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Monday 6 December 2010

When Is Local Not Local?

There seems to be a disturbing trend developing in the UK. The devaluing of the meaning of the word "Local".

Up to a few years ago, when something was described as "local", you knew exactly what that meant. Not anymore.

Two examples of this have occured recently, to really bring this home to me.

I was reading today of proposed strike action, to be taken by journalists at the Brighton Argus newspaper. The journalists are planning to strike on 7th and 8th of December.
They have voted to strike about low pay, a recent pay freeze and the closure of a final salary pension scheme. These are all valid reasons for strike action, but there is one other important issue as well. This being that in November several journalistic positions were transferred from Brighton to Southampton, 80 miles away and in a different County.
Apart from the obvious redundancies and job losses that this will cause. This also means that a part of the newspaper will, effectively, be produced from outside of the area that the paper actually covers.
Is the thin end of the wedge and the start of further job movements?

This is becoming an increasingly common situation and not just in the world of newspapers either.

My "local" radio station, ArrowFM, has recently announced that it is moving it's operations to Worthing. Worthing is in West Sussex and Hastings is in East Sussex. It also happens to be over 40 miles away!

But, once again, this is not a great surprise, as ArrowFM moved it's operations from it's studios in the heart of Hastings a few years ago. Admittedly, they only moved around 20 miles away. But, that was still at the cost of much local content, as the radio station was then combined with the local station for the Eastbourne area. This effectively diluted the local content for both stations.
This situation has now been taken a step further with the move to Worthing, which will combine even more local radio stations into one. Thereby depriving all of those local communities of much local content.

Now, i must stress that both the owners of the radio stations and the newspapers mentioned here, have done nothing wrong, or illegal here.
I must also declare that i have a bit of a vested interest in the provision of local radio content to the Hastings area. As i am the Chairman of Hastings Rock, which is a local radio station for the Hastings area. Albeit one that is only allowed to broadcast for a maximum of 28 days at a time and with a minimum gap of several months between broadcasts.

But, surely there is something wrong here when a local newspaper, or local radio station is allowed to effectively abandon it's home?
Surely, local should mean local?

I know the owners will say that they will continue to provide local content. But, how can they do that when they are based miles away from the town, will obviously have to share that local content amongst many local communities and when the people providing that content will probably have no connection with the local area?

And don't go thinking that this is something unique to the south of England either. This scenario is currently being played out across the country, where radio stations and newpapers are being merged and their operations shared. In my opinion, all this is to the detriment of the local people who these radio stations and newspapers are meant to serve.

Yes, they are commercial operations and they are all trying to make a profit in these difficult times.
In fact, i don't blame the companies themselves. Well, not completely anyway. I lay the blame with the regulations that allow this type of consolidation to legally take place.
I also can't help wondering what the radio stations original licence applications promised as well.

Surely the time has come for these outdated regulations to be reviewed?
Local people deserve nothing less.

At least i can console myself with the fact that when Hastings Rock returns in May 2011 (provided we get a licence that is), we will be broadcasting from Hastings, as we have always done.
So, for a month at least, local radio will be truly local once again.

(The views expressed in this blog post are my own and not necessarily those of Hastings Rock. Just in case anyone cares about that kind of thing)


  1. There's no apostrophe in its when you mean 'belonging to it' Andy!

    Andy Bantock

  2. Andy: You really hate that don't you?
    You are correct, of course, but i always forget. But, if that's the worst thing about this blog post, then i'm pretty happy with that :)

  3. I think the time might be right to approach Ofcom to see if there could be an opportunity to set up a radio station that is truly local to Hastings.

  4. Graham: I've been thinking the same thing recently myself, as i feel the time is right. Hastings Rock seriously considered applying for a Community licence, but I don't think HR are right for that. Is there enough support in the town though? The funding side is always the hard part.