BBC Local Radio Could Merge with 5 Live

It has been suggested that BBC Local Radio in England will merge with BBC Radio 5 Live – the local stations would produce only Breakfast and Drivetime programmes, with 5 Live at all other times.

This idea has come from a ‘Delivering Quality First’ session, aimed at finding 20% savings over the four years to April 2017, and comes about a month after the RAJARs showed that BBC Local Radio’s overall audience is 7.43 million – so its got similar numbers to the national stations.

I should stress that no decisions have been made, and that any changes must first be approved by the BBC Trust. However… people are still taking this seriously.

The reaction I’ve seen on blogs and on Twitter seems very similar to the 6 Music proposal made last year – and the campaigns then resulted in the station being saved.

There was an interesting discussion on BBC Radio Cornwall today – again, a very strong dislike for the idea among their listeners, some of whom said that they do not like 5 Live.

Personally, I think its a terrible idea. I listen regularly to BBC Local Radio, and while I’m not really interested in some of the “celebrity” features that they do on some stations, they do produce some excellent news and specialist programmes. And of course, there will be a lot of jobs lost. No fewer than 40 stations are under threat here – all of which won’t need as many staff after the merge – and that’s a lot of people who will be fighting for their jobs, before you get to the listeners who loose their local radio services.

From a political point of view – BBC Local Radio is a politician’s platform for communicating with their constituents – the people who vote (or not) for them. From a cost point of view, BBC Local Radio is 40 radio stations in England, run for the cost of a couple of Radio 4s.

And from a “new talent” point of view, there will be less opportunity for new and emerging journalists. Let’s not forget that the likes of Mark Byford (BBC Deputy DG) and Helen Boaden (Director of News) started in BBC Local Radio.

One final point: Currently, 5 Live and BBC Local Radio are now working under BBC News management (5 Live I think will be under BBC North management when they move to MediaCity:UK).

So… given the reaction I’ve seen all over the Internet today, I wonder what BBC Local Radio will do to defend itself?

Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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