Written evidence submitted by Cumbria's
Cumbria's Calling intends to provide a service
for which there is an appetite1 yet no current offering, namely
intelligent local radio: Radio 4 for Cumbria.
Ambitions of the current offer are, seemingly,
to appeal to the lowest common denominator. This misses any target
of summoning or developing a loyal following. Audience tunes in
for the traffic, the weather and lamb-bank; they tune out in order
to locate programming which engages their thinking.
Whether television or radio, figures show decline in audience
share for the purely commercial stations. They want something
more than advertising.
In a county such as Cumbria, whose topology
and topography have determined isolationist communities, there
is a compelling case that argues by bringing together Cumberland
and Westmorland communities, greater understanding is fostered,
higher social engagement is attained and deeper intellectual,
social, physical and emotional well-being is fostered.
A forum for reliably informed debate of the
panoply of issues which matter to Cumbrians would nourish just
such a place of prosperity.
Once we have shown how successful our intelligent
local radio station is, then we will be happy to work with other
counties to help them create their own intelligent local radio
However, before that can occur, Cumbria's Calling
must abseil down the perilously jagged cliffs which legislation
has revealed. We don't believe that anyone undertakes lightly
to create a serious operation as this. Therefore, making the process
not merely hard but puzzlingly prohibitive seems, with rapacious
vigour to quash attempts to forge informing entertainment and
generate entrepreneurially creative jobs.
The Digital Britain report pre-supposes much
on behalf of the population's media requirements. However, it
devotes a fraction of its attention towards radio. Given this
cursory glance, it seems disproportionate that a mandatory switch
from analogue to digital output has been determined as being in
the interests of the entire Kingdom. Some places, and Cumbria
is certainly among them, are simply not minded overnight to change
the way they access media.
1.1 The more local the information, the
more pertinent to listeners. And if a broadcaster is to offer
as broad a spectrum to myriad interest groups, then it must find
a way of delivering output relevant to all its listeners that
engages their minds and hearts. Minds in terms of reliability,
hearts in terms of ease of access. Trust must be established as
the infrastructure to building audience share.
1.2 It has been seen, over the past five
years and more acutely in the last two, that an audience switches
off drivel. Commercial stations, be they radio or television have
found a concomitant drop in advertisers' interest when drivel
informs content. This is alarming to their balance sheet.
1.3 Such fall-off strongly suggests an appetite
for something else and we posit that something is intelligent
2.1 Cumbria's Calling has ambitions to be
the country's first intelligent local radio station. However,
in our path stands a powerfully put yet flimsy argument of there
being insufficient spectrum availability.
2.2 We have examined the lengthy charts
detailing allocation of spectrum to Aviation, Maritime, Astronomy
and CB sectors and they are indeed tightly packed.
2.3 Rather like a scrip issue in finance,
where on share is divided, we would raise the question as to why
more spectrum cannot be added? If an encyclopedia can now be stored
on a grain of sand, technology must be at a point where condensing
sound waves is a necessary and sufficient condition for both storage
and emitting output.
2.4 We find this an opportune, creative
response to expansion of the network without burdening the listener
with the expense of yet more hardware and burdening landfill with
3.1 The regulator ought operate for the
common good. Regulating broadcasting innovation to within an inch
of its enterprise is suffocating attempts to fill the widening
gap in the thought-provoking media market.
3.2 By giving greater access to serious
local broadcasters of spectrum availability, the gap can be narrowed.
Localised features can stretch across greater breadth and be informed
by a deeper well of experience and understanding. This enriches
both output and listener loyalty. Bringing together communities
should be part of the remit of any serious broadcaster: enabling
that it happen is the remit of the regulator.
3.3 As an aside, at the time of writing,
we in Cumbria have been given ample evidence of the need for a
local network which acts as a community beacon. Cumbria has found
its usual Offer of bland trivia to be disaffecting in the extreme.
Clearly, the events we've experienced over the last six weeks
are unusual. They highlight, however, how useful Cumbria's Calling
could have been to the entire county. Its schedule, informed by
audience need, will make connections, issue village and town bulletins,
co-ordinate localised rescue efforts and could have supported
the splendid job done by emergency and rescue services.
3.4 Additionally, we have listened to the
many stories of people's Flood experiences. A meaningful proportion
have agreed, when asked, that some kind of central, non-governmental,
organization should synchronize a formal, normative response to
the emotional trauma sustained by the far broader group of those
directly affected. Again, an emotionally literate organization
such as Cumbria's Calling will be sufficiently nimble to co-ordinate
that kind of mechanism.
3.5 In virtue of its local immediacy, it
can provide at lower cost highly targeted, reliably relevant information.
3.6 What larger, perhaps more cumbersome,
broadcasters would be prevented from accessing by cost, we could
provide with economic simplicity.
4.1 The media climate seems as reactionary
as meteorological conditions. In short, it appears old maxims,
traditions and precepts no longer obtain.
4.2 Advertising has lost its driving license.
Therefore if media outlets are no longer driven by advertisements,
business models must adapt.
4.3 Cumbria's Calling sees this as a perfect
moment to think creatively of how to address the dual aspect of
falling audiences and advertisers.
4.4 BBC Radio Cumbria seems uninterested
in its falling figures.
Nor is Cfm inclined to listen alternatives solutions to the fall
in advertising revenue.
4.5 In the case of the former, this reluctance
to deliver on its obligations offers us the opportunity to fill
the gap with fully accessible, county-wide, quality output of
consistent content funded by alternate means.
5.1 Such an event would require Ofcom to
open up spectrum.
5.2 Conversations and meetings demonstrate
Ofcom's full-blooded opposition to doing anything with regard
to FM in virtue of its commitment to a fully Digitized broadcast
5.3 Cumbrians will get there, but currently
there exists no appetite for digital radio: just bewilderment
of its existence. [There was no appetite for digital television
and the resentment caused by its infliction has been profound.]
5.4 For a new station to succeed, it must
attract listeners, not repel them.
5.5 This is why FM frequency is part of
the future for local radio in Cumbria.
6.1 It may not be possible to acquire a
share of a larger broadcaster's spectrum which chooses not to
fulfill its remit: we merely ask the question as to why shared
spectrum would not function such as to provide fully rounded output
for its beleaguered audience?
6.2 This question is asked in the absence
of a straightforward solution to acquiring a county-wide FM wave-length.
7.1 We see serving the myriad communities
of Cumberland and Westmorland as our primary purpose. In addition
to serious programming which "bigs up"' and inspires
local talent, local radio should create jobs, cohere communities,
keep students in the County through training and redeploy the
third sector to mentor them. We could offer a sustainable, socially
enterprising solution to some of the County's real and core problems.
7.2 It is now an accepted dogma that localised
news and features are what the audience finds meaningful.
7.3 If we can galvanize each community to
work towards a common, prudent goal, then their flourishing inspires
a self-sustaining dynamic.
8.1 For us, intelligent local broadcasting
is the future of radio.
9.1 Ofcom is tasked to adapt to communities'
requirements rather than sculpt communities [and their broadcasters]
to its wants.
9.2 The voice of social enterprise is heard
before throttled by the heavy hand of capitalism.
9.3 Collaboration is encouraged between
agencies such that multi-tiered bureaucracy can ventilate coherent
initiatives, not suffocate them.
Between April-September 2008, 155 men and 145
women willing to talk about their regular radio listening habits
were surveyed in five Cumbrian towns: Cockermouth, Keswick, Penrith,
Whitehaven and Workington.
Findings at a glance:
Out of 155 men and 145 women aged between 20
and 80, 101 men and 114 don't listen to BBC Radio Cumbria.
Put another way, 215 out of 300 Cumbriansor
71.6%don't listen to local radio because they find nothing
to interest them. Over half of those respondents61 men
and 91 womenlisten to Radio 4.
||% age of sample||Do you listen to Radio Cumbria Yes/No
||Time of day||Why/not
||If not, what||What would you need to hear to change over
||30/64||Dip in each day
||Lamb bank/bland||Classic FM/R4*
|60 & over||12||7%
|Lack of intelligent output||R3/R4**/RS
|| 0/4||Never||Life's too short
|60 & over||47||32%
||18/29||News Bulletins||Local news/life's too short
||Classic FM/R4**/RS||New voices, new ideas
RAJARRadio Joint Audience Research LtdAll Individuals
15+ for period ending December 2008
|Reach % /head
|Av Hrs (000s)|
|Total Hours ||Share in TSA %
| All Radio||50,735
|All BBC Network Radio||50,735
|All National Commercial||50,735
|BBC Radio 4||50,735||9,812
|BBC Radio Cumbria||404||111
|All Individuals 15+ for period ending March 2009
|All BBC Network Radio||50,735
|All National Commercial||50,735
|BBC Radio 4||50,735||9,982
|BBC Radio Cumbria||404||129
|All Individuals 15+ for period ending September 2009
|All BBC Network Radio||51.280
|All National Commercial||51,280
|BBC Radio 4||51,280||10,218
|BBC Radio Cumbria||407||121
Cumbria's Calling research findings (Appendix 1). Back
Rajar December 2008-September 2009 (Appendix 2). Back