BBC Cuts to Local Radio England

I submitted a complaint to Ofcom regarding the BBCs proposals to cut services for Local Radio in England. This is the response I’ve received:

Dear Dr Watson,

Thank you for your complaint regarding the BBC’s changes to its local radio services.

We have considered the plans that you refer to in your complaint as recently set out by the BBC to transform its local services in England, including its local radio stations. We are discussing these with the BBC and will scrutinise its detailed plans for sharing programming on local radio and other plans it is developing to respond to the challenges of changing audience behaviours and the financial pressures it faces.

We have recently published proposals for a new Operating Licence for the BBC, under which the BBC will be required to publish more information about how it delivers high quality, distinctive content and services for audiences across the UK, including in relation to local radio. As part of our consultation, we have already committed to additional oversight of the extent of the sharing of programming on local radio. We will also consider whether Operating Licence requirements need to be strengthened to ensure the needs of UK audiences are met.

We recognise the need for the BBC to transform, however have also been clear that we expect the BBC to continue to deliver for all audiences. As the BBC’s Digital First plans develop and it focuses more on its online provision, it should not leave linear audiences behind. It will also need to continue to provide a broad range of important content, including local content. We will scrutinise the BBC’s plans as they develop, not just to ensure they comply with the requirements set out in the Operating Licence, but also how they are likely to impact audiences and on the BBC’s ability to deliver on its remit.

Please also note that when making an assessment of the BBC’s performance in delivering its mission and public purposes, we consider a range of factors including audience research and perceptions, data from the BBC, and contextual factors such as complaints and feedback from third parties – all of which help us to identify whether certain groups are being underserved.We publish our report on the BBC’s performance annually. Our most recent one, published in November, also looked at how the BBC serves local audiences across the UK.

Thank you for taking the time to contact us, I hope I have helped to clarify our process around this matter.

Yours sincerely,

:: Sally Mathias
Content Policy Associate
Broadcasting and Online Content Group

The BBC have updated their proposals for changes to BBC Local Radio

However, I can’t find any specific information about what this entails.

I am planning to submit a complaint again to the BBC that they are not providing sufficient public information in a timely manner for the public and interested parties to comment on. There is a lot of hearsay and misinformation about the BBC’s plans.

The BBC should publish its market research in full, and data projections that it is making. This information could potentially be market-shaping, and so holding it back has a serious impact on other parts of the radio sector, with a knock-on effect for community and independent media.

Complaints to the BBC have to be made here: Complaints | Contact the BBC

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I’ve posted a blog about my complaint this morning to Ofcom about the cuts to local radio in England by the BBC. The BBC continue to act without regard for the public interest. As well as making individual complaints, we should start to lobby MPs and let them know that as citizens we do not welcome the BBC’s approach to managing change without a proper process of public engagement in place.

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I’ve had a response from Ofcom following my complaint about the BBC’s cuts to local radio in England.

Ofcom agrees that the BBC needs to do more to engage with communities and licence fee payers about the changes they are making. Here’s their reply:

Dear Dr Watson,

Thank you for getting back in touch and outlining your concerns about the BBC’s engagement with the public on its proposed changes to BBC Local Radio in England.

The BBC is currently operating in a period of significant change. It needs to evolve its offering to reflect the new ways audiences are consuming content, yet at the same time it is also coming under greater financial pressure. We recognise that the BBC will have to make some difficult decisions as it seeks to respond to these challenges. However, it must continue to deliver on its obligation to serve all audiences across the UK with distinctive, high-quality UK content.

We believe that the BBC needs to do more to engage with audiences about changes to its content and services. Audiences pay for the BBC through the licence fee, and their confidence in the BBC’s ability to respond to the challenges it faces is critical. We have explained to the BBC that in making changes to its services it must be more transparent about its plans and fully explain what these mean in practice for the delivery of content for audiences, and how it will continue to deliver its remit.

We are closely scrutinising the BBC’s plans for local radio and engaging with it to understand them in greater detail, particularly the updated plans it announced on 18 January 2023. Our ongoing monitoring process will also enable us to assess the BBC’s provision of local content for all audiences, and if we identify any concerns we could address these by imposing specific requirements within the BBC’s Operating Licence.

We are currently in the process of finalising a new Operating Licence for the BBC which we publicly consulted on last year. This new Licence will formally require the BBC to publish more information about how it is delivering high quality, distinctive content and services for audiences across the UK, including in relation to local radio.

We hope this has been helpful in clarifying what we are doing to hold the BBC to account.

Yours sincerely,

Broadcasting and Online Content Group