How independent radio in Yorkshire is on 'its knees' and why it needs support
Raj Parmar, managing director of Sunrise Radio in Bradford, says the Covid-19 outbreak has had a “devastating” impact on the station’s advertising revenues.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, he said: “We saw a 97 per cent reduction last year when the lockdown happened.
“Obviously most of our advertisers are small businesses. No matter how much business marketing tells you that you should still spend money on marketing irrespective, the first thing to go is marketing budgets.”
Sunrise Radio in Bradford was launched in 1989 and Mr Parmar’s family took a majority shareholding in the station a year later.
He says that a lot of local radio stations have been impacted by the lockdowns. Independent radio has already been facing pressure from larger services.
Mr Parmar said: “All these local stations with the local knowledge, with local people have been swallowed up by these big organisations who feel that they can network the programmes for the local audience from Manchester or London with maybe a two-hour daily local show. That is not local radio.
“Local radio is suffering and we should get more support from the Government, particularly Ofcom, who should be supporting the local services that have generally over time had the most listenership and are providing valuable information for their audiences especially in times like this.”
The managing director of Sunrise Radio also criticised the BBC’s decision to launch BBC Radio Bradford.
Mr Parmar said: “With all due respect, using taxpayer’s money to just create some sort of vanity project is just beyond belief.”
He added: “Yes, it’s not an Asian station but to some degree there will be some listeners who may decide to tune into BBC Radio Bradford. That’s the issue that I have.
“At a time when smaller commercial operators are suffering, there is no need to do a BBC Radio Bradford, all they are doing is making it harder.”
The BBC says that the station is temporary, currently set to close in March, and was launched due to people in the city using BBC services “less often than people elsewhere”.
“The city is one of three places where we have launched temporary output to give extra information to communities during Covid-19,” a spokesman for the organisation said. “The local response has been overwhelmingly positive.”
However, Mr Parmar believes that independent stations such as his have already been providing vital information to local communities and often in multiple languages.
Sunrise, which is currently available on FM and on DAB in Bradford, is collaborating with a range of smaller, niche broadcasters to bid for the Leeds DAB multiplex platform.
The Leeds Digital Media bid includes stations such as Aakash Radio, which is aimed at Punjabi listeners, Gaydio, a station aimed at an LGBTQ audience, and Cosoro Radio, which provides Afrobeat music and entertainment. Getting onto DAB in Leeds would expand Sunrise’s reach, while also providing a more secure future for those stations on medium wave.
Mr Parmar said: “Medium wave is a dying medium, probably in another five years I don’t think anybody will be listening by medium wave. FM I would say maybe another ten years. DAB is the evolution of that.”
Providing a vital service
Sunrise Radio in Bradford has six full-time staff, around 12 presenters and ten volunteers.
Raj Parmar has called on people to support independent radio stations by tuning into their output.
He said: “It is vital. We need your help. Support your local ones rather than listening to just shows and services that are beamed from London.”
Mr Parmar added: “It’s similar to if you have a small grocers or newsagent and a supermarket opens up next to them. We provide a valuable service in languages and dialects that local people will understand and feel that they are a part of.”
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