Orion offers to run BBC WM

Commercial radio group Orion Media are offering to run the BBC's local radio service for the West Midlands – and say they would do it at half the current cost to the licence-fee payer.

It follows an idea earlier this month that would see BBC local radio stations taking 5 Live for much of the day and only broadcasting locally-made programmes at peak times.

Orion say Chief Executive Phil Riley and Group Programme Director David Lloyd both have experience of major roles in broadcasting in the UK from regulation to content creation and business management. They successfully rebuilt London talk station LBC, re-establishing the image of the station and its audience. The team also applied in 2003 for a licence to run a commercial talk station in Birmingham called 'WBC'. David's previous role before joining Orion was a short spell as Head of Local and Regional Programmes for the BBC in East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Phil told RadioToday.co.uk that it was unthinkable that the UK’s second city should not have a fully operational news talk service. "The suggestion is outrageous," he said. "This city creates a mass of news and sport stories everyday. It is unacceptable that the BBC should be cutting back on its service to the city. We already have an accomplished and credible news and sports team based at brmb ready and willing to provide the service. Great talk radio is about not just news, but local presenters, interesting guests and listeners who want to participate and reflect the richness of the area where they live."

Mr Riley added that his group could save a significant amount of money for licence fee payers but still provide a full service. He added: "From our understanding of the costs of running BBC WM, we believe we could achieve a fifty percent saving. This would be great news for the listeners and the people of Birmingham and the country at large. Isn't this the 'Big Society' in operation – a commercial business offering to provide a public service at a fraction of the cost?"

A spokeswoman for BBC Nations and Regions confirmed to RadioToday.co.uk that they had received a letter from Orion and would respond in due course. She added that no decisions about the future of BBC local radio had been made so it would be wrong to speculate further.

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