BBC scales back local radio cuts to £8m - Press Gazette

BBC scales back local radio cuts to £8m

The BBC has halved its proposed cutbacks across its local radio network from £15m to around £8m.

Within the new figure, direct savings to ‘scope and content’have been slashed from £8.5m to £2.1m.

But there are stil plans to scale back local radio coverage – including the creation of a new shared all-England programme broadcast on weekday evenings from 7-10pm.

The corporation’s governing body, the BBC Trust, also announced today:

  • “Afternoon sharing will be limited to a very small number of stations, either where currently operational or where there are strong editorial reasons for doing so
  • “Sport and other community output will be more protected than originally proposed to ensure range and variety. There will be a number of editorial changes to how stations schedule minority output, with most of this output scheduled at weekends
  • “Cuts to on the ground journalists and reporters will be much lower with additional efficiency savings targeted at reducing layers of management within local stations.”

The BBC had originally planned to cut the BBC local radio budget by 14 per cent as part of the Delivering Quality First initiative, but the organisation has met with protest from the public and politicians.

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten signalled a retreat on the proposals in January when he said the corporation should water down its proposed cuts to local radio.

Other proposals featured in the BBC’s final conclusions on DQF include:

  • On weekday evenings (19:00 – 22:00) all radio stations will join together for a new all-England programme, although stations can opt-out for local sports coverage
  • Local broadcasting (apart from BBC London 94.9 and a small number of other stations where editorially relevant) should commence by 06:00 rather than 05:00
  • The locally split breakfast programmes within Devon, Three Counties, Wiltshire and Cambridgeshire will end
  • All stations will broadcast Radio 5 live from 1am until the start of their breakfast programme (already the case in most stations, but now BBC Newcastle and BBC London 94.9 will also broadcast Radio 5 live overnight)
  • As originally proposed, within all shared programming, individual stations would continue to provide local news bulletins as at present, and would be able to opt-out of shared schedules in times of civil emergency or bad weather
  • Some re-investment funding, targeted at local newsgathering, will be made available.

The BBC also announced that proposed savings at the Asian Network have been cut from 40 per cent to 18 per cent.

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said: “This is the end of a lengthy process for the BBC, designed to ensure we can meet a tough but fair licence settlement for the next five years. Delivering the changes we have approved today will be challenging, but they are necessary.

“We’ve listened carefully to the views of those who care about the BBC, and taken our time to get this right, encouraging the executive to amend plans where we think they need further thought, as the changes to local radio proposals show.

“Our focus now is to ensure that audiences notice as little change as possible to the services they know and love, and we will be monitoring audience reactions very carefully through our ongoing programme of reviews and reports.”