It didn’t have to be like this – Local BBC Radio cuts by Nicky Horne

Broadcaster Nicky Horne has been gathering first-hand reactions to the current changes taking place at Local BBC Radio.

And now, in a RadioToday exclusive opinion piece, we present the reality of what the BBC’s repurposing programme means for those involved as presenter continue to tweet about their departures.

It didn’t have to be like this.

A well-known and loved presenter literally on the verge of suicide, on a cliff edge, having to be talked down by a colleague in a two-hour late-night conversation.

It didn’t have to be like this.

Presenters who had been loyal to the radio station for decades being made to plead for their jobs in a grotesque, 60 second test against the clock to answer the question: ‘Why should we save you?’. One senior presenter being told at the Board: “Look at this like speed dating”. (Dear Tim Davie, whoever thought of putting presenters through that should be immediately sacked.) It was cruel, humiliating, and degrading.

It didn’t have to be like this.

If BBC management had listened to the wise John Myers, whose report that they had commissioned recommended that management be cut in half, this cull would not have been necessary. Sadly, like many reports in the past that have been critical of BBC management, it was conveniently ignored.

I worked for a while deputising regularly at BBC Radio Solent, mainly on the drive-time show. I was told then by the then Editor: “drive-time really doesn’t matter! Can you imagine a programmer in commercial radio ever saying that to a member of staff about to go on-air?

I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with some of the best programmers and producers in the business including Michael Bukht, Tim, Blackmore, Aidan Day, Johnny Beerling and now David Lloyd. I have worked in many different radio stations, mainly commercial and each had its own unique personality. So did BBC Radio Solent. It’s personality was toxic. I have never witnessed such a terrible atmosphere in any radio station I’ve ever worked.

Don’t just take my word for it. In a staff survey, the contents of which were suppressed, only 15% at BBC Radio Solent agreed with the statement: “At the BBC, there is open and honest, two-way communication”. Only 17% agreed with the statement. “I have confidence in the BBC’s executive team”.

I saw good people ground down by inept management, both at the local level and higher, who really didn’t have a clue about what makes a good local radio station. You can’t have people running a radio station who don’t care about radio.

It didn’t have to be like this.

Whilst commercial radio has, to all intents and purposes, destroyed its local offering the BBC really was the last bastion of localness. When U.K. commercial radio started, it did so much for its communities, not just to entertain, not just to inform, not just to educate, but to be part of the fabric of the local society.

Now, local radio generally will soon no longer exist in any meaningful form. I am a passionate believer in it and have been since my days at UBN, United Biscuits Network, which had regional opt-outs for each factory. That was local radio, and it breaks my heart to see local radio destroyed by inept and incompetent management at New Broadcasting House.

BBC local is given £117m of our cash to spend on content alone. They are the last bastion for local radio and now they can’t even manage that.

Don’t believe all this stuff about ‘digital first’. It’s a sleight of hand, just smoke and mirrors. If BBC management thinks that the audience is going to embrace this brave new world, they must be sniffing some really serious glue.

It’s not only the audience that will suffer when their favourite presenters disappear. Their replacements won’t know the area, nor its people, and will be charged with replacing local heroes. I genuinely fear for their mental health.

In the meantime, while this tortuous process continues, a very large number of good presenters are going to be worrying about what comes next. If they can pay their mortgage. If they can feed their families. One person wrote to me distraught because her husband is suffering from terminal cancer and she is the only breadwinner.

Now, she’s lost her job and, to add to the ignominy, she’s not allowed to say anything to anyone for fear of losing her redundancy. This is an utter disgrace and I cannot believe that Tim Davie wants to preside over an organisation this callous, this inept, this cruel.

It didn’t have to be this way.”

Nicky Horne has been broadcasting for over 50 years, working at BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, Capital, Classic FM, Virgin Radio and many more. You can follow him and his tweets about Local BBC Radio cuts here.

Posted on Friday, April 28th, 2023 at 2:07 pm by Guest

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Similar Stories
buy metformin metformin online