Select Committee on Communications Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 780 - 783)


Mr Jeremy Dear, Professor Julian Petley, Mr Tim Gopsill and Dr Martin Moore

  Q780  Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: Does it?

  Mr Dear: Yes.

  Q781  Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: The BBC does?

  Mr Dear: It has a news trainee scheme. To some extent, it is more the newspaper and magazines industries which have gone away from training their own staff to requiring people to pay for their own training in advance and then coming fully trained to the job, which costs a large amount of money for those young students.

  Chairman: May we wind up with a question from the Bishop on local radio.

  Q782  Bishop of Manchester: I want to get clarification following the earlier evidence you were giving about your concern over the relaxation of ownership rules. In particular, there was a reference to Fox News and also the net. I just wanted to press the point in relation to local radio news as to what you feel would be the impact if that ownership relaxation took place in terms of local radio.

  Mr Gopsill: It might be argued that local radio cannot get any worse than it is! As I am sure the Committee is aware, there has been a direct split in local radio which is that the BBC does serious talk radio, reporting and programming, commercial radio is now little more than music and the talk radio is phone-ins. As far as news is concerned, the provision has fallen and fallen but, with the relaxing of the regulations, local radio stations have become owned by three or four big groups who are concentrated in regional areas and are producing their news through what they call a hub system which is where they have one central news room which services half-a-dozen radio stations covering a big area and you are likely to have one or two reporters covering an area of a couple of counties, particularly at weekends, and they cannot cover news properly at all. Local radio news really is a problem. In most places, you only have a handful of journalists who simply cannot cover the news properly and any further relaxation will be a very bad thing.

  Q783  Bishop of Manchester: Do you see any way of improving that situation that you could recommend?

  Mr Gopsill: The radio stations should have an obligation under communications law to provide a level of service. By the way, this is also a concern at the moment in regional television as well as local radio.

  Chairman: I have to say that the only problem with that is that nowadays you can listen to music continuously without having to go to a local radio station at all. I thank you very much, indeed. We have run out of time. It has been very interesting. If there is anything further, in particular some of the figures you have talked about, if you could let us have them, we would be extremely grateful. Thank you very much, indeed.

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