BBC Local Radio stations are to share programmes in regional clusters six afternoons a week, under proposals from the corporation’s Delivering Quality First announcement.
In addition the BBC is to end some medium wave and long wave transmissions, while digital station Asian Network sees its budget cut by 34%.
Across the BBC as a whole, around 2,000 jobs will go by 2017 as part of the plans to save £670m a year. A thousand more will move to BBC North in Salford, including TV channel BBC Three, with the corporation eventually planning to leave its West London base altogether.
Network radio stations will see more repeated programmes, although Radio 4’s budget remains largely unchanged and even a commitment to produce more ‘landmark programmes’ such as A History of the World in 100 Objects.
Separate news bulletins on Radio 1Xtra outside of breakfast will end, with the station taking a version of Radio 1’s news output. Radio 3 will also use shorter versions of the Radio 4 bulletins, while Radio 2 and 6 Music will also share news resources.
Comedy programming on Radio 2 and 5 Live will be reduced, with Radio 2 instead broadcasting showcases and ocasional programmes to develop new talent. Radio 2’s live music output will be cut with some repeats broadcast instead. 5 Live’s core output will be refocussed on news and sport.
Changes at Radio 3 include a reduction in the amount of original drama, live music and specially recorded lunchtime concerts – as well as a review of the BBC’s orchestras and singers.
There will be reductions to medium wave transmissions for local radio stations in England that duplicate coverage on FM, while Radio 4’s long wave service will eventually be turned off once the current infrastructure for delivering it ‘reaches the end of its life’.
Programme-sharing on BBC Local Radio stations will create ‘regional’ shows in the afternoon slot Monday to Friday and on Sundays, as well as an England-wide weekday evening show 7-10pm for stations not broadcasting sports commentaries to take.
BBC Local Radio
A BBC Trust consultation has begun on the proposals from management, with a closing date of 21 December.
Specifically it is asking for views on the following planned changes to local radio:
Focus spend on peak-time programmes: breakfast, mid-morning and drivetime; sport; and faith on Sunday mornings.
Increase levels of sharing programming in off-peak slots: weekday afternoons, Sunday afternoons and evenings
On weekday afternoons most stations would share programming with their neighbouring stations, although a few, which serve a particularly distinct audience, would remain separate
On weekday evenings between 7pm and 10pm, programming would be shared across England, with all stations coming together except when providing local sports commentaries
At other off-peak periods programme sharing would occur at a variety of levels. Some would be akin to the regional television areas, and during the late evening in five larger areas: the North; the West Midlands; the East Midlands; the East and South East; and the West and South West
All stations would broadcast Radio 5 Live from 1am until the start of their breakfast programme
A number of locally split breakfast programmes would end
Within all shared programming individual stations would continue to provide local news bulletins at present, and would be able to leave the shared schedules in times of civil emergency or bad weather
BBC London would lose a number of off-peak programmes and reduce other spend to bring the station more in line with other BBC Local Radio stations.
BBC Asian Network
A similar public consultation has also been launched, again with a closing date of 21 December. It seeks responses to the following proposals:
Maintain Asian Network as a national service
Broaden the existing audience to encompass British Asian listeners between 25 and 45
Focus on six distinctive content areas: BBC news, music and entertainment, Asian culture, discussion, languages and specialist music
Remove drama and documentary programmes from the station
Reduce the amount of weekday language programmes
Close the station between midnight and 6am
Commenting on the overall DQF proposals announced today, BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten said: “The BBC is far from perfect, but it is a great institution and, at its best, a great broadcaster. We have a tough and challenging new licence fee settlement, but it should still be possible to run an outstanding broadcaster on £3.5bn a year. Over half of the savings announced today will come from changes to operations, but there will need to be some changes to services, and we now need to test BBC management’s proposals for this. We agree with the direction that the Director-General has taken, but we want to hear what the public think, as it is ultimately their BBC.”
Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC, added: “This is a plan which puts quality and creativity first. It’s a plan for a smaller BBC, but a BBC which uses its resources more effectively and collaboratively to deliver a full range of services to the public. The plan meets the savings target we agreed in last year’s licence-fee settlement, but also identifies nearly £150m per year to invest in new high quality output and in the platforms and services of the future. But it is a plan which also means stretching efficiencies and significant job losses. It’s my judgement that this is the last time the BBC will be able to make this level of savings without a substantial loss of services or quality or both.”
You can ready the full DQF report on the BBC Trust website here.
See Director General Mark Thompson’s email to staff here.