Cuts threat to local BBC radio shows

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SOME well-known voices on local radio could disappear from the airwaves as Radio Sheffield’s output is set to be drastically cut under money-saving plans by the BBC Trust in the wake of government cuts.

BBC Radio Sheffield is set to lose 16 per cent, or £300,000, of its £1.8 million annual budget which will bring job cuts and could reduce local broadcasting hours from 16 to nine a day.

The proposals are for no early show before 6am, more sharing at the weekends with other radio stations, potentially Radio Leeds and Radio York, and a shared regional afternoon show. From 7pm to 10pm there will be “a new All England programme”.

A spokesperson said: “These proposals protect peak-time programmes when the audience is highest and the output is the most distinctive. That is breakfast, mid-morning and drive-time programmes, plus sport and faith on Sunday mornings. These are the times of the day when stations deliver the bulk of their journalism.”

Look North will continue at 6.30pm on weekdays on BBC1 but there are proposals to lose the 3pm and Saturday lunchtime bulletins.

There are likely to be cuts to live sports coverage with commentary of local teams’ away matches coming from the BBC local radio station in the opponents’ area.

The number of potential post cuts across the Yorkshire region is 29, say management.

The proposals follow the licence fee settlement agreed with the Government last October, which sees the fee frozen until 2017, and the BBC assuming new funding responsibilities which will require savings equivalent to at least 16 per cent of licence fee income.

The plans, which are open for public consultation, have been criticised for ‘devaluing’ local radio and disproportionate compared with savings of 7.5 per cent at national stations.

Kate Linderholm, National Union of Journalists’ representative at BBC Radio Sheffield, said: “While my members are concerned about jobs cuts, they are more shocked and angry the service we provide is being devalued.

“Most local radio listeners are working class, many are poor and many are old. Local radio is likely to be the only BBC radio they access. For the universal licence fee to work, the BBC has to serve all those who pay it. It has decided it no longer wants to serve many of its working-class listeners.”

A 40 per cent cut to regional television current affairs programme Inside Out is also planned along with the loss of medium wave for local radio, bringing to an end language programmes for ethnic minority groups.

Penistone and Stocksbridge Labour MP Angela Smith plans to organise a debate in Parliament about the future of local radio.

She said: “The BBC Trust says it is right to protect the budget of Radio 4 and increase funding for the Proms when it also wants to cut local radio quite seriously when it is a service which reaches far more people.”

The Voice of the Listener and Viewer is hosting a public meeting in Manchester on Saturday on the future of public service broadcasting.

“Although it is an hour’s journey to Manchester for Sheffielders, some local viewers and listeners may feel strongly enough to join in this public debate and use this unique opportunity to quiz the broadcasters and programme makers face to face about the kinds and quality of programmes they most value,” says the VLV’s David Eggington.

“Even if they cannot make it over to Manchester, they can have their say by contacting VLV which is collating the public’s views and/or the BBC Trust by email or post.”

Write to VLV Ltd, PO Box 401, Gravesend, Kent DA12 9FY, email info@vlv.org.uk, or Delivering Quality First, BBC Trust, 180 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ, email dqf.consultation@bbc.co.uk