Friday, 7 October 2011

BBC Goes Radio Gaga

Yesterday the BBC announced it’s cuts to slash 20 percent it’s operating costs. The cuts cover a wide range of broadcasting and a lot of staff are going to suffer. The Beeb has a lot of waste, so doubtless some cuts were necessary. But one of the more indefensible was the decision to eviscerate BBC local radio .
As part of the cuts, my local station, BBC Radio Cumbria will now have local content only at peak hours, relying on relaying Radio 4 during the evening. I am not sure how much this will save but I doubt it will be much, in the general scheme of cutbacks. Even across all the local radio stations, it probably will only just equal the salaries of a couple of big name stars on BBC1.
To the local community, however, the cut is going to have much more impact. The whole reason for the existence of local radio (apart from the BBC planting it’s foot somewhere before commercial radio got a toehold) is the local community. It supports the station, listens to it, gets breaking news from it and interacts with it. During the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, Radio Cumbria was breaking news of national interest, scooping  bigger stations and giving a ground-eye view on how the outbreak was effecting people who live and work in the area. It was local radio at its best and Radio Cumbria deservedly got an award for it.
The decision to cut back the station has left me feeling a bit cross. You may be able to tell. I'm not the only one. Our redoubtable local MP has waded in with his support and there are campaigns on Facebook and Twitter.
The Beeb will have spent nearly £1b relocating staff and production facilities from London to Manchester in a bid to be less London-centric and support the regions. Then it saves £5.3m by cutting local radio programming to rebroadcast Radio 4 from London. Brilliant.
According to the Telegraph, the BBC has 382 staff earning more than £100,000 a year. 100 of its senior staff get a salary totalling more than £20m a year. 
So perhaps the BBC should preserve BBC local radio's distinctive voice and look elsewhere for its cutbacks. Here are a few suggestions. I'm sure you can think of more

1. Fiona Bruce is nice to look at but, frankly, so is the virtual assistant on my online insurance site and I'm sure she could read out the news just as well.
2. Andrew Marr is reputed to earn £600,000 a year. Perhaps it would be cheaper to get someone less well-known to do one weekly radio show, a Sunday TV programme and annoy viewers by getting in the way of the scenery on an occasional documentary series.
3. Switch off Radio 1 between midnight and 6 a.m., when most of its listeners are out clubbing or looting anyway.
4. Stop making pointless and expensive adverts for BBC programmes which we were either going to watch or avoid anyway. A list onscreen would do.
5. Sack the person who thinks it is a good idea to talk all over the end credits of TV programmes.
6. The BBC director general’s salary could go back down to what it was when Greg Dyke was an arguably more popular and adept DG. That £400,000 would be very welcome in local radio.
7. Switch off daytime TV. Students should be out doing part-time jobs to pay back their student loans.
8. Do we really need 24 hour news on television? Really? Can't the less attractive newsreaders get jobs doing something else?
9. There are fast food outlets everywhere. Do we really need 478,000 cookery programmes a week?
10. Downsize the department which thinks up BBC job titles like Head of Brand Guardianship, Content Manager (Culture), Controller of Multi-Platform and Portfolio (£177,000 annual salary), Solutions Architect, Change Management Leader and Director of Audiences.

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