The Chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten has asked BBC management to reconsider elements of the DQF proposals for cuts to the corporation’s local radio stations.
Plans for afternoon programme sharing, drastic changes to newsroom staffing levels and the removal of off-peak specialist programmes could all be be scrapped.
It follows the public consultation on Delivering Quality First savings which ran in the last quarter of 2011 and led to much pubic criticism of how seriously the proposed changes to BBC Local Radio would affect output in each area of the country.
Lord Patten gave a keynote speech to the Oxford Media Convention this afternoon. He said: “Our consultation and our research have raised real concerns that some aspects of the plans as they stand would have a disproportionate impact on its local and regional output and the contribution such output makes to the most important priority for the BBC – its journalism. While the BBC needs to reduce costs in these areas just as it does everywhere else, we agree that local and regional services in England provide something unique for audiences that can otherwise be neglected by the mainstream media. The BBC cannot afford to get these changes wrong. So we have asked the management to look again at the planned cuts to local radio. To see if they can find more money to protect the local identity of services.”
In an email to staff Mark Thompson said: “I’m pleased to say that at this stage the Trust has endorsed the great majority of our proposals. They support the way we have set about balancing the financial challenge we face with an unwavering commitment to quality programming. They agree that we were right to focus our resources around protecting the five editorial priorities and maintaining investment in those parts of the BBC that bring the greatest value to the greatest number of people – peak programming on our flagship television and radio channels. There are a small number of areas where they have asked us to look again at our plans and see if we can make changes.”
Management will also look again at whether the weekly current affairs programme on Radio 5 live should be dropped – as well as a proposal to have larger regions for the current affairs TV show Inside Out. In all the proposals that the BBC is being asked to reconsider would mean the corporation having to find an alternative £10m of budget savings from elsewhere.
The Trust’s final DQF conclusions are due to be published in the Spring – today’s interim findings are available on the BBC Trust website.