Wednesday, January 25, 2012

They're Saying Things I Can Hardly Believe, They Really Think We've Gotten Out Of Control!

Lord Patten is poised to announce a financial reprieve for the BBC's forty English local radio stations, which are facing fifteen million quids worth of cuts which would have prompted changes including the merger of neighbouring stations' off-peak programmes. The chairman of the BBC Trust will address the Oxford Media Convention on Wednesday afternoon, and he is expected to ask Mark Thompson, the director general, to find money to mitigate cuts that would have led to the loss of two hundred and eighty jobs. The BBC Trust is also preparing to publish the results of its public consultation into Thompson's Delivering Quality First cuts plan, with the local radio proposals by the far the most controversial aspect of the seven hundred million quid savings package. Patten will also ask Thompson to 'look again' at other proposed cuts to regional TV programmes. BBC1's regional current affairs programme, Inside Out, was facing the loss of forty per cent of its five million quid annual budget, or forty of its one hundred-strong staff. MPs and senior church leaders joined the public - and, ahem, this blog! - in making loud and vocal (and, hopefully, sensible) complaints about the mooted cuts which would have slashed the budgets of stations such as BBC Radio Derby, Radio Merseyside, Radio Tees and, of course, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved BBC Newcastle, winner of the 2011 Gilliard Award for the local station of the year, by up to twenty per cent. To make the savings – affecting just BBC local radio in England – stations would have to merge afternoon programmes, with, for example, Radio Herefordshire sharing the same output as Radio Stoke one hundred miles to the north between 1pm and 4pm. Previously separate home and away football commentaries would have been shared, while a single Radio England show would have gone out in the evening from 7pm. BBC local radio 'insiders' gave the news of Patten's proposed speech a cautious welcome, according to the Gruniad. One alleged BBC 'source' allegedly told the paper that any reversal of the planned cuts would 'be welcome' but added that employees would want to see the actual detail before celebrating a victory for common sense. 'If they only knock one or two million pounds off the savings target then it will only be scratching the surface. If they were talking about five million coming back then you would start to see that making a real difference.' The alleged 'source' allegedly added: 'All eyes will be on what they want us to save. Is it the lunchtime show, is it the quality of the journalism, or is it a bit of both?' Despite the complaints, senior BBC executives are privately satisfied at the outcome – because it will mean that the bulk of the DQF savings proposals elsewhere will have been agreed with only minimal opposition. The package was expected to lead to the loss of two thousand jobs across the corporation, including eight hundred posts from BBC News – and has already led to the BBC cutting back on its TV coverage of, for example, Formula One as it saves money on sports rights. The BBC launched the DQF initiative following October 2010's licence fee settlement, which led to the corporation agreeing to see the television levy frozen at £145.50 until 2017 as well as taking on extra funding responsibilities including the World Service, which they rather wanted, and S4C, which they really didn't. BBC local radio stations in England have a collective average weekly audience of 7.25 million listeners, according to the latest official Rajar audience measurement figures for the third quarter of 2011. Research carried out for the BBC suggests that as many as a third of that figure do not listen to any other BBC radio except for their local stations. As this blogger noted last October when the DQF proposals were first announced: 'Possibly because it's the part of the Beeb which I have the most interaction with, local radio is very dear to me. Yes, it has a reputation lower than rattlesnakes piss with those licence fee payers who seldom, if ever, interact with it. Yes, many people tend to think of Alan Partridge when the words "local radio" are mentioned. But it's so much more than that. It has between seven and eight million listeners per week nationwide - many of whom do not use any other BBC radio services. Not only that, but its purpose is, arguably, the most reflective of the BBC's original Reithian public service remit. It does exist purely to reflect the cultural identities of its listeners at a local level; it informs, it educates and it entertains at a local level; it exists to enrich its listeners lives at a local level. In short, it is almost unique in broadcasting anywhere in the world. At the very moment when commercial radio is abandoning much of its local (and even regional) identity in favour of homogeneous bland national nothingness, at the very moment when ITV have all but abandoned the idea of local television, now - more than ever - local radio (and local TV for that matter) has a vital role to play in the communities that it serves.' So, you know, it's a cautious welcome to this news. Though, as ever, we'll wait to see what Chris Patten actual has to say before hanging out the bunting.

Which, of course, brings us to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Sing Declan!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

why when Tom brought out his soufflé it hadn't Risen and when they tasted it it was a different soufflé?????