Media Centre

CofE welcomes news on future of BBC local radio

The Church of England has welcomed the news that cuts to BBC local radio are to be halved compared to original proposals, saying this is an endorsement of the importance of local communities.

The BBC Trust document published this month was its final report into cost-saving plans (known as the "Delivering Quality First" review) and confirmed that local radio savings would now be in the region of £8m compared to the original proposal of £15m.

In its  submission to the BBC review in December the CofE had warned that local radio must not be ignored and challenged the proposed cuts stressing the importance of local radio to the community, both in times of crisis or seasonal emergencies, and on a daily basis,.

The response, drawn up by the Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich and lead bishop on media issues, was based on input from the Church of England's 44 dioceses. Almost half expressed with particularly strong feelings about the cuts.

Speaking this week Bishop Graham said: "It is good to know that the BBC Trust has paid attention to the many submissions, including our own, about the importance of the BBC local radio network.  Local radio stations are both popular and significant builders of cohesion in the communities they serve.   The churches and other faith communities often have a close working relationship with them. While we recognised the BBC has to make cuts to its budget, local radio was going to be disproportionately affected.  We are glad the cuts in this area will now be less severe, though they will still be a challenge for some stations."

The original CofE submission had concluded: "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."

This month's BBC Trust final report also said that reductions in local news teams will be lower, coverage of local sport "more protected" and a plan for local radio stations to share programmes in the afternoon will now be limited to a "very small number" of stations.  

Notes
Read the Church of England's original submission http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2011/12/response-to-bbc-trust-consultation-on-delivering-quality-first.aspx

BBC Delivering Quality First conclusions http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/our_work/strategy/