Triple theat to Yorkshire’s media spells bad news – John Grogan

The BBC is due to decide the fate of its Sunday Politics network of programmes shortly.The BBC is due to decide the fate of its Sunday Politics network of programmes shortly.
The BBC is due to decide the fate of its Sunday Politics network of programmes shortly.
THIS summer the ability of Yorkshire’s media to tell the daily story of the county’s five million citizens is under a triple threat.

Television, radio and newspapers all face an uncertain few months. Commercial and funding pressures, which have been intensifying for decades, are coming to a head at the same time.

This matters to us all because a strong Yorkshire media holds power accountable and gives us more responsive institutions.

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Moreover, it amplifies voices campaigning both for change, and for preserving all that is best in our varied communities.

John Grogan is the former Labour MP for Keighley and Ilkley.John Grogan is the former Labour MP for Keighley and Ilkley.
John Grogan is the former Labour MP for Keighley and Ilkley.

By the end of this month, the BBC will decide whether to axe their Sunday Politics Yorkshire programme, along with the Inside Out investigations. Similar programmes in all 11 BBC English regions are under threat to help plug a £125m funding gap.

This follows the Government’s decision to transfer responsibility to the broadcaster for meeting the cost of TV licences for the over-75s.

Come the autumn, the only BBC TV programmes made in Yorkshire for the people of the region might well be Look North and the Super League Show.

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Twenty years ago, Yorkshire Television was still producing hours of output each week specifically to be shown to viewers in the county. When the company was swallowed up in the national ITV network, and the public service requirements upon it relaxed, it was hoped that the BBC would step in to the breach.

As regards local commercial radio, thousands of listeners from Scarborough to Harrogate to South Yorkshire have been signing petitions to try and stop stations from being subsumed in the Greatest Hits Network.

By September, the following are expected to effectively lose their identity: Dearne FM (Barnsley), Rother FM (Rotherham), Trax FM (Doncaster), Minster FM (York), Stray FM (Harrogate ), Yorkshire Coast Radio (Bridlington), Ridings FM (Wakefield) and Pulse 2 (Bradford).

The change follows their purchase by German media giant Bauer who now own 80 per cent of Yorkshire’s stations. Together with the Global Radio Group, they have an almost total grip on the national market.

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This follows years of a weak media regulator – Ofcom – allowing this consolidation and weakening requirements to produce local content.

Some analysts expect that only the minimum three weekday hours of programming, together with news bulletins, will be produced from one regional centre to serve the Bauer-owned stations across the county.

It is hard to see the strong relationships which presenters and journalists have with their local communities surviving.

For their younger audiences, commercial radio is often the main way they engage with local news stories. Listening figures for stations like Minster FM have been increasing of late but centralising output can boost profits.

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Ever since 1754 and the founding of the Leeds Intelligencer, (later incorporated into The Yorkshire Post), newspapers have been an important part of life in the Broad Acres.

The Press Gazette has calculated a net decline of 245 local publications nationally between 2007 and 2018 with 11 disappearing in Yorkshire itself since 2015.

The Cairncross Review into sustainable journalism, which reported in 2019, identified as major contributory factors a 70 per cent decline in advertising revenue and a 50 per cent fall in sales over the previous decade.

In the wake of Covid-19, despite some welcome support in the form of public health advertising, many titles are hanging on by a thread.

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So what can be done? Firstly the Government needs to ease the BBC’s problems by taking back responsibility for free TV licences.

Secondly, in the absence of a change of heart from Bauer, some of the legal restrictions on Yorkshire’s community radio stations should be lifted to allow them to compete and grow.

Thirdly, the Government should ensure that newspaper publishers get a fair share of the advertising revenue which Google and Facebook generate from aggregating, and displaying, their content.

With the arrival of Channel 4 in Leeds, and the development of television and film production companies with international reputations, our ability to project Yorkshire’s message to the world could grow post-Covid.

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It will be a terrible loss though if, simultaneously, we lose much of the local and regional media which enables our county’s own conversation to thrive.

John Grogan is the former Labour MP for Keighley.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.

And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.

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Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected]. Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.

If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.

Sincerely. Thank you.

James Mitchinson


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