Consolidation in the UK commercial radio sector: the impact on newsroom practice of recent changes in regulation, ownership and the local content requirement

Article English OPEN
McDonald, K. ; Starkey, Guy (2016)

This article aims to explore the implications for local radio news in the UK commercial radio industry of a series of changes to the regulation of the sector since it was first established in the 1970s. A recent regulatory focus on product rather than process has enabled groups of stations to move not only programming production but also much news journalism out of the editorial areas it is intended to serve and into news ‘hubs’ intended to rationalize the process of news gathering and bulletin presentation and enable the groups to become increasingly profitable. The article considers a number of issues around the management of commercial radio groups in the United Kingdom, the development and, most recently, exploitation of the group ownership system of what mainly began as locally owned and locally operated radio stations, and the appropriateness of the current regulatory regime in the much altered media landscape of today. It uses original data derived from the ownership groups themselves to show the extent to which ‘hubs’ are routinely being used to increase profitability by making economies of scale, while also taking news journalism out of the editorial areas it is intended to cover.
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