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.

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 releases.
• 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 hook-up."

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 Stations.

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 policed!

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

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

www.bbc.co.uk/foi
Email: [BBC request email]

Tel: 020 8008 2882
Fax: 020 8008 2398

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FOI Enquiries, British Broadcasting Corporation

1 Attachment

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

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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 hook-up."
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

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 -http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/pr...
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 staff.
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 range!
"Music
•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:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/po...

Yours faithfully,

Bill Constable

Bill Constable left an annotation ()

The document referenced in my Appeal is available at :-
http://www.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/stateme...

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

Link to this

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
Commission.

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

Regards,

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

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