletins we have.
  (Mr Goode) We are members of the CRCA which is the trade association for all of the radio companies. At the last election they provided us with some advertising which we were asked to push which was encouraging younger people to vote. I am not sure that we were very successful. To reflect our position, it is interesting that all of the party leaders were included in these advertisements, apart from a party leader from the SNP. We created specific advertising to make sure that party was included on that broad spread.

Ann McKechin

  139. Could you just explain how SRH co-ordinates the roles of its Westminster journalists and correspondents and the political correspondent you have appointed at the Scottish Parliament and how they work together in terms of news balance?
  (Mr Walker) That really goes through the individual news desks. Because we are locally based the issues are dependent on what is important in each particular station area. Generally that would go through me or my news editor and we would liaison with Gordon Campbell down here at Westminster and Colin McKay through the Parliament. I have a very close working relationship with Colin because we are the biggest station, the biggest audience, the biggest area populations. Colin and I call each very regularly. In addition to Gordon we have quite regular conversations with IRN in London. If there is a story which is particularly relevant to our area we would either ask IRN to source some material, through themselves or through ITN, which they have a shared resource with, or we would speak to IRN Westminster and ask an MP if they would go into the station. I know a couple of MPs sitting here have done that on a fairly regular basis. That is the kind of relationship we have.

5   Not published, available from Scottish Radio Holdings. Back

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