22 December 2011
The importance of local radio to the community, both in times of
crisis or seasonal emergencies, and on a daily basis, must not be
ignored warns the Church of England in a submission to the
consultation on the BBC Delivering Quality First Review, which
closed this week.
Local radio plays a vital role in the community, along with the
Church and particularly in rural and more remote areas, but appears
to be undervalued in the proposed cuts which could have serious
repercussions, says the submission.
The response, drawn up by the Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of
Norwich and lead bishop on media issues, is based on input from the
Church of England's 44 dioceses. Almost half contributed with
particularly strong feelings about the cuts.
It says there is a widespread feeling that the elements of the
current BBC output which have been protected from the proposed cuts
are those most focussed on metropolitan areas and the South East of
England. This feeling increases in the more remote and rural
areas, e.g. Herefordshire and Cumbria where local radio,
particularly, is considered vital to community life.
The submission also expressed concern for the welfare of staff -
up to 33 per cent staffing cuts are predicted in some
One example of concern highlighted in the submission is the
detailed letter from the West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council (which
is signed by the Bishops of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds, and
Wakefield) to the Director General of the BBC about BBC Radio Leeds
and the future of local radio more generally. This says the
submission, "gave many examples of the community building character
of local radio. It has a considerable impact helping diverse
communities cohere through the general animation and support it
provides for the voluntary and charitable sectors."
The response also makes the point that "there are at least 40
per cent fewer journalists on local newspapers than there were a
decade ago, and the overall democratic deficit is growing and
worrying. So the cuts to local radio should be seen in this
wider context. They do little either to deliver quality or
enhance the public purposes of the BBC."
The submission concludes: "We ask the BBC Trust to recognise
local radio as one of the 'Crown Jewels' of the BBC. We do
not argue that there should be no cuts in budget at all but we
believe that the total protection from cuts given to BBC1, Radio 4
and the Proms is disproportionate in relation to what is proposed
for BBC local radio."
More information on the BBC's Delivering Quality First
Letter from the West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council