BBC’s local radio cuts slammed as ‘unwarranted’ and ‘misguided’
Leading journalist trade body has slammed the BBC’s ambitions to invest more into its local digital news.
Chief exec of The News Media Association Owen Meredith criticised the broadcaster’s plans to cut back its late-night local radio, which will see 139 audio roles axed.
All local shows after 10pm are set to be replaced with an all-England programme during the week and on Sunday afternoons and evenings.
It comes after the BBC already said it would cut regional TV news bulletins for Oxford and Cambridge, as well as merge BBC News and BBC World News.
As part of this shift, the Beeb will create a fund to commission original local programmes and podcasts, driving digital growth.
It is understood that the changes will move around £19m from local to online services. The BBC said it was creating 131 jobs in local online news.
However, Meredith said in a statement that the plans were “unwelcome and unwarranted”, forcing local radio output to directly compete with local news publishers in the online space.
“The BBC is already dominant in online news, which adds to the well documented challenges for publishers to build truly sustainable business models for digital news,” he said.
“This move overreaches the BBC’s remit, as set out in the Charter, and threatens rather than complements commercial news publishers’ local offer”.
He said Ofcom should step in and force the Beeb to go back to the drawing board.
An Ofcom spokesperson told City A.M. “We are examining whether the BBC’s local plans might harm fair and effective competition. We are considering views from the BBC’s competitors, and expect to make a decision next week.”
Regional papers have taken a battering in recent years, with Covid and the testing economic backdrop chipping away at shrinking ad budgets.
Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale told BBC Essex that he thought that the solely online focus was “a mistake”.
It is understood that the decision is largely driven by the BBC’s need to make cuts as a result of the licence fee, which has been frozen for two years.
Some staff have taken to social media to air their grievances.
One said that all staff in the local radio station were placed in redundancy today.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We are reshaping our local services to increase the value we deliver to audiences across England and to ensure we keep pace with changing audience expectations and remain a cornerstone of local life for generations to come.
“There is no evidence that the BBC is crowding out other digital publishers. We work collaboratively across the industry and our partnership with the NMA has transformed coverage of local democracy across the UK.”