Local Radio

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 5th March 2007.

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Photo of Mark Hendrick Mark Hendrick PPS (Rt Hon Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State), Foreign & Commonwealth Office 2:30 pm, 5th March 2007

What steps she is taking to encourage and improve the provision of news and music by radio to local communities.

Photo of Shaun Woodward Shaun Woodward Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Creative Industries & Tourism)

The Government have an active policy to promote local radio and local communities, through both local independent radio and community radio.

Photo of Mark Hendrick Mark Hendrick PPS (Rt Hon Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Given what my hon. Friend says, is he as concerned as I am that the centralisation of the provision of news and music is becoming much more widespread, to the detriment of a local focus, particularly in news? That has certainly been the case in my constituency; because of centralisation, Rock FM in Preston has just lost 20 per cent. of its jobs to north-east England.

Photo of Shaun Woodward Shaun Woodward Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Creative Industries & Tourism)

My hon. Friend makes an important point. He has worked hard to bring jobs to his constituency and, indeed, to keep them there, so I know that he takes the loss of those jobs at the radio station personally. It is important to bear it in mind, however, that those are commercial decisions made by radio stations. The definition of localness for commercial radio stations is a matter for Ofcom. Its guidelines state:

"Where a station is required to provide locally-made programming, its studios should be located within its licensed area."

Ofcom will, however, consider requests for co-location on a case-by-case basis. I accept the point made by my hon. Friend, and I am happy to follow it up if he wishes to write to me.