Friday, April 12, 2013

Thatcher: The medium wave goodbye

There's a nice piece about Thatcher's influence on the media by Maggie Brown over on MediaGuardian, although if focuses on TV so doesn't mention the damage she and her government wrought to commercial radio.

The delicate ecosystem which supported genuinely local radio - often doing interesting things - got disrupted in the late 80s when the Thatcher government issued an edict that simulcasting was a waste of scarce resources, and if stations continued to broadcast the same programmes on FM and AM, they would have to surrender one of the frequencies.

Spooked, the incumbents suddenly felt compelled to launch entirely new stations, at a stroke doubling their day-to-day costs while - generally - not increasing the size of the audience. With the economics of the industry trashed, the result was a series of takeovers and amalgamations which has led to the current situation where "local" radio is now anything but.

Thatcher's insistence that you shouldn't get the same breakfast programme on two wavebands in one place has resulted in people hundreds of miles apart getting the same breakfast programme and local news rapidly vanishing.