The relevance of locality has changed vastly over the years. The desire for something local also changes with subject, age and to some extent, location. As someone who began working in local radio, it has always been a particular passion of mine. When it is done well, it is immensely powerful, unbeatable and potent. Tokenistic localism fails almost every time and stands out for what it is- patently false.
Just think about the change in radio from the days of Independent Local Radio (ILR) beginning in 1973 with separately owned stations around the country to the current situation with those local licences carrying national networked output with very little real local content. Irrespective of the pros and cons of all of that change, and the consolidation going on behind it within media, there is also a background theme of a change in the relevance and meaning of local to someone in any given location. The invention of smartphones, globalisation in all genres and more connected world, make the idea of “local” appear perhaps a little small, secondary and unimportant to some. Again, hugely caveated with demographics amongst many metrics. A younger social media connected person, with “friends” with an actual wide geographical spread feels differently than someone did prior to that explosion of connections on social media. Before socials existed and the like of Friends Reunited kicked it all off, your friendship groups consisted of those with physical geographic connections (they lived close by), or they took a sizeable amount of physical effort to maintain- phone calls, visits and trips. The likes of Facetime, Skype, Whatsapp not existing meant a catch up required actual travel.
Its interesting therefore, with the news that the BBC Sounds app will include a “Local To Me” section, which will populate with stations, content and podcasts with a geographical relevance.
I was pondering on the reasoning. One of the byproducts perhaps of a more connected world is actually a feeling of more isolation. A real sense of belonging. Its almost like having to much choice- you can be connected to everything instantly and so can feel connected to nothing with any great meaningfulness as a result. The strength of radio has always been its curation- I can get every song released on my app, but having someone to navigate it, weed out the duds and tell me what I need to know, is where radio in particular has always had a strength and purpose.
Developing a local curation of the myriad of choices for audio content from radio and podcasts seems like a decent point of difference for BBC Sounds, and plugs nicely into the central BBC core purpose. Content quantity and quality will be the issues at hand and just how ‘Local to me” it actually is will be interesting- and I suspect it might be more regional in its scope, Midlands, South East, North West etc? I see from the PR in England it will be “Local to me” and in other nations, “From Wales”, “From Scotland” and “From Northern Ireland”.
All in all it is interesting to evolve the local angle and perspective and add local into the mix when it comes to searching for content, and reenforces local credentials to the BBC Sounds brand.
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