BBC Local radio – Commons debate - 5th April 2011
North Thanet`s MP Roger Gale has this (Tuesday) morning condemned BBC proposals to replace BBC local radio daytime coverage with a feed of Radio 5 Live as the product of a metro-centric television-centred management thinking of the Corporation”.
Speaking during a Commons debate on the Future of BBC Local Radio the Thanet North MP recalled his own days as a freelance reporter with BBC Radio London and the invaluable training ground and opportunity to cut teeth and make mistakes” that BBC local radio affords to young broadcasters.
BBC local radio also has a vital role to play at times of disruption, crisis and disaster” said Gale. During the 1987 hurricane BBC Radio Kent provided a county-wide lifeline and information service for those with battery radios but no other power. More recently, during the winter snow, the station provided , as the County`s premier speech-based radio station, details of school closures and train cancellations.
Radio Kent also offers good local coverage of local sport and John Warnett`s broadcasts from the County Cricket ground, St. Lawrence, have been second to none, while the help, through social programming, that Kent`s TryAngle Awards scheme has received from producer/broadcaster Jo Burn has been excellent”.
The MP also poured scorn on the BBC Management`s attempts at cost-cutting, citing the ludicrous waste of money spent on the one billion pound move to media city” at Salford in Manchester”. What is the point” asked Gale of transferring the Blue Peter Garden from West London to a Manchester rooftop? Or of producing the Hampton Court and Chelsea Flower Shows from Birmingham? And why, if times are really so hard, has the BBC paid so much to its Director General, Senior Managers and stars” ? And why are there proposals to cut core services such as local radio while the BBC continues to expand its repetitive television and multi-media empire?”
in the context of the multi-billion pound BBC budget” said Gale Local Radio represents candle-ends. But those candles are important. They light up communities and they light up counties and we want that light to continue to shine”.
Responding to the debate the Culture, Media and Sport Minister, Ed Vaizey, referred to Roger Gale`s vast experience in the media” and while pointing out that no decision has been taken at this time” he noted that only very recently the BBC had wanted to expand into the local on-line services that are the province of local newspapers and commercial stations. If they wanted to expand then” he said then there can be no reason to cut now” adding that while I will not comment on his specific examples there are, as my Hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet has said, numerous ways that the BBC could be saving money”.
The Minister indicated that the BBC was now enjoying an unprecedented seven-year certainty of funding of a kind enjoyed by no other broadcaster and said that he expected the BBC to concentrate on efficiency and best quality service.