EMMA LEWELL-BUCK: 'Crisis on the airwaves as the axe hangs over our local radio'
Proposed cuts to local radio services include sharing programmes across regional networks from 2pm on weekdays and weekends – this would mean cutting more than 100 hours of local programming on every radio station every week down to just 40.
Local radio in this country has 5.7million loyal listeners who not only enjoy the shared cultural bond it brings us, but also rely on the service for comfort and connection to the outside world.
Local radio provides a focus for communities, maintains local identities and keeps people informed about local issues.
The planned changes mean that for large parts of the day our local services will replaced by a mish-mash of all-England services and information from regions where we have no connection.
Covid highlighted the value of a trusted local voice providing people with vital information and helping to combat loneliness and isolation.
This cull coincides with losses of local papers because of online competition – which has supposedly led the BBC and others to move towards more new digital services at the expense of our core local ones.
But many can’t access digital services.
People on lower incomes are more likely to be excluded from digital services and funnelling money into these is likely to exacerbate loneliness and isolation amongst those left behind.
BBC management may point to the loss of around £280m in funding that comes with the freezing of licence fees, but if the political will to keep our core BBC services intact is there, the Government can plug this gap.
Netflix, one of the providers this move is intended to keep up with, paid just £5million in UK taxes in 2022 – how about we close the loopholes for digital providers and claw some of that money back to pay for a BBC that stays local and for everyone?
The initial decision may be from the BBC management, but it has the Tories’ fingerprints all over it. Dismantling a beloved national institution as people are forced to move to corporate alternatives – sound familiar?