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BBC provides update on local radio cutbacks

By | Published on Thursday 19 January 2023


The BBC has announced some more details about the incoming revamp of its local radio output which will see local stations based in the same region share content for a chunk of the day. The update comes as concerns increase in the music industry about what impact the revamp will have on the BBC Music Introducing scheme.

The revamp was unveiled last year. It is partly about saving money – with the BBC needing to cut its overall costs after the UK government froze the licence fee that generates most of its income – although it’s also partly about diverting resources from local radio stations to local news content online.

A number of adjustments have now been made to the revamp plans based on feedback from staff and audiences. In particular, when weekday afternoon programmes on the Beeb’s 39 local stations in England switch to regional shows, there will now be 20 of those regional shows rather than the eighteen that were originally planned. During daytime at the weekend there will be eighteen instead of the originally planned twelve.

Yesterday’s update also announced “future plans for dedicated programming on BBC local radio for black and Asian audiences”. Existing programmes aimed at black and Asian communities will “become more accessible” by moving from the current Sunday evening slot to Monday and Friday evenings, plus “the number of stations featuring community programming will increase from 20 to 33”.

As for BBC Introducing, as noted concerns are increasing in the music community about the future of the 32 local BBC Introducing shows that currently air on the local stations, each of which is focused on a different local music scene.

The people behind those shows are key supporters of each local music community, and also spot new talent emerging in their local area, championing those new artists within the BBC more generally.

It’s feared that if a smaller number of regional BBC Introducing shows replace the current local shows, those local connections will be lost, especially outside the bigger cities where the kind of support BBC Introducing provides is most essential.

A plethora of music industry organisations this week wrote an open letter to the BBC board urging them to ensure that the cuts at local radio do not negatively impact on BBC Introducing. Meanwhile Tom Robinson, who hosts one of the national BBC Introducing shows, has urged artists and music fans to formally express their appreciation of their local BBC Introducing programmes.

BBC Introducing was mentioned in yesterday’s update, although there is no word yet on what the number of shows and size of the team making them will be following the changes.

The update said that BBC Introducing and BBC Upload – a scheme that allows people to share creative output other than music – would still have programmes on the local stations “broadcast as part of our schedule on Thursday and Saturday evenings”.

Though it was definitely implied that BBC Introducing output will be less prolific following the changes, with the update seeking to reassure everyone that “we’ll be giving more prominence to new music artists on BBC Sounds and across our local radio schedule”.

Commenting on the update, Jason Horton, Director Of Production for BBC Local, said: “Our goal over the next twelve months is to modernise our BBC local services in England to strengthen our online provision for communities across the country”.

“We have listened carefully to the feedback we have received about proposed changes to BBC local radio programming. As a result, we are making a number of amendments to the original plan in order to strike the best possible balance between live and on-demand services”.

Full line-ups and schedule information for the revamped and streamlined local BBC radio stations will be announced later this year.