MPs are discussing proposed changes to BBC Local Radio in a Parliamentary debate this morning.
It follows plans under the corporation’s DQF programme to introduce regional programmes during off-peak hours on the 40 services around England.
Writing on the BBC Blog, BBC Director of News Helen Boaden – the woman in overall charge of BBC Local Radio – said that the debate at Westminster Hall came as no surprise to those who understand the ‘passion radio engenders in the mildest of audiences.’
She said it wasn’t true to say that Local Radio is being picked on in the cuts. “Local Radio is being asked to make savings of 12%. That’s actually lower than the average savings across the rest of the BBC. However – and here’s the rub – if you take out of the equation the cost of buildings and technology which are required to broadcast in 40 different local towns around England, then the cuts inevitably fall on the people who make the programmes. That’s why in some stations we will be reducing teams by over 20% which no one pretends will be easy.”
Helen Boaden continued: “We are also trying to preserve what really matters to our audiences. We are focussing our resources on Breakfast and mid-morning as well as Drive, weekend mornings and Saturday sport – some 86% of the audience listens to these programmes. To enable us to protect those periods of the day, we are proposing that most of our stations share a mid-afternoon programme with their neighbours – becoming less local and more regional – for our low audience periods. We’re also planning to create a shared programme across England for the evenings. Of course if a big breaking news story happens during these shared programmes, the station involved can opt out and broadcast locally again.”
She added: “Despite the cuts, I believe that BBC Local Radio can survive and even thrive because it will always have its unique connection to its audiences. By 2016 we will still have 40 BBC Local Radio stations delivering quality output to audiences who rely on us and often love us.”
Read more of Helen’s blog post here.