Select Committee on Communications Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 2520 - 2525)


Mr Paul Myners

  Q2520  Lord Maxton: On plurality, you say you are all for it but, moving to radio now rather than the newspaper side, is there not a tendency in some of your radio stations to begin to stop them being local and to merge them into more national stations. Smooth Radio is supposed to be a Scottish/Glasgow station where I listen to it, but sometimes I appear to be listening to something that is coming from somewhere else.

  Mr Myners: Smooth Radio has been very successful. It is probably one of the most successful commercial radio stations in the country in terms of its market share growth, so it must be doing something right, but we are running it for profit and, therefore, we strike a balance between local content and national content and there are some things which can as well be done from the centre rather than in Scotland.

  Q2521  Lord Maxton: Is the tendency towards local radio station becoming a national radio station?

  Mr Myners: No. I think maintaining local identity is very important. I would not like to see any of our local stations in Wales, the north-west of England and the South East lose their strong sense of regional and local identity. This is their distinguishing feature. This is their source of strength.

  Q2522  Bishop of Manchester: Talking about strength and your mention of Smooth Radio as being the most successful of the ones you have, can you give us an indication of the listening figures, to say the best time of the day or the best programme?

  Mr Myners: I would have to give you a written answer to that. I would be very happy to do so.

  Q2523  Chairman: There is a tendency, not just in radio but in newspapers as well, to get away from the truly local, I think. Some or our evening newspapers now are produced the day before, so you are not really up-to-date—the kind of position I think we all can remember some years ago. It is all getting a little away from the truly local. Is that fair?

  Mr Myners: I think the content of a local newspaper will tend to be a blend of the truly local, the larger local area, which therefore may be content which is shared with other titles in the same group—so a newspaper providing both Manchester content and north-west of England content—and then also national and international content. I think the balance of the truly local has probably reduced, my Lord Chairman, and I think that is a consequence of the economic pressures these papers find themselves under.

  Q2524  Chairman: We have had provided to us a bit of evidence on supplements. In March, an education supplement was provided: the Guardian supplement which covered the 14-19 Reform Programme. The Department of Education spent £42,000 on it, but I think I am right in saying that it was never labelled as such. It was never labelled as a special supplement. In other words, it appeared to be a report obviously written by the Guardian. You have made quite a lot about the editorial controls that there are, is that the kind of policy you would defend?

  Mr Myners: If we did not make it clear that it was a paid-for supplement, then that was a very serious oversight on our part. Our policy is very, very clear: any supplement which is commissioned by a third party must be prominently flagged as being a supplement. In addition to that, we give no editorial cross-reference from the rest of the paper; we do not endorse the supplement, as such, in the broader flow of the paper; and we accept no editorial direction as to the content of the supplement. If the situation is as you describe it, this would have been an oversight on our part and inconsistent with our very clear and declared policy.

  Q2525  Chairman: Thank you. That is very frank. Would you perhaps like to take that away and drop us a note about it?

  Mr Myners: I would be delighted to do so, my Lord Chairman.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. Thank you for your evidence.

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