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Andy Carter MP: Radio is a powerful way to reach audiences beyond the Westminster bubble

Andy Carter MP: Radio is a powerful way to reach audiences beyond the Westminster bubble

Andy Carter MP | Radiocentre

5 min read Partner content

Ensuring radio businesses remain strong is good for jobs and the economy, as well as for democracy as it keeps politicians accountable. It also means we can communicate with people of all backgrounds and interests, not only those in a social media echo-chamber or metropolitan bubble. 

As I knocked on doors across Warrington South seeking votes in the 2019 General Election, none of us could have imagined what 2020 would bring. 

Coronavirus has affected every aspect of our lives in some way – whether it is our daily routine or how we work, where we can go, who we can see or broader questions on the state of the economy and Government decisions.

This creates unique challenges for all of us. As a former broadcaster and journalist, I am particularly interested in the way the UK’s news media has responded and its crucial role in reaching a broad range of people from all backgrounds across the country.

I spent much of my career running commercial radio stations and I remain convinced it’s a powerful and underrated way of reaching all kinds of audiences, including many who might not be avid consumers of news on other media.

Those very people who I was happily meeting and shaking hands with back in 2019.  

During the pandemic, all media have had a real responsibility to sort fact from fiction and provide up-to-date, accurate information to help us understand what is happening and why.

This role has become increasingly difficult in recent years, but also increasingly important, with the rise of fake news spreading across social media.

One medium that plays this role brilliantly is radio.

I spent much of my career running commercial radio stations and I remain convinced it’s a powerful and underrated way of reaching all kinds of audiences, including many who might not be avid consumers of news on other media.

These audiences exist beyond the usual media news bubble and are the subject of a new report Commercial Radio: Beyond the Bubble from Radiocentre, the industry body for commercial radio in the UK.

News on commercial radio takes different forms.

There are national news and speech networks covering news in depth.

Most notably, LBC has established itself as a genuine alternative to the BBC in recent years.  New players like the excellent Times Radio are also helping to extend choice and plurality.

But music and entertainment stations also have an important role.

National networks like Heart or Hits Radio not only draw huge audiences, but also deliver regular updates on important national and local news stories.

Small independent stations, irrespective of their size and coverage, also have their own professional news teams gathering stories and putting them into a local context, making them relevant and human.


I’m keen to do whatever I can to support media businesses, such as commercial radio stations, that deliver such essential public value through news journalism.

Radiocentre’s new research explores audience attitudes and behaviours in relation to radio news.

The research looks particularly at ‘outsiders’, who like to stay informed but don’t necessarily seek out updates on news or current affairs across other media.

This group is less likely to live in London or the South East of England. The majority are female, not from higher socio-economic groups and more likely to be floating voters.

Their outlook means they are much less likely than other audience groups to seek out political news in the press.

They are more than twice as likely as other groups to say they never read a newspaper at all and significantly more likely to say they never use social media. 

Yet despite not seeking out political news, these people are actually more engaged with politics in many ways and play an influential role. 

We know this because they vote in significantly higher numbers than average, with 77% saying they voted in the last election compared to the total turnout of 67%. 

It is notable that commercial radio stations connect with this group in a particularly powerful way. 

Commercial radio is their top source for news in the morning and ranks first for both national and local updates at this time of day. It is also their top source during emergencies such as the current pandemic and the place they go to keep in touch.

As a result of their preferences, they are twice as likely to switch off TV news than commercial radio. They are also more likely to avoid social media.

We shouldn’t underestimate this value to audiences beyond the bubble of London and the South East, particularly during difficult times.

As a result, I’m keen to do whatever I can to support media businesses such as commercial radio stations that deliver such essential public value through news journalism – because they in turn help my constituents make better sense of the world around us.

An advertising tax credit for UK media is one way in which the Government could provide a broader economic stimulus while also helping these important industries that rely on advertising revenue. 

Ensuring these businesses remain strong is good for jobs and the economy, as well as for democracy as it keeps politicians accountable.

It also means we can communicate with people of all backgrounds and interests, not only those in a social media echo-chamber or metropolitan bubble. 

Something that is all the more important until we can get back out and meet each other once again.

You can read the full report here

Andy Carter is the Conservative MP for Warrington South. He is Chair of both the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Commercial Radio and the APPG on Media. 

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