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In Praise of Local Radio

When I lived in London (most of my life) I never gave any thought to local radio, although of course at different times of my life I have listened to Radio One, Capital Radio, Jazz FM and latterly BBC Radio 4, which, despite all of the things that are wrong with the BBC (I could write a book…) I think it is worth my licence fee alone.

Even when I moved to Hertfordshire my radio listening habits rarely changed from Radio 4, except to listen to Graham Norton’s show on Radio 2 on Saturday mornings. However, once I was regionally located I began to examine local radio in order to promote my local clients. At first I struggled to get a contact at BBC Three Counties, encompassing Herts, Beds and Bucks, but eventually I developed good relationships and now I’m either regularly on the weekly business panel, called to comment on current news if there’s a PR angle and frequently placing clients or networking colleagues on the station.

My former prejudices about ‘regional’ have disappeared because BBC3CR is such a brilliant station, especially with two exceptional presenters such as Jonathan Vernnon Smith, with his morning phone-ins and consumer rights show and Roberto Perrone, who is on 4 hours every weekday in the afternoon slot.

Both of these two presenters have been at BBC3CR for years and they are top professionals who know their audience. Both can be feisty and controversial but they never insult a caller by presenting another point of view. They are completely in control of their shows, ably supported by various producers and researchers.

There is intimacy with local radio that cannot be achieved at a national level. It gives its audience a chance to express their views, not always pleasant, appropriate, PC or popular but being a totally avid fan of free speech I am happy to let people have their say, especially when they are intelligently challenged by able presenters.

The station is also open to engaging with the community and often does outside broadcasts, whether from a shopping mall, local gym or other location where they can meet lots of local people. One of my clients is King’s House Independent School and Roberto agreed to an interview with the school’s Media Society. I even managed to persuade him to let them talk to him on air. The result was fantastic and the young pupils were thrilled.

I know the BBC is always looking at ways to cut money (for starters stop wasting millions on unnecessary middle management and people with spurious job titles) and of course every time, someone who is based in Central London and who never goes anywhere outside of the M25, unless it’s for a weekend in the Cotswolds, thinks, let’s cut regional radio budgets. NO!

The nation funds the BBCs £3 billion income and, here’s a shock, most of its audience lives outside of London. So, if you are not a Londoner check out your local BBC Radio station. The commercial channels tend to be mostly music and advertising, whereas, if BBC3CR is anything to go by, the BBC stations will have plenty of interesting talk and focus on what’s happening the region. Look for opportunities where you can make a contribution, whether it’s as guest on one of the shows or as a caller to express your opinion on a subject under discussion. That local connection can only come from local radio, so have a listen to your local station as you will be pleasantly surprised.