Cuts to radio shows will reduce Scots voices, MSPs told

There will be fewer local voices on radio in Scotland as a result of Global Radio’s plans to centralise programming, MSPs have been told.

It was announced in February that local programming at the network’s stations Capital, Heart and Smooth would be significantly reduced, with several shows axed and replaced with a new UK-wide breakfast programme hosted by Roman Kemp.

Des Clarke, who has hosted the breakfast show at Capital Radio for a decade, will move to Heart Scotland while his co-presenters, Steven Mill and Amy Irons, have also departed.

Global Radio has said it will retain regular Scottish news bulletins throughout weekdays, with some drive-time shows, from 4pm to 7pm, also retained.

But all local and regional weekend programming will end.

At the Scottish Parliament’s Culture Committee on Thursday, MSPs told Global Radio’s chief strategy officer Will Harding that much of their reason for tuning into programmes is to hear Scottish voices.

Committee convener Joan McAlpine asked whether bosses had considered basing their programming in Scotland, as opposed to London where Global Radio’s headquarters are located.

Mr Harding said such a move had not been considered, adding the location of studios is not the top factor in determining whether listeners choose to tune in.

Mr Harding said: “The location of the studios and the location of the presenters comes quite low down the list of factors that our listeners tell us influences their choice of radio station.

“I am absolutely, quite clearly, not going to argue the point that if the show is coming from somewhere outside Scotland, that is being broadcast across the UK, clearly in that show is less of a local voice.”

Mr Harding also said a decision on reducing the number of staff had “not been taken lightly”.

He said that following implementation of the changes, the number of presenters across Heart and Smooth – who are counted as freelancers – would reduce from six to two.

Mr Harding added that the employee headcount in Scotland, which currently stands at 34 excluding presenters, would be reduced by one, although he said the organisation is currently in consultation on the changes.

The number of broadcast centres in England are to be reduced, however centres in Scotland and Wales are expected to remain.

“I think we need to step back and look at all of the opportunities that listeners have,” Mr Harding said.

“What we must, as an industry, offer our listeners is choice and in offering that choice, we must have flexibility. If we don’t offer choice, the reality is that listeners will go elsewhere.

“It is absolutely right that we are held to account for delivering local content, but we have to focus on the local content that really matters, that listeners value and that delivers real public value.”

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