Thursday, 8 December 2011

Keep it local

People are rightly proud of the BBC. When I visit other countries, I’m forever told that the things they most admire about the UK are our NHS and our BBC. It’s no surprise that they say they believe the BBC to be the most fair, balanced, impartial and trusted news service in the world. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it never gets thing wrong; it does, but don’t we all?

We may also grumble about the ludicrous amounts paid to some celebrities and the number of repeated programmes. But I think the (less than) £3 a week I pay for my TV licence – which covers the cost of all BBC TV, Radio and website – as one of my best value buys. It’s about the same as the cost of a pint of bitter, just two days of my national and local newspapers or a woman’s magazine. The average household watches, or listens to, 19 hours of BBC programmes each week.

But the licence has now been fixed for the next 6 years, which means the BBC has to make 20% cuts in its net expenditure. Some services - like BBC One, Radio 4, Children’s Television and BBC News – are to be protected, which means the planned cuts are to fall much heavier on other areas.

Local radio in England – but not N Ireland, Scotland or Wales – is targeted for a 20% cut. The BBC is proposing not only cuts in local news and current affairs journalism, but also increased syndication - some programmes will not be local but be common across the region – and that the commentary of football matches will only come from the home team’s reporters.

So, when Sheffield Wednesday play at Leeds Utd next season, the Radio Sheffield commentary will only be made by the Radio Leeds team. But, it’s precisely because current local radio coverage is provided by reporters who know and understand the local area, community and club that makes it qualitatively different and superior. I’ve been in correspondence with BBC bosses about this and I have to say that they just don’t get it.

So, if you’re a regular listener to Radio Sheffield who values its local news, current affairs, chat, sport and music programmes, I suggest that you write to the BBC Director General immediately and tell him, before it’s too late.