The BBC’s plans to create a network of local video websites will “destroy” commercial radio’s attempts to make money online.
This was the verdict of Bauer Radio managing director national brands Mark Story, speaking at the NAB Europe conference in London yesterday. He also called for a share of the BBC’s licence fee to be given to commercial radio to fund its news output and predicted that a number of commercial stations would go bankrupt in the coming months as they came under increased attrack from both the BBC and the regional press, which is expanding into audio and video.
“Our commercial stations in virtually every market are the number one source of news and have been for the past 30 years,” Story told delegates.
“This area is being destroyed by the BBC. [Licence fee money] is being used effectively to swamp and destroy any efforts by local stations to do this at a time when commercial radio isn’t that great on the ground.
“We’re certainly going to see more stations and local groups go bankrupt over the next few months.”
The BBC is looking to create 65 video-news based websites based around its existing footprint of local radio stations. The proposal currently being investigated by the BBC Trust, which is due to make a provisional ruling next month.
Story, who oversees Bauer’s magazine-branded radio stations including Heat, Q and Kerrang! Radio, said he was concerned that plurality in local news would suffer as commercial radio’s finances suffered.
“News is under threat from a number of areas,” Story said. “What’s bad about the UK at the moment is that although there are an increasing number of places you can get news, the actual number of sources is declining.
“We invest in news. It costs us a lot of money and we can’t advertise in it. It’s part of the core of running a good successful local radio station.
“This is a battle we’ve got to win. Perhaps we should use some of the licence fee to pay for our news.”
Broadcast regulator Ofcom is currently consulting on a range of new funding models for the future of public service broadcasting.
One option is for the part of the licence fee used to promote digital switchover to be handed to the BBC’s rivals to shore up their finances.
Another model would allow any news providers – whether broadcast, in print or online – to bid for “broad competitive funding”.