Potential for Abuse of Local Radio Music Policy

Bill Constable made this Freedom of Information request to British Broadcasting Corporation

The request was refused by British Broadcasting Corporation.

From: Bill Constable

Dear British Broadcasting Corporation,

As a regular listener to BBC Local Radio I became aware that there
were a small number of current music tracks that get played very
frequently. On further investigation via my local BBC manager, the
Regional Audience Council and the whatdotheyknow.com web site it
has become apparent that this is a specific item in the BBC English
Regions Local Radio Music Policy.

In the response to RFI20090367 - Freedom of Information request,
you stated that:-

"BBC Local Radio music policy consists of three elements.
• The core – the recurring repertoire of popular hits from the last
40 or 50 years.
• The playlist – a small number of carefully selected current
• Specialist music. This includes well known genres like jazz and
folk and BBC Introducing –
the partnership with BBC Radio 1 in which unsigned local talent
from the genres of pop and rock are showcased."

and went on to elaborate on the "playlist":-

"The playlist songs are not tested. It’s not practical to do so
within our budgets. So the selections
are made by a panel of experienced staff from BBC Local Radio
stations from around the country who gather on a weekly phone

I note that your reply did not actually provide the details
requested in the original FOI request!

What you also didn't say in the reply was that this policy results
in this small number of current releases(10!) being played upto 3
times per DAY everday for several weeks on ALL BBC Local Radio

The frequency with which this list is played represents a
significant amount of air time nationally, this can be considered
as "plugging"! That, on its own, contravenes the BBC main Policy,
BUT also this part of the policy must be considered as a serious
potential target for abuse & even financial gain.

With the BBCs ongoing budgetry constraints I doubt if the
undemocratic playlist selection process is being adequately

A policy like this should be properly documented with Targets &
defined monitoring & measuring processes, to check that it is
working as intended and not alienating the "Target Audience", does
any of this exist?

So far I've seen nothing that gives any reassurance that it does!

Can the BBC provide details of any monitoring that is done to
ensure that this policy is not distorting the current music charts
for record sales, including Web downloads?

Can the BBC provide details of the steps taken to ensure that all
those involved in the selection of the playlist do not abuse this
policy for personal or financial gain?

Yours faithfully,

Bill Constable

Link to this

From: FOI Enquiries
British Broadcasting Corporation

Dear Mr Constable,

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000, as detailed in your email below. Your request was
received on 13th April, 2010. We will deal with your request as promptly
as possible, and at the latest within 20 working days. If you have any
queries about your request, please contact us at the address below.

The reference number for your request is RFI20100533.

Kind regards

The Information Policy & Compliance Team

BBC Freedom of Information
Room 2252, BBC White City
201 Wood Lane
London W12 7TS

Email: [BBC request email]

Tel: 020 8008 2882
Fax: 020 8008 2398

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: FOI Enquiries
British Broadcasting Corporation

Attachment RFI20100533 final response.pdf
80K Download View as HTML

Please find attached the response to your request considered under the
terms of the Freedom of Information Act.

Kind regards,

Fern Kersey
Adviser, Information Policy and Compliance

BBC Freedom of Information
Room 2252
BBC White City
201 Wood Lane
London W12 7TS, UK

Website: www.bbc.co.uk/foi/
Email: [1]mailto:[BBC request email]
Tel: 020 8008 2883
Fax: 020 8008 2398

This e-mail (and any attachments) is confidential and may contain personal
views which are not the views of the BBC unless specifically stated.
If you have received it in error, please delete it from your system.
Do not use, copy or disclose the information in any way nor act in
reliance on it and notify the sender immediately.
Please note that the BBC monitors e-mails sent or received.
Further communication will signify your consent to this.


Visible links
1. mailto:[BBC request email]
2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/

Link to this

From: Bill Constable

Dear FOI Enquiries,

Thank you for the reply and I am not surprised to find you hiding
behind the exemption on the grounds of ‘journalism, art or
literature’. In the BBCs case this exemption can be used for any
query which is vaguely connected with program content but since it
is a judgement exemption I will seriously consider an appeal to the
commissioner. The request concerns information about general policy
which could influence public taste and purchasing, on a regular
basis, rather than reflecting public taste as it should!

The information you did provide would do credit to any of the major
political party spin doctors as it is EXTREMELY MISLEADING.

1) The total audience of BBC Local Radio is nearly 9 million and is
about two thirds of Radio 2, which is by far the largest Radio
audience in the UK,

2)BBC Local Radio broadcasts music content for 15 hours per day
from 10:00 to 01:00 the following day or roughly 100 hours per
week,at approximately 10 music tracks per hour or roughly 1000
tracks per week.

3)Peak hours, as defined by RAJAR, are 06:00-10:00 which is
currently reserved for voice content only on week days but not at
weekends when sports commentary is used as voice content during the
day. There is no publicly available data on RAJAR indicating the
listener spread over the "Peak" period or the remaining 15 hours of
the listening day.

4) On the basis that tracks from the "current playlist are played
2-3 times per day everyday for several weeks that's approximately
175 tracks per week or 17.5 hours per week which equates to half a
normal working week!!. IF YOU CONSIDER THAT MINOR WHAT'S MAJOR??

5)In the response to RFI20090367 - you stated that:-"the selections
are made by a panel of experienced staff from BBC Local Radio
stations from around the country who gather on a weekly phone
In your reply to my RFC you stated :-"Local Radio playlists is
selected by BBC Local Radio’s music manager".
Elsewhere I have seen a BBC statement saying :-"this playlist is
chosen by an independent panel of music industry experts".

Are you really aware how these tracks are chosen????

6)If you ask any agent what he would pay to get an artists record
played to a national audience of nearly 9 million people 20 times
in a week I feel sure he would put a substantial price on that
facility which is why I also have concerns about the policing of
this policy beyond the normal "statement of interest"! To
paraphrase Murphy "If it can happen it will!".

Since you are not prepared to discuss this matter further I
understand that the Audit Commission monitor the BBC affairs
closely and have published recommendations concerning many elements
of Broadcasting output. I will now contact them to clarify their
interests in the concerns noted in this request

Yours sincerely,

Bill Constable

Link to this

From: Bill Constable

Dear British Broadcasting Corporation,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of British Broadcasting
Corporation's handling of my FOI request 'Potential for Abuse of
Local Radio Music Policy'.
1)Since I provided further information I had hoped that Fern Kersey
would respond but it seems to have been ignored.
2)I have been pursuing this issue elsewhere within the BBC but with
little success apart from some clarification of minor points.
3)In the BBC response to
The answer provided a document with considerable detail. I would
expect a document to be available to internal staff covering Local
Radio Music Policy in the same level of detail & that MOST of that
document would be published on the BBC Web site.
4)After further research I have identified the document below which
appears to be "modifying" some aspects of the Local Radio Policy
but will need further clarification, as an amendment to the
document, referenced above (3), which must exist for for internal
In particular the paragraphs :-

"Challenge: Make Local Radio's contribution to the BBC portfolio
more distinctive.

•Focus on the 55-75 core audience.
•Speech-led station with 100% speech at breakfast and drivetime.
•Current and recent chart music should make up no more than 15% of
weekly music output."

appears to be directly relevant to my concerns & needs
clarification regarding how the "Focus" will be achieved & what
time-span constitutes "current" when the perspective is from a
Target audience of 55-75?

Further clarification will also be required regarding the paragraph
below since it appears to be in conflict with the "Focus on 55-75",
the Radio 1 Target Audience is at the opposite end of the age
•We will extend our BBC Introducing... offering, making it more
consistent across Local Radio with closer links to Radio 1 and
enhanced interaction with users."
5)I have sought advice from the FOIA who agree that I appear to
have a "very strong case" but have advised that I should appeal to
the BBC initially.

I have identified the above points since I believe they are
directly relevant to this issue & may influence your response.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is
available on the Internet at this address:

Yours faithfully,

Bill Constable

Link to this

Bill Constable left an annotation ()

The document referenced in my Appeal is available at :-

titled "Statements of Programme Policy
BBC Local Radio in England Policy 2010/2011"

Link to this

From: FOI Enquiries
British Broadcasting Corporation

Dear Mr Constable,

Thank you for your email, repeated below. In addition, we acknowledge
that you also emailed on 22 April in response to our letter to you of 16
April. In your email of 22 April you made rhetorical comments with
respect to that response and informed us you were contacting the Audit

As we explained in our letter of 16 April, the BBC does not offer an
internal review when the information requested is not covered by the
Act. This is the case regarding your request.

If you disagree with our decision you can appeal to the Information
Commissioner. Contact details are: Information Commissioner's Office,
Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF telephone 01625
545 700. http://www.ico.gov.uk


Information Policy and Compliance Team

BBC Freedom of Information
Room 2252
BBC White City
201 Wood Lane
London W12 7TS, UK

Website: www.bbc.co.uk/foi/
Email: mailto:[BBC request email]
Tel: 020 8008 2883
Fax: 020 8008 2398

show quoted sections

Link to this

Things to do with this request

British Broadcasting Corporation only: