Blog Post

Recent Changes at BBC Local Radio – The Latest News & PR Insights

In August 2023 we wrote about some imminent changes at BBC local radio. (Click here: https://shoutcommunications.co.uk/blog/bbc-local-radio-changes/ ).These are part of the BBC’s plan for a digital first network in the regions, reflecting changes in audience listening habits over the past few years.  Put simply, the BBC believe that more and more people will consume local content digitally in the future, through the likes of social media and websites, and they need to keep up. 

Why the change at BBC Local Radio?

However, whilst the BBC believes it needs to put more emphasis on its digital output, radio is still extremely important.  According to the radio listening body RAJAR, 9 out of 10 people in the UK listen to the radio at least once a week and a European Commission report in 2022 declared it the most trusted medium in Europe, for the twelfth year in a row.   There are many reasons to keep radio prominent in any PR campaign.  But, back to the BBC Local Radio changes…

What has happened since September at BBC local radio?

Firstly, the BBC Local Radio changes have had a human impact.   With a switch in focus from BBC local radio to digital, many long-standing BBC employees in the regions have changed jobs, had to re-apply for jobs or have been made redundant.

There are now fewer jobs in BBC local radio because restructuring has resulted in, at certain times of the day, one show being broadcast over two or more stations.

Does BBC local radio still exist?

Yes, of course it does, though things now sound and look very different after all the BBC Local Radio changes.  While we feel for those staff who have lost their jobs, we must give credit to the many thousands behind the scenes, embracing new responsibilities and learning fresh skills, in order to keep the new vision for BBC local radio alive.

Sure, there is now less local radio output, but for PR professionals there are still opportunities to place clients on-air.    Arguably there are in fact also new opportunities, through the use of bonus content on social media and BBC online, which all drive clicks and engagement back to your interview.  For example, say your client was placed on BBC Radio WM via one of our remote radio days.  The interview could go out live on air, but the video of the interview may also now be clipped up and placed online creating extra traffic and engagement with the story.

Furthermore, the BBC’s listen again feature on BBC Online would enable those who may have missed the initial on-air live slot to catch up, thus giving the story even more exposure.  10 years ago an interview on the radio was just that, an interview.  Now, with all eyes on digital, it becomes so much more.

BBC Radio Leeds presenter Rima Ahmed

What are the BBC Local Radio broadcast PR opportunities for 2024?

As a result of the BBC Local Radio changes, more resources being directed towards digital, there is now less local output on regional radio.   Outside of peak hours, the BBC have now opted for ‘networking’, something the major commercial networks such as Heart and Capital FM have already been doing for the best part of a decade.

BBC Local Radio networking

Networking is where a presenter delivers a show from one radio station, but it is simulcast on several others.   For example, you may be listening to BBC Radio Somerset but the same show may also be going out on BBC Radio Devon and BBC Radio Cornwall.  This means the BBC can save money on several presenters, but from a PR perspective each interview could have a far greater reach.

 

Radio Stoke presenter Liz Ellis

 

That said, it can be difficult to understand where the broadcast PR opportunities, so let’s look at that in more detail.

The new look BBC local radio network

A quick look at the new schedules will show you that BBC local radio stations still believe in local content at breakfast and throughout the morning.    This is where local stories, voices, and statistics will be of great use when it comes to pitching broadcast PR stories.    For these programmes it’s important that the story is made as local as possible in order to make the cut.

From 1400 many BBC local stations now network, or link up, with nearby stations in the same geographical region.  Closely mirroring ITV television’s definition of regions, these shows now broadcast to a larger area.  This means that the programmes want bigger names, and stories relevant to the whole region, not just a small geographical area.

Then, in the evening, the regional networking continues – an evening show on BBC Radio Berkshire for instance can now be broadcast to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, BBC Radio Suffolk, BBC 3CR, BBC Radio Northampton and BBC Radio Essex.  This means that one interview now gets you six opportunities whereas before it would have been one.

Finally, late nights are reserved for a new nationwide show broadcast either from Manchester or London.  An opportunity on this show means your interview will be broadcast across the whole BBC England local radio network, upgrading what used to be a local interview into a national opportunity.

 

Presenters Becky Want and Jo Good

How can Shout! Communications help with you broadcast PR campaign

Thanks for reading our latest update and thoughts on recent BBC Local Radio changes.

Knowledge had always been king, but now it’s more important than ever.  Sure, there are still many great broadcast PR opportunities to be had across BBC local radio, but there are new teams, new rules and new guidelines that need to be understood in order to successfully land broadcast PR stories.

Shout! Communications is a team of broadcast PR professionals with decades of experience, creating and leading broadcast content for national radio and TV. As well as being broadcast PR experts, we think like the broadcast producers we used to be and keep on top of current trends in the broadcast space. We know what broadcasters want, and more importantly, what they don’t want.

We have strong relationships with journalists leading all of the new BBC local radio shows and can help make your story stand out from the crowd, increasing the chance of landing on the BBC’s local radio and digital offerings. To learn more about how we can help you with radio and TV media relations, as well as media training,  contact us today.

Alternatively email hello@shoutcommunications.co.uk or call 020 7240 7373.

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