BBC local radio 'is neglecting over-50s'
Local BBC radio stations have been accused of alienating older listeners because their tastes are increasingly neglected by youthful staff which fails to understand the audience.
A report commissioned by the BBC found the over-50s were tuning out because they were “less well served than ever” by local radio.
But BBC Radio Cornwall said yesterday that figures showed its listeners had increased by 21,000 and its programmes had “nothing to do with age”.
Pauline Causey, managing editor, said: “Being interested in Cornwall and Cornish issues is nothing to do with age. BBC Radio Cornwall broadcasts a range of music and journalism which relates to life in Cornwall, and our audience figures have increased across all age ranges, both recently and longer term.”
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BBC Radio Devon has also fared well, with year-on-year figures showing a weekly reach of 251,000 or 25 per cent of the audience – up 17,000.
One of the primary aims of the Corporation’s 40 local radio stations is to cater for older listeners.
But research by commercial radio executive John Myers found part of the problem was that producers and other employees at these stations were often too young to grasp the needs of the over-50s.
He stated that the BBC needed to do more, quickly, to “move with its audience more effectively”.
Mr Myers was asked by the BBC to carry out a review of radio operations to highlight failings and look at where money could be saved.
He said: “The fastest growing demographic is the over-50 age group, yet they now appear less well served than ever before. I thought each station I visited housed a full complement of journalists and yet I was surprised to note so many were outside the age range of the target audience demographic.
“A balanced newsroom in experience and age is important if the target market is going to be well served.”
Mr Myers criticised the generous pay schemes for staff working in local radio and highlighted some outdated working practices.
The BBC has stepped back from deep cuts proposed last year, which would have seen 19 jobs lost at BBC Radio Cornwall, Devon, Jersey and Guernsey. The money-saving proposals provoked a storm of protest, particularly among Radio Cornwall listeners
who besieged phone-in programmes with complaints about possible changes to schedule and rejected the notion that some coverage could be shared with Devon.
However the cost-cutting agenda is still on the cards.
A spokesman for the Corporation said: “BBC Local Radio is aimed at audiences aged 50 plus and that is clearly understood by our staff. BBC local radio has been growing audiences since 2009.”