BBC Local Radio is the BBC's regional radio service for England and the Channel Islands, consisting of 40 stations. They cover a variety of areas with some serving a city and surrounding areas, for example BBC Radio Manchester; a county, for example BBC Radio Norfolk; an administrative region for example BBC WM; or a larger region entirely for example BBC Radio Solent.
The stations were launched progressively starting with BBC Radio Leicester on 8 November 1967 with the last station to launch being the ill fated BBC Dorset FM on 26 April 1993. Since then, numerous local radio stations have been merged and renamed, however no new stations have been created where no service previously existed.
The popularity of pirate radio changed many things with the BBC, the most prominent being the creation of BBC Radio 1 to satisfy the population's thirst for new, popular music. The other however was the fact that these pirate radio stations were, in some cases, local. As a result, BBC Local Radio began as an experiment.
Initially, stations had to be co-funded by the BBC and local authorities, which only some Labour-controlled areas proved willing to do. Radio Leicester was the first to launch on 8 November 1967, followed by Leeds, Stoke, Durham, Sheffield, Merseyside, Brighton and Nottingham. By the early 1970s, the local authority funding requirement was dropped, and stations spread across the country; many city-based stations later expand their remit to cover an entire county.
There were eight stations in the initial 'experiment', which lasted for two years. When this finally finished, it was deemed so successful that all of the stations, except BBC Radio Durham, remained on air. In addition to this, more followed in 1970; BBC Radio Birmingham, Bristol, Blackburn, Derby, Humberside, London, Manchester, Medway, Newcastle(replacing BBC Radio Durham), Oxford, Solent and Teesside.
Despite the success of this, the original stations were seen as flawed, as they originally only broadcast on the FM band, and not on the more widely available AM band. This was eventually rectified a few years after the creation of these new channels.
From 1973, Independent Local Radio launched nationally with a series of 19 stations with many more to follow in the years to come. As a result, many of the BBC Local Radio stations found themselves in direct competition with commercial competitors who utilised the popular DJs from the pirate radio stations, and who gained in most cases, large audiences. Despite this, Local Radio continued to flourish, with the majority of the current network in place by 1990. The network has remained in its current state since.
The radio stations are operated from stations around the country that usually share with the BBC regional news services, and their news gathering bureaux. The stations are operated by the region that the station is based in, and are responsible to the BBC English Regions department, a division of BBC News.
The remit for each Local Radio station is the same: to offer a primarily speech based service comprising news and information, complemented by music. The target audience of BBC Local Radio are listeners aged over 50, who are not served as well as other age groups on the BBC. Each station produces most of their own programmes however, some off-peak programming is produced from one station and covering all stations in the region, some is simulcast with other neighbouring regions and all stations simulcast BBC Radio 5 Live
Between October 2009 and April 2012, a generic jingle package produced by Mcasso music productions was gradually rolled out across the network, and is now in use by all BBC Local Radio stations.
Dave and SueEdit
Dave and Sue are two fictional radio listeners created as marketing personas. Descriptions of the characters, created by the BBC, were given to all their local radio presenters as representative target listeners during the 2000s. They were later superseded by the "BBC Local Radio 2010" strategy.
The characters were created as part of "Project Bullseye". Its stated aim was that "To develop great radio programming ... we need to know where the centre of our audience target is and be able to focus on it in all we do."
Dave and Sue are both 55. Sue is a school secretary, while Dave is a self-employed plumber. They are both divorcees with grown-up children. The characters shop at Asda and wear casual clothes. The couple have little interest in high culture or politics and see the world as "a dangerous and depressing place". They hope that radio will be "something that will cheer them up and make them laugh".
Described as "composite listeners", BBC Local Radio staff were given facts and timelines about Dave and Sue. They were asked to focus on producing something to which the pair would enjoy listening to.
The BBC also produced photographs of the couple, to encourage presenters to visualise their potential listeners. At the 2005 Frank Gillard Awards for BBC Local Radio, the corporation hired two actors to represent the fictional couple, and award a prize to the "Receptionist of the Year".
Mia Costello of BBC Radio Solent wrote a controversial internal memo in October 2006, restating the importance of these characters. She wrote, "Whatever job you do on station, make sure this week, you broadcast to Dave and Sue – people in their fifties. Only put on callers sounding in the 45–64 range. I don't want to hear really elderly voices. Only talk about things that are positive and appealing to people in this age range. Only do caller round ups about people in this age range." This was reprinted the following month in theSouthern Daily Echo, following which a BBC spokesperson commented "Out of context these notes sound harsh and we apologise if they offend anyone.