Examination of Witnesses (Questions 135
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
135. Order, order. Good morning gentlemen, may
I thank you very much for agreeing to come and see us this morning
during our inquiry into broadcasting? For the purposes of the
record would you like to introduce yourselves and if there are
any opening comments you would like to make, please feel free
to do so.
(Mr Goode) May I first apologise? For those of you
who know, this is not Mr Richard Findlay. In fact it is Mr Russell
Walker, who is the Head of News at Radio Clyde, our largest radio
station. For the information of the Committee, Mr Findlay unfortunately
lost his mother in the last few days so he sends his apologies.
136. Please send Mr Findlay our condolences.
We are sorry to hear of his bad news.
(Mr Goode) I shall certainly do that. Thank you. I
am David Goode, Managing Director of Radio Operations in Scottish
Radio Holdings. Just to put Scottish Radio Holdings in perspective,
we have been going in essence since Hogmanay 1974 when Radio Clyde
launched. Over a period to now, we have accumulated seven independent
radio stations in Scotland and we have 85 per cent of an eighth,
which is South West Sound down in Dumfries and Galloway. Our licences
are granted by the Radio Authority. We had to put forward a promise
of performance to win those licences and we are held fairly tightly
to meeting those promises. We cannot vary the flavour and the
output of our services dramatically. The services themselves,
as you will appreciate, are primarily entertainment and light
information based, music based; that is the major element of our
programming. We measure the effectiveness of our services through
RAJAR, which is the Radio Joint Audience Research, which is subscribed
to by both the BBC and ourselves. It is a standard measurement
of audience across the whole of the UK. In addition we use research
of our own, such as the Scottish Radio and Listener, which I shall
refer to later, and focus groups to give us an independent feel
about the detail of what our listeners are wanting and how they
are reacting to us. In audience terms, we remain clear brand leaders
in every single one of our station areas and in Glasgow Radio
Clyde has a brand share bigger than all of the BBC stations put
together. Following my television colleagues some of our sums
of money pale into insignificance but as a group we spend around
£1 million a year in Scotland purely on news. We have a shareholding
in IRN which is the newsgathering service for the whole of the
independent radio sector. We also have correspondents both here
at Westminster and we now have one at the Scottish Parliament.
We employ around 30 people directly in gathering news and an additional
20-odd people who support that newsgathering service in terms
of secretarial and administrative staff. I have to say that our
correspondent in Edinburgh last year, Colin McKay, won the inaugural
award for Young Parliamentary Journalist of the Year. We are proud
of it so we tell anyone who likes to hear. We are also very pleased
to see the increasing credence given to our services, particularly
in the political sense. The Prime Minister has appeared on Radio
Clyde's breakfast show in the last three years and he has also
been up to Inverness and Moray Firth and that is a development
we welcome and should like to see go further. Most of the other
issues will come out, so I shall pause there.
137. Would you like to expand a little on what
changes have occurred in the news and current affairs output of
Scottish Radio Holdings in Scotland since devolution?
(Mr Goode) The obvious change is that we have appointed
a correspondent to go across to the Parliament in Edinburgh. Apart
from that, it is important to stress at this point that we have
this title Scottish Radio Holdings, but our policy and our philosophy
are measured by the success we have, whether you measure it through
RAJAR or indeed the other audience research. I have some copies
of the research which I should be happy to distribute afterwards
if that would be helpful.
138. Yes, it would be.
(Mr Goode) We insist that each of our individual radio
stations, which are of course separate licences given to us by
the Radio Authority, operate almost independently. Clearly from
the centre we will give support where necessary and that of course
is in terms of making sure that legislation and those sorts of
issues are properly covered together with financial support, sales
of advertising etc. We make sure that each individual radio station
is run by the management of those individual stations. How they
gather the news is very much up to them and what particular pressures
they think are relevant to their particular areas.
(Mr Walker) To give you a snapshot of Clyde's newsI
cannot speak for every station though we are broadly similarwe
have 28 bulletins a day through the day, eight of those are headlines
on the half hour. We also produce business news for both Clyde
1 which is FM and Clyde 2 which is AM for breakfast and for drive-time
shows. We do 17 bulletins on a Saturday and Sunday and 12 for
our digital service 3C during the week and six on weekends. The
FM bulletins are generally three minutes long with AM at five
minutes and we have two-minute bulletins on both stations at drive
time and breakfast time and lunch time which are shorter bulletins.
It is important to stress that though the durations of those bulletins
are fairly constant and fixed, if there is a story which deserves
wider coverage, we are quite flexible in changing both the duration
and frequency of bulletins. On a normal day we would not have
a bulletin between 7 pm and 10 pm. September 11 happens and new
bulletins are going out 7, 8, 9, 10 pm, on the half hour and we
provide a lot of SNS bulletins which is the Scottish Network Service
throughout the rest of our network, which comes from Clyde. That
is a snapshot of the number of bulletins we have.
(Mr Goode) We are members of the CRCA which is the
trade association for all of the radio companies. At the last
election they provided us with some advertising which we were
asked to push which was encouraging younger people to vote. I
am not sure that we were very successful. To reflect our position,
it is interesting that all of the party leaders were included
in these advertisements, apart from a party leader from the SNP.
We created specific advertising to make sure that party was included
on that broad spread.
139. Could you just explain how SRH co-ordinates
the roles of its Westminster journalists and correspondents and
the political correspondent you have appointed at the Scottish
Parliament and how they work together in terms of news balance?
(Mr Walker) That really goes through the individual
news desks. Because we are locally based the issues are dependent
on what is important in each particular station area. Generally
that would go through me or my news editor and we would liaison
with Gordon Campbell down here at Westminster and Colin McKay
through the Parliament. I have a very close working relationship
with Colin because we are the biggest station, the biggest audience,
the biggest area populations. Colin and I call each very regularly.
In addition to Gordon we have quite regular conversations with
IRN in London. If there is a story which is particularly relevant
to our area we would either ask IRN to source some material, through
themselves or through ITN, which they have a shared resource with,
or we would speak to IRN Westminster and ask an MP if they would
go into the station. I know a couple of MPs sitting here have
done that on a fairly regular basis. That is the kind of relationship
5 Not published, available from Scottish Radio Holdings. Back