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BBC execs defend local radio cuts to MPs

By | Published on Friday 2 December 2022


BBC execs yesterday defended the incoming cutbacks to the broadcaster’s local radio output in England, although they said that some of the specifics of those changes may as yet evolve based on feedback from staff and listeners.

The BBC is planning to reduce the amount of local programming that is aired on its network of local stations around England. As a result, for big chunks of the day local stations in each region of the country will broadcast the same programmes, while at 10pm each weekday the same late night show will air across the whole network.

From a music perspective, there has been particular concern about what those changes will mean for the BBC Music Introducing initiative that has always been built upon the various local BBC Introducing programmes, each of which is focused on supporting and championing new talent and the wider music community in its local area.

The BBC’s Director Of Nations Rhodri Talfan Davies and Director Of England Jason Horton were questioned about the cutbacks by MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee in the UK Parliament yesterday.

According to Radio Today, Talfan Davies was keen to stress that the changes to the BBC’s local output were more about shifting focus than cutting back, with budget being moved from live and local radio programmes to online news.

He told MPs: “We are keeping 39 local stations across England. We are keeping local bases of at least 25 staff in each of our local bases and strengthening the size of our local news teams. This is fundamentally not about a reduction in services. It’s about making sure our portfolio of local services that we deliver across radio, television and online keep pace with the way audiences are changing”.

Both Talfan Davies and Horton stressed that BBC bosses are listening to internal and external feedback about the changes, particularly in terms of how local stations in any one region share programmes, or indeed which local stations should be in any one group.

Horton told MPs “there are very active discussions going on internally about programme sharing and I think we can potentially make those proposals better”, while Talfan Davies added: “Do I think the exact model we’ve announced will be the one we implement? I doubt it, because you live and you learn”.

That said, Talfan Davies also indicated that any alterations to the changes already announced won’t be major, stating: “We are looking at some aspects of the programme shares at the moment but I don’t think there will be significant changes”.

In terms of the possible impact on BBC Introducing, the host of that programme in Sussex and Surrey, Melita Dennett, previously urged music fans and the music community to formally express their concerns via the BBC’s online complaints page.