Local radio, one of the BBC’s most treasured departments, is the latest to be hit by the swingeing cuts to the BBC News division.
A long-expected plan was unveiled in the past hour for bringing local radio within the BBC’s digital-led strategy that will see 48 redundancies – a total reduction of 2% – along with the cancellation of a number of shows. The BBC will, however, create 11 investigative reporting teams across the country to “analyze local issues,” it said.
Local TV news programs in Oxford and Cambridge will close and there will be more sharing of programs as radio, TV and online are brought together, with 18 afternoon shows after 2pm shared across multiple stations and 10 shows between 6pm-10pm shared including an All England program. The latter comes as current affairs TV show We Are England comes to an end after just one year.
“These are ambitious and far-reaching proposals to grow the value we deliver to local audiences everywhere,” said Director of Nations Rhodri Talfan Davies. “The plans will help us connect with more people in more communities right across England, striking a better balance between our broadcast and online services and ensuring we remain a cornerstone of local life for generations to come.”
The BBC has been implementing government-imposed savings of £80M ($91.9M) per year and Deadline revealed in September around 380 redundancies are to come in the World Service division, while the much-criticized merger of the Domestic and International news channel is currently being pushed through.
Philippa Childs, the head of UK broadcasting union Bectu, said the cuts’ impact on staff will be “devastating,” blaming the government’s decision to freeze the license fee for the next two years.”
“Behind the political shrill about the BBC is the reality of today’s announcement: talented and hardworking people who deliver local services face job losses, and audiences and communities will suffer from reduced local output and ultimately a reduced BBC,” she added.
Often flagged as a key differentiator between the pubcaster and U.S. streaming giants, local news has always been a pillar of the BBC’s offering and came in for much praise during the Covid-19 pandemic in particular. Just prior to former Prime Minister Liz Truss’ resignation, she faced a bruising round of local news interviews that were roundly praised for the way in which they held her to account.
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