BBC director-general urged to 'rethink' local radio cuts

The BBC announced it would overhaul its local radio services

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MPs from Hull have questioned why local radio is the “target” of BBC cuts in a letter to director-general Tim Davie.

Dame Diana Johnson, Karl Turner and Emma Hardy have urged Mr Davie to “rethink” the proposed cuts, describing local radio as a “major reason” the broadcaster is “the envy of the world”.

The BBC announced it would overhaul its local radio services with stations sharing more content and broadcasting less programming unique to their area.

Director General of the BBC Tim Davie
Director General of the BBC Tim Davie

Plans confirmed by the broadcaster on Monday included the loss of 48 jobs across local staffing in England, amounting to a total reduction of 2%. The proposals come as part of the BBC’s new strategy, announced in May, to create a “modern, digital-led” broadcaster.

The letter from the Labour MPs to Mr Davie said that “dedicated staff” from BBC Radio Humberside should not hear that their “livelihoods are at stake” through media headlines. The plans will see programming restricted to weekdays before 2pm.

The MPs continued: “As we celebrate 100 years of the BBC, we are sure you will agree that our local stations embody the founding values of a service built to inform, educate and entertain.

“Local radio output is a major reason why the BBC is the envy of the world, with local stations an essential element of the talent pipeline in the UK’s media and creative professions, which make a major and growing contribution to the UK economy.”

The letter also questioned why local radio listeners have not been consulted and insisted licence-fee payers would “prioritise all-day local radio output over a ‘digital first’ strategy”.

It concluded: “We therefore urge you to rethink the proposed cuts to local output and consult BBC listeners, who we believe will overwhelmingly support a continuation of current programming.”

They added that they “welcome the opportunity” to meet Mr Davie to discuss the importance of BBC Radio Humberside to their constituents.

In September, the BBC announced that 382 jobs at the World Service will be cut as part of plans to move to a digital-led service.

Regional TV news programmes in Oxford and Cambridge are also among the services being scrapped – merging with the BBC’s Southampton and Norwich operations.

Dame Diana Johnson, Karl Turner and Emma Hardy have urged Mr Davie to “rethink” the proposed cuts, describing local radio as a “major reason” the broadcaster is “the envy of the world”.
Dame Diana Johnson, Karl Turner and Emma Hardy have urged Mr Davie to “rethink” the proposed cuts, describing local radio as a “major reason” the broadcaster is “the envy of the world”.

The BBC needs to save a further £285 million in response to the announcement in January that the licence fee will be frozen for the next two years.

The corporation has delivered over £1 billion of savings in the five years to 2021/22.

Rhodri Talfan Davies, director of BBC Nations, said: “These proposals aim to maintain the distinctiveness of our local services while allowing the BBC to adapt with our audiences and ensure we remain relevant.

“Taken together they will ensure our network of local services, across TV, radio, online and Sounds, offer more value for audiences.

“BBC local radio remains an essential service for millions of listeners, the very best local radio network in the world, but it’s also essential we make difficult choices that will enable us to reach out to many people that increasingly rely on their mobiles for local content.”