The BBC Director General Tony Hall has announced that the evening programme, shared across Local Radio stations in England, will end after 5 years and be replaced with locally-made programmes instead.
Planned cuts to BBC Local Radio budgets have also been cancelled.
Speaking at the Gillard Awards at Coventry Cathedral on the 50th anniversary of the launch of the UK’s first local radio station, BBC Radio Leicester, Lord Hall said the corporation would invest in BBC Local Radio to make it ‘even more local and more creative’.
The DG announced that the £10m savings target, set out as part of the review into the BBC’s local and regional services, had been cancelled. He said that the BBC would instead relying on its ‘broader efficiency savings’ to ensure that Local Radio budgets were protected. The corporation will set out its full plans next year.
Lord Hall announced that there would be more creative freedom for Editors of BBC Local Radio stations and more partnerships with local organisations – as well as an apparent broadening of target audiences. “Local Radio should be for everybody,” he said. “It’s there to serve the Facebook generation as much as the rest of us.”
He also said there would be a creativity fund, a community action team based at each station and more input on digital platforms – which would be aimed at audiences of all ages.
Perhaps the most surprising moment of his speech came when he revealed that the shared evening programme – which has been broadcast across all of the BBC’s Local Radio stations in England for the last 5 years – will end next summer and be replaced by local programming. It is currently hosted by Georgey Spanswick, and before that was fronted by Mark Forrest for four years.
Tony Hall said: “I’m a Director-General who believes in Local Radio. I recognise the unique value the BBC locally can bring. We’re an organisation that’s global, national and rooted in our local teams. Local Radio is in the DNA of our communities. I think that is more important than ever. England’s changing. It’s always been a patchwork of communities, with quite distinct identities. While Newcastle’s population is getting older, Bradford’s is getting younger and Birmingham is becoming one of the most diverse cities in Europe. Decision-making is being devolved too – there are mayors in some of the big metropolitan areas and that’s having an impact.
“I want to hear the sound of England as it changes. So while other media are becoming creatively less local, I want us to become even more so and to connect with our audiences in new ways.
“For many years the BBC has been reducing its investment in Local Radio. The development of new technology and the growth of smartphones has seen many people getting their local news, weather and traffic information digitally. But the rise of digital technology has also seen the rise of fake news, not just on a global level but on a local one as well. That’s why the role of BBC Local Radio is actually becoming more important – not less.
“Local Radio should be for everybody. It’s there to serve the Facebook generation every bit as much as the rest of us. My ambition for BBC Local Radio is for it to have more creative freedom, to celebrate local life, to be the place where we report local news but also the place we reflect local identity, nurture local talent and engage local audiences through digital platforms. I want to see a renaissance in Local Radio.”
The BBC is also making it easier for people to find online local stories which affect their area. From tonight, people across England will have access to everything the BBC does locally, with one click, using their postcode.
Lord Hall was speaking at the start of the Gillard Awards, which celebrate BBC Local Radio and were held in Coventry. See all the winners here.