Radio Two faces fight, warns new Smooth news chief

The news content on Smooth Radio network's six stations are looking to give Radio Two "a run for its money", according to its recently-installed group head of news, James Rea.

Rea has returned from duty editor at Radio One's Newsbeat to build the group's news teams across its five UK stations, which broadcast in London, East and West Midlands, the North West and Glasgow. A sixth will launch in the Northeast in the autumn, offering a 24-hour service. The network is part of GMG Radio's holdings.Rea said: "We're trying to give Radio Two a run for its money. We can offer that regional flavour which they can't.

We think it's a big area where we can win. Radio Two can outspend us but they can't out-regionalise us. Local news builds loyalty and gives us long listening hours. Music is a given, but it's what we do in between songs that makes our listeners stick."

Rea has spent the first few months of 2007 working on the latest acquisition, Century FM, and the 24-hour newsroom in the Northwest, which has increased its journalists to 11.

At Smooth, formerly Jazz, in London, Rea said there had been a huge investment in news coverage to reflect the interests in news and current affairs of its 45+ audience.

"Jazz had virtually no news commitment or department. We have now built that up to an offering from 6am to midnight. Other stations in the capital are cutting back on news."

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