Heart Scotland - Oh Dear!!!

By Art Grainger
Posted 21 May 2015, 2.28am edt

I have to admit that even I'm surprised. I wasn't expecting that to happen so soon.

Heart Scotland's reach Q-on-Q has plummeted from 18% to 15%. This is also the case for its year-on-year figures. This means that Heart is having almost as few listeners as Scot FM's peak and is a galaxy away from Real Radio's peak of 26% just 5 years ago.

The audience share for Heart has also plummeted to a low of 5.9%, from a high of 16.7% five years previously.


Heart Scotland has been under investigation from Ofcom on various matters, including swearing mishaps.

However, I am astonished by this because I would have thought that Robin Galloway's presence at the station would have seen the figures increase for a wee while before dropping again - but this is quite bad.

More information

Heart Scotland
Central Scotland


5 years ago

Don't enjoy yourself too much...

5 years ago

Well James, you may want to make a smart remark about it but the figures and graphs on this very website speak volumes.

Back in 2010, Real Radio was still in its heyday and enjoying very high figures for a regional station. This was despite the fact that almost all of its competitors in the market it served were much stronger and had bigger audiences and shares for their own stations, compared to how they are doing now. In 2015, with exceptions for the smaller stations such as Central FM and XFM, all of them have had a drop from what they were scoring in 2010 to what they are achieving now - but their figures have not seen that very dramatic drop/cliff-face that Real/Heart has experienced in that same time. Only Smooth Radio, as a larger ILR, has bucked the trend.

So .... it seems reasonably obvious to me that something is happening with the listeners in Central Scotland that is making Heart a turn-off. Indeed, Heart's fall in the RAJAR seems to go on tandem with what I experience when I go about my everyday life. In shops, filling stations, cafes, takeaways, barber shops etc that I visit, radios that were tuned to Real Radio (for years) are no longer tuned to the same frequency that is now Heart. Most of them have been re-tuned to Clyde 1 or Radio 2, with a smaller number re-tuned to Capital and some to Smooth Radio. Even the small independent fashion store that my wife drags me into on occasions has had the wee radio that sat in a corner of the shop floor re-tuned to Radio 2 - it used to be tuned to Heart because the two women who owned the shop liked it - but they don't listen now. Why?

Is Heart Scotland too English? Are there just too many networked shows? Do Scottish listeners miss the banter and patter that the Scottish presenters on Real gave and made them feel a kind of connection?

Even as little as three years ago, my Facebook wall would be littered with postings shared by my FB friends who would post something that Real Radio had put up on their own radio station FB page. A really good example was the 'Mon The Moon feature (a very Scottish joke), which went around for months . That level of enthusiasm is not being shared with Heart Scotland, even though most of my female FB friends are well within Heart's target audience.

5 years ago

More thoughts on this .... as well as a theory. I've spent 5 minutes of my life looking at the graphs and I have noticed that outside London (and Watford), Heart Scotland, Yorkshire, North-West and North-East (plus Solent) are the worst performing stations of that brand in respect of share and reach.

However, unlike Heart Scotland, the ones in the North of England are generally going up, gaining ground from the wound-down versions of Real Radio. Real Radio never really took off in Yorkshire and the brand also suffered from its not terribly popular take-over of Century in the North-east and to a lesser extent in the North-west. This wasn't the case in Scotland, where Real Radio was very dominant in the region's landscape as well as its soundtrack.

Of course, over the years where Heart has been introduced, there has normally been a flurry of interest with listeners, which has seen a rise in the audience figures, for which the figures stay at a high for a few years, then they gradually head down the way. In Scotland, that doesn't appear to have happened and it looks as if, so far, the station has fallen and is stuttering along the ground. Will it ever take off? I always predicted that Heart Scotland would gain a reach of around 20% or so, then spend two or three years bouncing around the low 20's, before falling again.

Heart Scotland now has fallen to an audience level not far from (the not astoundingly popular) Scot FM, which had a 50% speech ratio and very little to talk about during that 50%. The bulk of Scot FM's audience were taxi and van drivers and people listening to late night phone-ins. Scot FM excelled in its late-night programming which helped to push its figures up.

In 2015, I can't help but think that Heart "Scotland" has become a victim of other things that are happening in Scotland.

We had the Independence Referendum. In the time leading up to that, it was becoming apparent that the bulk of support for "Yes" was from people below the age of 45. The bigger bulk of "No" supporters were above that age. We have had a general election since then, for which the SNP won slightly more than 50% of those who actually voted. Again, there is evidence out there that the larger bulk of support for the SNP was among people below the age of 45, with over 45's making up for the bigger bulk of the other 49%+ who voted for all other parties.

Also, if you live in Scotland, you are probably all too ware of how much more patriotic the people of Scotland appear to have become in the past couple of years.

So, whilst Smooth Radio Scotland, appealing primarily to over 45's, seems to be getting away with networked programming and lots of English accents, is Heart "Scotland" resonating with the younger audience that it is aimed at, when it badges itself as a Scottish radio station (it puts the word "Scotland" after its name - for goodness sake), yet most of the presenters have very strong English accents? Even when they do split links they often get the pronunciations of place-names wrong.

Bear in mind that Real Radio Scotland was nearly 24/7 from Scotland, with almost all presenters being Scottish and knowing the region it served inside-out. Most presenters came from the area. Real Radio was often the first port of call for listeners during sever weather and travel events (it tended to do better than Radio Clyde or Radio Forth on occasions). What do we have now?

Is it any wonder, then, that the figures are showing a massive downturn for Heart Scotland, which seems to be faring much, much worse than its English cousins?

5 years ago

Art I think you might in the ballpark with your theory. The idea that Heart & Global can get away with daytime networking with their English counterparts, might have been a misplaced notion, with the growing nationalist feeling in Scotland, which is not male-orientated or female-orientated, but is more prevalent in the age group that Heart are seeking to make their own.

The only way to turn this around might be to put Scottish originated programming on in daytime on weekdays, and maybe add in separate weekend breakfast shows for Scotland as well.

5 years ago

Or perhaps go further than that.

Need I remind people that when Real Radio Scotland first attempted to displace evening and night-time programs from Scotland with output from Manchester, the Scottish listenership revolted and they reversed the decision after a short period of time. When they did it a second time, the RAJAR's saw the station lose more listeners as each quarter went by. Coincidence?

We keep getting told by some radio forumites that Heart is the holy grail of branding and formatting and it will guarantee great success, even increased listenership, wherever it goes. Indeed, over the years, I was always aware that Heart is quite popular, especially for the music it plays - and that competing stations, even community stations, needed to raise their game. At one point I quite liked Heart - but that was back in a time when the station had big-name presenters that were also allowed to enthuse personality. As the years progressed, however, the big name personality presenters were dropped in favour of pushing the word "Heart" out every few seconds. Has that worked?

So far, in Scotland, that answer appears to be a big fat NO! Of course, listeners are listeners and they're all the same in any part of the UK, right?

Just as politicians have found out, perhaps the radio industry needs to realise that it would be wrong to assume how the people of Scotland will tolerate and accept things that might work in England. We're a different breed of folk up here.

Just as we have an ability to keep inventing life transforming things that most poeple on the planet use in everyday life, to the point that it would be almost impossible to get through your day without unwittingly using at least 20 things that have been invented by Scottish people, we also have an uncanny ability to let our feelings be known and kick arse. History books like to tell us how we won battles, despite being considerably outnumbered. Also, Scotland is probably the only country in the world where a terrorist can get his head kicked in by a local yob ............ whilst said terrorist is on fire ........ and he probably saved the lives of dozens (if not hundreds) of people.

Who would have thought that the Labour Party, who assumed that Scotland would forever be a stronghold for them and that they would always have the vast majority of Scotland's 59 MP's, would end up losing 41 out of 42 of their MP's in one election? That process took less than 5 years and can certainly be attributed to the people of Scotland feeling, in part, that the Labour Party said and did something out-of-turn and we didn't like it.

I can't help but think that there is a potential parallel between the political scene in Scotland - and how much Heart appears to be getting a bit of a kicking right now. Just note how much the other stations that are still holding onto being quite Scottish in sound are maintaining their audiences - or in some cases (such as Original 106 in Aberdeen) gaining them.

5 years ago

I know, when I vote SNP, I won't just do it to give Labour a deserved kicking, but I'll also not tune into a regional wallpaper radio station who's owners happen to be in England (who's director of broadcasting is a well respected Scot in the industry) with some off-peak programming from the UK capital at the same time.

There may be some coincidental data in Art's post, yet I go by what is coming out of the speaker, if they don't like it, they tune out regardless if they're pro independence or not.

5 years ago

Maybe so Martin - but in Scotland just now we are grappling (which is probably the wrong word to use) with our identity.

In the past couple of years many (if not most) Scottish people have felt increased levels of patriotism, for which things like the Commonwealth Games, the Referendum and the past General Election may have been a catalyst.

There may be feelings like that in some regions of England but it doesn't not appear to be at anywhere near the same level as up here.

So, it seems no coincidence to me that a station calling itself as a Scottish one, after it has dismissed most of its Scottish presenters and put English ones on instead, is suffering from very big audiences losses in a very short period of time, which also coincides with the time it took for the Labour Party to lose almost all of its MP's in Scotland amongst a few other things. Heart Scotland by name - not necessarily by sound.

5 years ago

OK. But, let me ask, how much does it REALLY have to do with English accents?

I don't have access to such data, but what, for example, are the audience levels of the BBC's national services in Scotland like, compared to the rest of the UK? If there was an anti-English feeling, I'd expect all those services to take a kicking in favour of BBC Radio Scotland, Clyde, Forth etc. In last year's white paper though, it was suggested that national services from England would remain available in Scotland. So are Scottish people that concerned about English accents?

I actually think it's another example of Scottish/English divide. The General Election showed up, quite starkly, the ideological and political divides either side of Hadrian's Wall. Scotland have voted for a predominantly left-wing, socialist government in the SNP. England went for the slightly right-of-centre Conservatives, except in very "traditional" Labour areas - either mining communities or areas with large immigrant populations who are fighting for benefits. The two nations are going in very different directions, and I wouldn't be surprised if by May 2020 we find Scotland out of the UK, and the UK out of the EU.

5 years ago

It's not anti-English feeling. We don't hate English people .... honest! It's to do with with acceptance of a disproportionate number of English accents on what is supposed to a local Scottish radio station. It irks people up here - we know that for sure from when Real Radio tried networking from Manchester for the first time a few years ago. We feel cheated and insulted when it happens, especially when said local radio station had almost entirely Scottish presenters in its schedule - with the occasional English, Welsh or Irish one who we treated as a guest, therefore we didn't mind.

I always refer to tipping points, which is the point when something reaches an acceptable limit (whatever that limit is perceived as being) before the public turn against what it is that you are doing. It seems to be that with just a breakfast and drivetime show, plus a pokey wee weekend show, that the tipping point was passed a long time ago.

As for the national radio services, such as the BBC, plus Classic FM, Talksport, Absolute Radio and so on, they have always been London based national radio stations that broadcast to the whole of the UK and they always identify themselves as that. Up here in Scotland we accept that and therefore don't expect to hear many Scottish accents on the schedule. It's not like a kid-on Scottish radio station that might play Scottish adverts but has mostly English presenters (and English competition participants) taking up most of the output.

Earlier in this thread, Martin tried to point out that networking only came about in off-peak programming therefore it shouldn't matter. Well, if you exclude all of the shops, filling stations, cafes, takeaways, sandwich bars, barber shops, white van men, taxi driers etc. that I know had Real Radio on all day, every day as background entertainment, then you are absolutely right - it shouldn't matter.

5 years ago

Oh ... and James, my response to your line " with large immigrant populations who are fighting for benefits" deserves a few tuts from me.

I'm married to the daughter of an immigrant couple. Needless to say it's a subject I follow quite closely and have researched it. All I need to say to that is that the arguments against immigrants coming to this country are wildly disproportionate to what is actually happening in real life.

The rate of immigration, since the 1920's (with the exception of the war years) has always been around 5% of the UK's population. Britain has a rapidly expanding population, due in part to the larger number of births vs deaths - which also means that whilst the immigrant population is also on the increase, it is still at a rate proportional to the UK's base (native) population, which has stayed at that 5% net immigration figure for so many decades. So we are not having the tsunami of immigrants that some would have us believe.

Besides, whilst we seem to want to point out about "all these immigrants" coming into our country, we don't seem to mind their take-away or restaurant food, we don't seem to mind them playing for our favourite football teams and we seem to object even less to them cleaning our streets and schools.

At the same time we seem to conveniently forget that white Europeans invaded other continents and in our attempts to settle into them, we performed all manner of unspeakable and extremely disgusting atrocities against the native populations (which has even caused Prime Ministers to feel a need to make Apologies to their nations), yet we get hot under the collar if we have a neighbour with a different skin colour and who might speak a different language from us.

Arguments about illegal immigrants, on the other hand, is worthwhile - but that should be pointing at a lack of border control - and something needs done about that.

4 years, 10 months ago

Still a dreadful RAJAR for Heart Scotland. Has it found the bottom yet?

Now with a share of an astonishingly low 4.8% and listeners tuned in for just 5.7 hours, this makes Heart the worst performing FM commercial station in Scotland (excluding Heart's sister station XFM - a flea powered indie-rock service on the edge of Glasgow).

This is despite the positive publicity, negative publicity (or just publicity) that it has had in social and printed media. This is despite the Angels standing on street corners of Glasgow trying to encourage people to tune in. This is despite Robin Galloway, a big signing who has potentially sacrificed having more listeners across Scotland on medium wave than Heart appears to have on FM (those two figures are starting to get close now).

Could it be that Heart will find its level (barely better than Scot FM was in years gone by) and is a profit making skeletal service at best? Or are Global happy to potentially have a couple of loss making services on FM in Scotland, whilst attempting to exploit the brands at a national level and still claim that they also broadcast to Scotland? Or do they just let the figures continue to slide until they decide to give it all up and maybe just keep Smooth Radio ticking over?

4 years, 10 months ago


Just playing Devils Advocate for a second.

You bump this thread every quarter but not once have you proposed a solution. Does the PD need to go? The breakfast team?

4 years, 10 months ago

Glad you asked.

Solution? Well it seems obvious to me. Sound a bit more Scottish than just having the word "Scotland" in the station idents. The token Scottish news, occasional Scottish adverts and just two presenters during weekdays are a far cry from the former radio station that was local 24/7, live for almost all of that time and responded immediately to breaking news, travel and weather events from its listeners. We now have a station that struggles to put out an apology (from the bowels of its network) within the same hour as a swearing offense.

By the way, it is also interesting to note that its biggest competitor in the market is DROPPING most of the few networked programs from England and re-introducing local programs. Their RAJAR's have gone up!!!

4 years, 10 months ago

By the way, it is also interesting to note that its biggest competitor in the market is DROPPING most of the few networked programs from England and re-introducing local programs. Their RAJAR's have gone up!!!

Hardly local, with shows coming from Clydebank from Inverness to Ayr.

4 years, 10 months ago

OK. Great ideas, but how are you going to pay for them? If the cost base has reduced and the station is more profitable, it's worth the audience loss. You have to bear in mind that Global have a legal obligation to maximise profit for their shareholders. To do otherwise is against the law.

4 years, 10 months ago

James, although there is a general obligation to provide returns for shareholders, it's really not against corporate law to programme a radio station to try and improve its audience!

4 years, 10 months ago

Maybe so James - but if the audience share and listening hours goes down much further, it will get to a point that it'll be unattractive to the local advertisers, leaving just the national advertisers - at which point you might as well shut up the shop and just use the transmitters as a relay of London, with a journalist desperately trying to make some local news bulletins - unless they try to persuade OfCom to change the rules so that they have almost no commitments other than to say "This is Heart" every few seconds and squeeze a small number of songs in between.

To go from a share of 21.1% and 13.7 hours per listener in 2007 (when there were actually 2 more FM commercial stations within its market)to just 4.8% and 5.7 hours per listener just 8 years later is a calamity. No other business would be happy with that and heads would be rolling.

4 years, 10 months ago

You have to bear in mind that Global have a legal obligation to maximise profit for their shareholders. To do otherwise is against the law.

There is no such legal obligation.

4 years, 10 months ago

I don't think it's just Heart Scotland that has a dilemma between trying to be local but sounding non-local. I've noticed it on Heart Bristol - too often I hear "saaf east" accents that just don't sound right on a station that tries to wear a cloak of localness. I'm not expecting to hear The Wurzels presenting, but once you get tuned-in to the average accent in a region, its strange when the radio does not reflect it for a decent proportion of airtime. If it was a truely national station I wouldn't have any expectations of accents.
Now if Ofcom could release community radio from some of its draconian restrictions, some might be able to offer a meaningful local service that wins listeners - and fills the gap that has ILR demise has opened-up.

4 years, 10 months ago

Most of the local Heart's lost their supposed localness when they became quasi-regional services during Breakfast and Drive. In Bristol's case merging with the station formerly known as Severn Sound.

Heart Sussex and Surrey is another, with a very large FM TSA stretching from Rye to Dorking with Brighton-centric output.

4 years, 10 months ago

It's the same problem with adverts on many stations - they ought (IMHO) take more care to use more appropriate accents for many adverts "in the regions" to avoid risk of alienation. But I guess on a national campaign a significant proportion of listeners are expecting "saaf east" accents and it's not worth the extra cost in production (at least I hope someone has tested it and done the calculation!)

4 years, 7 months ago

So here I am in Hong Kong, enjoying a holiday with my wife (whilst also meeting some of her distant family members). I am now awaiting a flight to Seoul. Whilst waiting in an airport lounge I decided to check the Rajars for this station.

Has it still not hit the bottom yet?

Whilst there has been an increase of pairs of ears q-q, those hours have still gone down, meaning it's reach has seen only a very slight improvement since the last quarter.

However, year on year comparisons has shown that Heart "Scotland" (although it is almost entirely a foreign radio station from another country, where most of the presenters speak with queer accents, as do competition entrants) is still in freefall for hours and share, even though the reach was the same.

By the way, Hong Kong has 6 public radio services. 3 of them are in English, as are two commercial radio stations. Even the BBC World Service has a relay on medium wave broadcasting to the territory.

4 years, 7 months ago

As much as you'd love Scotland to go it's own way Art, the presenters on Heart are as British as you.

4 years, 7 months ago

What's this doing bumped?

Oh it's RAJAR week. Remind me to do this in three months time and save you the hassle.

4 years, 7 months ago

Maybe so - but as I have already pointed out on this thread, it could be that this station has reached the tipping point of acceptability of the number of non-SCOTTISH accents and Scottish ones.

English people may have a high er tolerance to non-regional accents on their station, probably because it's still an English person doing it. That is not always the case in Scotland.

If you have exceedingly few presenters able to roll their R's on a station that calls itself a Scottish one, it might not go down too well with your intended demographic - and I still suggest that is the case and reason for Heart in Scotland to be fairing worse than its sister stations Down Sarf!

4 years, 7 months ago

By that theory, national radio should bomb north of the border. I'd be interested to see how UK-wide services perform in Scotland alone. Although I do take your point that it is idented as "Scotland's Heart" which a national station wouldn't do.

4 years, 7 months ago

Top 20 stations in Scotland:

BBC Radio 2
BBC Radio Scotland
BBC Radio 1
BBC Radio 4
Capital Network (UK)
Clyde 1
Capital Scotland
Heart Network (UK)
Smooth Radio Network (UK)
Heart Scotland
Classic FM
Smooth Radio Scotland
Forth 1
BBC Radio 5 live
Magic (National)
West Sound (inc. West FM)
BBC 6 Music
Northsound 1
Kiss (National)

4 years, 7 months ago

Your doing those by heads listening across ALL of Scotland, as opposed to actual reach within their service area, in which case Heart would be a lot further down and very far behind Clyde and Forth.

James, the national services identify themselves as such and are recognised as such. They are not calling themselves a Scottish station then having a severe imbalance between Scottish and English presentation etc. There could also be a quality issue for which a cheap-as-chips sounding pseudo national commercial station with lots of English plums on it may not be as popular or as appealing as a high quality sounding public broadcaster.

4 years, 7 months ago lists the most popular radio stations in Scotland by reach and share. It's instructive to note the difference between the two.

4 years, 7 months ago

Thank you James. This proves that whilst "Scotland's" Heart may have a large head count because of the size of geographical spread and population it broadcasts to, thereby making it the 4th "most popular," the reality is that within its own service area it fails to make it into the Top 10 by reach and share and three of its main competitors do, quite considerably, those being Clyde 1, Forth 1 and Kingdom Fm.

4 years, 4 months ago

They're still not out of the woods.

Whilst they have made improvements on their last quarter (which they also did between September 2014 and December 2014), the year-on-year figures still reflect a downward trend.

December 2014. Reach was 18%
December 2015. Reach is down to 15%. Ouch!!!

December 2014. Hours-per-listener = 6.6
December 2015. Hours-per-listener = 8.0. Good going.

December 2014. Share 7.4%
December 2015. Share 6.7% (which could have been a wee bit worse if it wasn't for the increase in hours per listener).

This seems to correlate with very considerable year-on-year rises with Heart Scotland's main rivals, Forth 1 and Clyde 1. Even its smaller rivals, Central FM and Kingdom FM have boasted very considerable rises in the same period.

2016 could be even more interesting.

If Go Radio get going on DAB or FM (or both), Heart could potentially suffer more than Clyde 1 does from its presence.

4 years, 4 months ago

If you despise Heart Scotland so much, why do you listen to it? And don't tell me you don't... unless, of course, you complained about Robin Galloway without actually hearing it?

4 years, 4 months ago

I hate to disappoint you but I don't. The only times I've ever heard Heart is when it's been on in the background in a public place - and those places have become fewer and fewer over the past couple of years, despite having had their radios rigidly stuck to Real Radio for such a very long time. That in itself correlates with the drop in RAJAR, as I witness shops and public establishments having had their radios re-tuned from Real/Heart to Clyde 1 or Radio 2.

In response to your other charge, I'm guilty as hell of not hearing it (I work in Glasgow, the transmitter that wasn't affected by it) but my own Facebook wall was littered with comments by (non radio enthusiast) friends who live in the East, who did hear it and certainly commented on social media about it. When it comes to real world opinions about radio (as opposed to radio anorak and forumite opinions), I use social media as the gauge. Opinions about radio do come from ordinary members of the public on the very odd occasion (which is also how I recognised that Paddy's Sunday Dinner was possibly bombing in Scotland).

You already know my reasons as to why I put my neck out, publicly (because I'm not chicken) and made the complaint to OfCom. The first was because the word was said, blatantly (not accidentally), at a time when young children could have heard it. Another reason was of fairness to other stations that were penalised for far lesser on-air swearing offences, other reasons included to drive home the point about Rule No.1 when in a studio and also to ensure that this and other radio stations get their technical aspects sorted to ensure it doesn't happen. I think of listeners first, not the well-being or interests of radio people, they come a wee bit further down in my priorities. Even when I was doing radio, it wasn't about me, it was about the listeners and the public, a principle that I used in my other projects (and one of the reasons why I put a lot of emphasis on the word "your."

Besides, it doesn't matter what your opinions are of me making a complaint about one of your favourite radio brands - OfCom found them guilty of a very serious breach of the programming code. That's it.

4 years, 4 months ago

Well, frankly, that makes you no better than the people who complained about Sachsgate after the Daily Hate Mail told them about it!

Anyone who was actually offended by it probably contacted the station and received a satisfactory apology. It didn't need you tittle-tattling to Ofcom over something you'd not actually heard.


4 years, 4 months ago

Right James. Time to make you look extremely stupid!!!! You have gone quite far on that matter.

Despite dropping hints in some of my postings on this and that other thread (the wee hints are there if you bother to look), you haven't quite grasped why I really complained to OfCom, so here it is in all its glory.

I logged onto my Facebook one morning to find that an old classmate of mine, with a 4 year old daughter, had heard the rather strong expletive go out on air shortly after the 10AM news on Heart (along with other subject matter that was probably not appropriate for the time of day). She heard this when she was driving through the streets of Edinburgh (she now lives on the outskirts) whilst her daughter was in the back seat. She was moved enough and annoyed enough to comment on social media about it. This was followed by some of her own friends in Edinburgh, who also heard it, replying to her posting, with the gist being that they too had young children and they were appalled by it.

A couple of days later, the incident was a news story (even in the newspapers), for which the articles included Twitter and Facebook comments from other people who had heard it.

These days social media is often the first port of call for people to vent their annoyance. I PM'ed her to ask if she wanted to complain to the radio station or OfCom about it. In her own words she said, "I won't bother because they won't do anything about it."

So I decided to complain to OfCom about it (after a few days deliberation), effectively complaining in her behalf.

So James, please point to me where the rule is that I cannot complain to OfCom on anyone's behalf.

Should I not be concerned about children, even though they are other peoples?

Or should we just let it all happen and ignore it in the hope that no little radio presenters get harmed?

Judging by yours and other people's comments on this subject on this very forum (comments from ex-radio people, it has to be said), I'm appalled at how little regard there seems to be for the public and even OfCom's own rules.


4 years, 4 months ago

Sorry Art, but you are way off-base on this one. In fact, you're starting to sound like Mary Whitehouse, which is a damn scary thought.

Whilst I agree to the principle that a professional presenter shouldn't use bad language in a studio ever, whether the mic's on or off, a principle that I have taught and do teach to others, the fact remains that this was not a deliberate on-air use of swearing, even though it happened on air, it was a technical error that caused a studio that shouldn't have been live, to be live. This context is important, and cannot be simply glossed over because it's inconvenient to your point.

The other thing that has me very concerned about your state of mind, is what you said at the end, quote...


Wrong, wrong, wrong, absolutely brimming over with wrong-ability.

For a start, the media is already beneath contempt in the minds of a large part of the population, whether they actually read newspapers, listen to the radio, watch TV, use internet or social media, or do none of them. The idea that we should imagine ourselves to be beneath the rest of the general public, is to demean and denigrate the challenging and wonderful work that some members of the media do. Whether it's LBC, BBC, RTE, NPR or a community radio station like Phonic FM, Source FM or CHBN, there are some people out there who are fighting to make sure important issues are brought to our attention, and such work must be commended, and not allowed to be demeaned by a technical fault that had unintended consequences.

Neither should we imagine ourselves to be above the general public. There are broadcasters out there, across the world, I'm sure we've all heard them and could name them quite easily, who are so full of themselves, so believing in their own publicity that the contempt they hold their audience in, is obvious, even to your more discerning domesticated animals.

And yes, I do realise that part of the original Reithian ethos of the BBC was Education and it is still a part of what broadcasting is there to do, but doing it in a way that doesn't sound like a preacher talking down to his or her parishioners, is an important thing, as nobody likes being preached to.

We are members of the public basically. Our only difference is that we have a platform to talk about things, a platform that some people, some of the time, believe to be still a powerful and important way to get necessary and important messages across. We are not better or worse than the public, we are part and parcel of the general public, and yes, there are times when education and information is still an important part of what we do, but we should not allow the rest of the public to look down on us, nor should we allow ourselves to look down on the public.

That's reality, Art. Deal with it.

4 years, 4 months ago

Ian, yours is a good response but I need to remind you of this:-

"I won't bother (complaining) because they won't do anything about it."

That is reality. That was the opinion of a member of public. More so, that was the opinion of a mere listener who was right inside the demographic that Heart aims at. Accident or not (she didn't know that at the time - nor was she interested, in all honesty), she was just concerned about her child being exposed to something that she didn't want her to be exposed to, in the otherwise safe environment of her car for which the audio soundtrack was supposed to be so safe that discussions of sexual matter and expletives were definitely not what she wanted or expected.

Quite why she felt as though she would get virtually no satisfaction with her complaint I can only guess that it is based on life experience and perhaps even based on previous news stories of radio presenters who have been quite out of order and used unwitting members of the public for what they believed to be entertainment.

What I found in response to my posts, although I have to say that it has been totally unsurprising, is that little radio people have shown more concern for radio stations and other radio presenters having a complaint made against them and the possibility that they could get in a little spot of bother. The possibility of pre-school children and parents hearing something quite appalling in the daytime was among the furthest things from their minds - as if the public was beneath them!

Anyway, it still doesn't matter too much because OfCom found them in breach, Global said they took the matter very seriously, the station had bad publicity in the media as a result (or just publicity if you prefer) - and the station has still been losing listeners.

4 years, 4 months ago

If Heart Scotland's audience decline can be explained by the amount of networked/English content and lack of DJ patter, how do explain the rise and rise in audience for Smooth Glasgow, which is networked for just as long every day and is practically talk-free compared with its origins as Saga?

4 years, 4 months ago

Michael - Demographic. I really do think that's it.

On that point, you need to read this thread and my theories on why I reckon there's been a parallel between Heart's quite considerable drop in less than 5 years, the number of Labour MP's who lost their jobs in favour of SNP MP's being elected, the results of the referendum - and how the votes for both of those clearly showed that the SNP support in the general election and Yes support in the referendum was at its strongest among people below the age of 45 (which is coincidentally Heart's demographic), whereas the bulk of people above the age of 45 were more supportive of NO and any party but the SNP (which is coincidentally within Smooth's intended audience demographic).

So, for a station like Heart to drop the bulk of its local programming in favour of people with strong English accents (and its not just the presenters, even competition entrants from down South feature very heavily on the station) yet still call itself a Scottish station probably doesn't sit too well with its listeners, whereas the older generation that's listening to Smooth is probably more tolerant.

I'd say that Heart has timed its programming decisions on localness quite badly. This may be even more apparent when you see that it's two big rivals had a wee phase of putting out networked programs from England - which they have dropped - and now their audiences are going up!!! Meanwhile Central FM and Kingdom FM have also enjoyed quite considerable increases in their audience in the same period as Heart's audience has plummeted - and they are very local stations.

4 years, 4 months ago

Meanwhile Central FM and Kingdom FM have also enjoyed quite considerable increases in their audience in the same period as Heart's audience has plummeted - and they are very local stations.

Surely then you've answered your own question? Heart's demo is saturated with Kingdom and Central FM taking some share, thanks to the targeting of their programming and don't forget Clyde and Forth, those old relics of ILR.

As for the basis of your complaint, the child in question is more vulnerable from what they hear in public than one swear word on a radio station with a presenter and brand you happen to dislike strongly.

4 years, 4 months ago

Art, you don't have to remind me of that, as I did mention it, in a manner of speaking...

the media is already beneath contempt in the minds of a large part of the population...

And that by the way, includes the regulator. Ever since the IBA was replaced by the ITC and the Radio Authority back in the 1990s, the change from IBA-style regulation to light touch has meant that lots of people have seen things on TV and heard things on the radio that the IBA wouldn't have allowed back in the 1970s and 80s. Also, the IBA were very strict on both technical standards, and editorial standards, and in that era, you had to have standards to be seen as credible. I know the joke about "standards and practices" being a codename for the censor, but in those days, you did have standards and you were accountable not just to your shareholders, but also to your audience, even though there was far less choice out there on the dials. There were also best practices for how things were done.

So, since light touch regulation became the name of the game and not prevention, complaints to the regulator have become increasingly more common, and some of the reasons for the complaints have become more and more ludicrous as well, but more importantly, the overwhelming majority of those complaints have never resulted in anything more than a metaphorical slap on the wrist with a piece of wet lettuce. Even situations like Sachsgate; Some feel that Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, and even the BBC got off very lightly in that situation. Russell Brand still has a career, Jonathan Ross is on ITV and well paid, and the situation didn't affect him personally that much, so the feeling is that the participants in that controversy got off lightly.

Hence a growing apathy towards broadcasting, as it is seen by people that broadcasters themselves don't respond that well to complaints, and the regulator shows few if any teeth when taking on the big guys, especially as ILR and ITV have basically been allowed to do almost anything they've asked to do. Cut back certain commitments? No problem. Smaller payments for the licence? Of course.

But I do want to divert slightly here and bring up another point that you made , Art.

The possibility of pre-school children and parents hearing something quite appalling in the daytime was among the furthest things from their minds...

Swear words? appalling? really?

I can think of things a lot worse than a swear word that are broadcast on radio and TV these days, and most of these never get a lot of criticism. The amount of spin and propaganda that is allowed to be broadcast unchecked, unchallenged, unquestioned, is frankly shocking. And most of this comes out of the mouths of politicians quite deliberately, in order to convince people to back what they want to do. Admittedly it is still a fair distance away from what some newspapers do, which is completely make up stories just to sell more papers, and as a side benefit promote their own ideological viewpoint, but it is still something that I find really annoying.

Let us not forget that back in 2004, we had an 'infamous' incident at the Super Bowl. You know the one, Justin Timberlake removes a patch from Janet Jackson's dress and for 2 seconds we get a shot of her exposed right breast. The right wing 'family values' movement (that seems to be a brand name rather than an accurate description) went all medieval on the NFL, and the broadcasters for 'allowing' such a thing to happen, and it proved to be a perfect distraction from what was really going down in Iraq at the time, a perfect distraction ploy, which helped along with 'swift boats' and other things get Bush re-elected for a second term. The whole fake controversy just annoyed the hell out of me back then, and the whole fake outrage over nudity and sex scenes has always annoyed me.

Swear words though are a different kind of annoyance, to my eyes. A sign of laziness, unimaginativeness. A way of giving meaningless words, and awful jokes some impact that they don't deserve. I have heard in everyday speech, some people for whom every 4th or 5th word is a swear word, and it is just lazy. Rudi Guilliani used to be referred to, only semi jokingly, as a noun, a verb and 9/11. Sadly these days, for some people out there, replace 9/11 with a swear word, and you sum up their entire vocabulary and sentence structure. But the net effect of that is that it no long has any impact to it at all.

I don't think swear words in and of themselves are appalling, but what I consider appalling is the casual use of them, and the laziness of using them, when there are far better, far more descriptive words that are not swear words.

4 years, 4 months ago

As for the basis of your complaint, the child in question is more vulnerable from what they hear in public than one swear word on a radio station with a presenter and brand you happen to dislike strongly.


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