BBC boss defends huge cuts to local radio stations: ‘It’s changing’

BBC director grilled on cuts to local radio stations

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During Saturday’s episode of BBC Breakfast, the presenter Samira Ahmed was introduced for the NewsWatch segment to address viewers’ opinions about BBC news. She welcomed BBC Director of Nations Rhodri Talfan Davies, who defended the local radio cuts after viewers shared their concerns.

On Monday, the BBC confirmed plans for a major overhaul of all local radio stations across England, which would see 48 job cuts. 

They also confirmed all 39 of the stations would continue their dedicated programs until 2 pm.

The BBC would then produce afternoon programs which would be shared across 18 stations in England. 

Samira listened to viewers’ concerns and took them to BBC boss Rhodri, who defended the cuts

Rhodri stated: “Let’s remember what these proposals are, we’re planning to keep all our local stations, all 39 local stations completely local between 6am and 2pm when most of us tune in. 

“Then during the rest of the afternoon rather than 39 programs, we’ll have 18 programs across England still much more local than the local television news services. 

“Some of the bigger services will keep their local services in the afternoon and then the smaller stations, we’ll pair them, in two’s or three’s and they’ll share their programming during their part of their day.”

He continued: “You’re talking there about cuts, let be really clear no one pulling wool over anyone’s eyes, we’re not cutting, we’re not reducing our spend on local services but we are changing the way we spend it.”

Rhodri explained: ”That’s to really mirror what we’re seeing in terms of the way audiences consume media, more and more people are turning online and expecting strong local content from the BBC.

“So we’re reprioritising 10 percent of our expenditure on local services towards strengthening local online services and local audience services.”

However, Samira hit back: “We know a lot of local radio presenters are potentially going to lose their jobs and a lot of the evening content is no longer going to be local it’s going to be regional.

“A lot of that content is focused on Black and minority communities, with presenters from this background … how is that serving audience diversity?” 

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Rhodri responded: “We’ll make sure as we make these changes to stay focused on serving the full breadth of our communities and we do that very, very carefully.

“But I want to stress, even with these changes across the day will still remain much more local than our television news programmes in each region. 

“I do think local identity can be quite fluid, if you go to Yorkshire it rivalries between Bradford and Leeds, there’s still a very strong Yorkshire identity.”

He added: “So this idea, localness is defined by county boundaries isn’t borne out by reality.”

“What we need to make sure of is that those afternoon stations are our share between two or three stations and that’s why we’ll be investing more money into those programmes. 

Samira also asked about older audiences who “don’t use digital services.”

To which Rhodri said: “Local radio is an absolute jewel, we want to keep it strong but we have to make some difficult choices about how we balance our spend across different platforms.”

BBC Breakfast airs daily from 6 am

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