Yesterday news that the BBC was looking at hacking away at their 40 local radio stations started to break. I think I read it first in this piece in the Guardian but since it has been reported pretty much everywhere including the by the BBC itself.
The short story is that the BBC want to save money and one of the ways they are considering to do this is to chop the BBC local radio stations so they have a local breakfast show and early evening (drive time) show with all other content being provided nationally by Radio 5 Live.
The NUJ are saying this could cost 700 jobs nationally, which is bad, but then put some perspective around this and look at Stoke-on-Trent City Council for example which is losing 700 staff in a city of around 240,000 people.
Jeremy Dear, the NUJ’s general secretary said, BBC Local Radio played ‘a crucial role’ in informing communities, and said that such proposals would ‘effectively sound the death knell’ for local radio, in a statement he said:
“The BBC’s plans would be a blow to quality journalism at the BBC and fly in the face of public commitments to localism and transparency. Local radio programmes are produced by local people for local audiences yet these decisions are being taken far away from communities and behind closed doors,”
The BBC Local Radio service has already been down graded with regional program sharing. If you look at BBC Radio Stoke right now as I am writing this (22:53) Keith Middleton is on the air, from Shropshire, before him Jim Hawkins also from Shropshire, at midnight it goes to Radio 5 Live until 6am.
So the damage has already been done, costs have been cut, sharing has started so would a bit more make that much difference? Would BBC Radio Midfordshire be any worse off by only having 2 shows a day? Of course there will be a group of people who will have a massive hole in their day because they listen all the time, although I fear this group of people are dying out, quite literally, but would it be so bad?
Although the plans are in their early stages, I don’t see anyone say there won’t be local news or content. I’m sure the BBC don’t plan to not report on anything unless it is of national importance or London centric, or maybe they do? It is quite feasible for the BBC to have regional news rooms, like the Mailbox in Birmingham and local reporters as they do in Stoke and for them to produce news packages that can be run on the end of the national news bulletin, look at BBC TV they have been doing it for years, so why should radio be different? Look at commercial local radio, they are creating news hubs that will centralise the news gathering for a whole region but provide local bulletins for each of the stations.
There was a discussion on the Today Program on Radio 4 this morning where Professor Gerry Stoker said it is essential to have local media coverage to call peoples attention issues at a local level. Charlie Beckett Director of POLIS cited hyperlocal websites such as Pits n Pots as delivering real accountability when it comes to holding councillors to account, you can listen to the discussion here on the BBC, Today 12 March. I have made an archive copy of the segment, which you can listen to in the player below.
Personally, and this will be a surprise to some people both at 6 Towns Radio & the BBC, I would feel let down if BBC Radio Stoke went. I understand the need for change within the organisation and change should be seen as a launch pad to do different things, to push the boundaries. The BBC is one of the few organisations that probably could do the same for less, we all know that it is still gold plated, not Gold Plated like it used to be, but there is an awful lot of fat in the system still.
I strongly believe they could do a lot more, a lot better if they wanted to, but wanting to is one of the barriers that needs to be overcome. If only the BBC mentality of self importance could be broken down and the community and localisam could be put back in to the stations.
Posted from Stoke-on-Trent, England, United Kingdom.