Wednesday 23 November 2022

What is the point of BBC Radio London and other local stations?

 This morning Eddie Nestor MBE had the Acting Director of BBC England Jason Horton on to discuss the changes to BBC Local Radio. In future BBC Radio London will produce output from 6am to 6pm daily. After that it will become 'regional output', whatever that means. What it most definitely means is that dozens of presenters, producers, technicians, researchers etc will be given the boot. 

They are replacing them with a team of 170 journalists to produce content for BBC websites etc. When I heard this I was, for want of a better word, gobsmacked. It didn't seem to occur to Mr Horton that having a 24 x 7 operation at BBC Radio London was the best possible journalistic resource he could have. Eddie Nestor quoted the example of the Grenfell Tower, where the first station to break the news was BBC Radio London, as callers rang in to say what was going on, in the middle of the night. Under Mr Hortons brave new world, they will get the answerphone and told to ring back at 6am. Much of the content from those shows has been played numerous times on other outlets, used in extracts on BBC Websites and even used in legal papers. What about the Admiral Duncan pub bombing? This happened at 6.05pm. So presumably that too would see the answerphone in action for 11 hours and 55 minutes. Or the Kings Cross fire? That occurred at 19.30pm. 

Whilst the news content is important, as someone involved in arts and culture (my band is playing at the Dublin Castle in Camden Town tonight), I know just how important Radio London is to the cultural life of London, one of the things London leads the world in. This doesn't stop at 6pm, in fact for much of London's cultural life, that is when it starts. The night time and the daytime audience of BBC Radio London is very different. I listen during the day at work. Many can't but listen at night. Mr Horton spoke about 'giving value for every licence holder, but this is a ridiculous aspiration. I listen to BBC London, many listen to LBC, Heart, Jazz FM etc. What the BBC does is launch many careers of journalists, technicians, presenters. They play music other stations cannot, for commercial reasons (at least they used to), giving the likes of artists such as Amy Winehouse their very first plays. Under the new plan, the timings mean the end of Garry Crowley, the best music show on BBC radio. This has played all manner of artists before anyone else. It is devastating.

Under Mr Horton's plan, the question is "What is the point of BBC Local Radio and BBC Radio London?". Two years ago, the answer was easy. In the brave new world Mr Horton envisages, I am not sure there is an answer. He was very excited about his 'team of 170 on line journalists' writing web articles. I was wondering if he had a disctionary and knew what the word "Broadcasting" meant in the context of BBC. He talked about decling audiences. Has it occurred to him that maybe he should get some fresh ideas on content? What he is moving towards is a sub standard LBC style content. It is really quite sad.

As my band is playing at the Dublin Castle, here's what you will be missing if you don't join us. We are on at 10pm

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