Commercial radio industry objects to plans for new national BBC radio stations

The move by the BBC to launch or enhance four new national radio stations has been labelled as puzzling and unnecessary by the commercial radio sector.

The new services will directly compete with existing commercial radio services such as Boom Radio, Classic FM and many pop music stations such as Heart and Hits Radio.

A Radiocentre spokesperson said: “These new proposals are an attempt to directly imitate the recent success of commercial stations that already provide these genre stations following years of significant investment made by our sector.

“Despite the polished BBC press release, when one peels back the veneer, the BBC are, yet again, attempting to compete directly with commercial radio stations, interfering with the market and failing to provide distinct public value. UK audiences are very well catered for with more choice than ever, especially for music spin-off stations.

“Senior leaders at the BBC don’t seem to acknowledge that this is not what the BBC, with its taxpayer funding, are supposed to be doing. They are required to provide services that are truly additional, distinct and incremental to what is already provided by commercial operators, not duplicate it.

“We would like to know where the money is coming from to fund these new services. The BBC often say that they need more funding to sustain current services and that they have already cut costs to the bone – including recently cutting back news and local radio funding. What are the BBC cutting to fund these new unnecessary services?

“Ofcom should reject these proposed market interventions that would just offer duplicate services and not deliver against the BBC’s obligations, at the same time as harming commercial innovation.”

Boom Radio co-founder Phil Riley has also issued a response to the proposals, he said: “In the three years since it launched, Boom Radio has tripled its audience and — as recent figures show — our listeners are the most loyal of all national music radio stations, thanks to our unique blend of great presenters and an unrivalled playlist.

“We are puzzled by this potential move by the BBC. Given the recent trend which has seen BBC Radio 2 losing older listeners in their thousands, it smacks somewhat of panic.

“It also remains to be seen if the BBC will pass Ofcom’s competition assessment test to ensure that this adds value and doesn’t have an adverse impact on competitors or the market.”

The Media Show on BBC Radio 4 will be discussing the topic this afternoon at 4.30pm.