Helen Thomas announces leadership structure changes

BBC Director of England Helen Thomas says BBC Local Radio will “own local conversations and reflect life in modern England” as part of changes announced to staff today.

The leadership of BBC England will also be reworked to a structure based around platforms rather than geography.

A Head of News and Head of TV Commissioning will be appointed alongside the Head of Audio and Digital with an overall reduction in the number of senior managers.

The BBC says it will “reinvent and refresh” its offer in England – including BBC local radio and regional TV news – to ensure it is providing the best possible services to all audiences across the country.

“Continuing the work already underway to reinvent Local Radio so it owns local conversations, (Local Radio will) fully reflect the diverse communities it serves and become the front-door for new talent into the BBC, uncovering and nurturing the broadcasting stars of tomorrow,” a statement says.

Helen Thomas says: “BBC England is in a strong position. Our regional TV news bulletins at 6.30pm are collectively the most watched news programme on UK TV. Six million people listen to our local radio stations each week. People value the services we offer.

“But there are significant groups who don’t engage enough with what we do. England is changing and audience behaviour is changing too. This presents us with a challenge and an exciting opportunity.

“We’re going to reinvent and refresh what we do in England to ensure we reflect all of the country’s diverse communities while providing services in ways people want them.

“We will be about more than news – we will own local conversations and reflect life in modern England, recognising the different audience demands in different parts of the country and what that means for our output. And we will become the BBC’s front-door for new talent, the place where the broadcasting stars of tomorrow are uncovered and nurtured.”

Plans announced today also include the launch of a digital platform aimed at young audiences in England and a simplified leadership structure across the country as the BBC seeks to improve its offer to English audiences.

The proposed leadership restructure is the biggest change to the structure of BBC England in 50 years. There are currently ten head of regions and a head of digital. These posts will close. There will be six new senior editorial roles – a Head of News and a Head of TV Commissioning and four regional leads covering the North, the Midlands, the East and South East and the West and South West.

Chris Burns, who was announced in 2018 as the Head of Audio and Digital, will continue to lead local radio. It means the number of senior managers will reduce from eleven to eight.

Helen Thomas adds: “These changes will ensure we have a clear management structure. We’ll also be saving money as the number of senior managers will be reduced.

“We want to have clear leaders for all our services and operate in terms of platforms rather than geographical locations. Ultimately, this is all about providing a better experience for our audiences.”

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13 Comments
  1. Nicholas Hartounian says

    “…we will own local conversations and reflect life in modern England”. It is nearly 2020 and the BBC want to ‘own’ local conversations. This ambition is as anachronistic as it is arrogant. This ship sailed 25 years ago and the BBC never turned up for boarding!

    “…we will become the BBC’s front-door for new talent, the place where the broadcasting stars of tomorrow are uncovered and nurtured”. No you won’t. New talent is using other platforms and being discovered there.

    This presser is full of the corporate platitudes “…significant groups who don’t engage enough with what we do. England is changing and audience behaviour is changing too. This presents us with a challenge and an exciting opportunity. We’re going to reinvent and refresh what we do to ensure we reflect all of the country’s diverse communities while providing services in ways people want them”. You couldn’t make it up. It’s like something straight from W1A.

    Then, it’s easy to spend someone else’s money when it’s the licence fee. Hopefully the fact that it didn’t work won’t be discovered for a decade and by then the BBC pension will have kicked in and it will be someone else problem. BBC gold.

  2. Dan Dean says

    Well said Nicolas.
    I say it again!!!….the whole concept is dated and of it’s time, it really is not relevant in 2019. It should be put out of it’s misery.

  3. Len Groat says

    This must be the FIFTH or SIXTH time all the (over-paid) ‘professionals’ in the cozy BBC management have tried to save this dying group of radio stations.

    How many more attempts are you going to have?

    Some statiosn are good, a little quirky, most are VERY poor.

    The BBC had the answer YEARS ago – use DJ’s from what were the ILR stations locally which their current audience ‘grew up with’ (before Global/ Bauer meddled)

    + DROP the all speech breakfast shows and the inexperienced, YAPPY male/female teams…. and have just one DJ one newsreader !

  4. Lord Reith says

    Sadly after over fifty years the BBC local radio network is not complete and in places being patched up. Licence payers living in Dorset have a LR (Radio Solent) which for most of the time is shared with Hampshire and based in Southampton. The only local element is a weekday breakfast segment.

    BBC Surrey is shared with Sussex for most of the time and the presenters have the annoying habit of mentioning “BBC Sussex and BBC Surrey” with modern technology they could use voice imaging for each county.

    Len Groat mentions Yappy male and female teams… yes they’ve got a former Capital Radio DJ and a female presenter who both can’t stop talking.

    Some of their news readers could do a better job.

  5. phil says

    whilst yappy male and female presenters are a bit annoying they are the difference between commercial stations and the BBC. WHilst the music stations are listenable as background, BBC stations are meant to be listened to, a friend to those who want talking as a companion (hence the success of Radio 4) and a talking point. The lack of funds supplied to BBC local stations meant their amalgamation, again hence sussex and surrey. Again the promise of radio for “significant groups who don’t engage with us” is a red herring and, as someone said, straight out of w1A. Who are those groups and what do they want to listen to? More importantly, BBC Local stations need to find out who their market is or, conversely, investigate what market they want to be in – you can’t have a speech station and also appeal to a young audience.

  6. Colin Williams says

    Will we still get a chance to discuss our favourite biscuits?

    1. Michael says

      Oh BBC LR has long since moved on discussing bland subjects. Have a listen to the weekday morning phone in on BBC 3CR, Venessa Feltz on Radio London and local radio supremo Allan Beswick on Radio Manchester. Y’know its such a pity local commercial radio can’t be bothered to give a platform to their younger listeners to exchange views, concerns etc, via use of modern technology.

      KEEP THE LICENSE FEE BUT CONTINUE TO CUT OUT WASTE LIKE THE BBC HAS BEEN DOING UNDER ITS CURRENT DG. ITS WELL WORTH THE MONEY OTHERWISE WE’LL BE LEFT WITH A COMMERCIAL BROADCASTING NIGHTMARE!!!.

  7. Radio Geordie says

    The only reason many people listen to the BBC Locals is because they are the only ones with local football commentaries. And they only have them because the commercials think it doesn’t fit their networked station image.

  8. Peter says

    I stopped listening to BBC local radio when night network started, although I’ve listened since it seems to have turned into talk radio so I would rather listen to commercial radio instead, less talk and more music.

  9. Michael says

    BBC LR sport coverage is absolutely first class. Just listen to BBC 3CR’s Monday Night Sports’ programme in addition to their Saturday afternoon sports programme if you live in Beds, Herts n Bucks.

  10. Roger Bourne says

    The BBC were late to the Party when it came to playing the music we REALLY wanted to hear. They dictated what we heard and who we didn’t hear. Now the doors are flung wide open and we get a few good songs swamped with whatever they feel may be the latest craze–they don’t know, never have and only know the difference between what is truly genius and what is total rubbish years down the line. From being very selective and totally biased gate keepers they now seem to have no standards at all when it comes to new acts and new songs. The bar has never been set so low.

  11. Peter M says

    Give Peterborough it’s own Radio station and allow Gillard Award Winner and well loved and respected ex BBC Broadcaster Paul Stainton to control. I, like many, in Northern Cambridgeshire have turned off BBC RADIO CAMBRIDGESHIRE as the north of the county (Peterborough) is constantly being ignored. Your stats will show Paul’s 40,000 listenership for a mid morning show just doesn’t feature because he was not issued any new contact so your current set up is seriously lacking.
    My advice is to invite local people to sit on what would effectively be a ‘local radio Trust Board’ to monitor radio integration, have a say in who presents shows in the local area they serve.

  12. Joe Smith says

    Aren’t PR people absolutely first class?

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