Lord Patten today (25 January 2012) announced that he has instructed the BBC to review its proposals for Local Radio services. He has also made clear to BBC staff that his decision was due to the undue effect on sport.
Today’s announcement comes on the back of the Parliamentary Rugby League Group’s campaign to highlight both the impact of the proposals and the way in which the BBC and BBC Trust conducted its review.
In particular the BBC Trust had asked the BBC to review three key areas:
-To scale back plans for local radio to share programmes in the afternoon;
– To ensure that local stations have “an adequately staffed newsroom”; and
– To protect specialist content outside peak times – for example local sports or specialist music shows.
Specifically, the Trust has asked the Executive to find ways to scale back the proposed changes to BBC Local Radio and that “ways are found to continue to protect more specialist and distinctive local content out of peak. Alongside local news and information, the evening and weekend schedules of many local radio stations carry unique or specialist local content that is of particular value to their audience – for instance sports coverage that has a particular resonance in a particular area such as rugby league and football.”
After the BBC first announced the consultations, the Parliamentary Rugby League Group held a meeting in November 2011 with a panel of BBC executives, broadcasters and the RFL to discuss the issue and set in motion a course of action which has ultimately yielded the result today. The Group worked to ensure other Parliamentarians were aware of the effect the cuts would have on their constituencies and other sports and, working alongside the RFL, put together a promotional campaign which saw rugby league fans submit the largest number of responses to the BBC in what has been recorded as the most responded-to Delivering Quality First consultation ever.
On hearing the news, Group Chairman, Member of Parliament for Leeds North West Greg Mulholland said “this is fantastic news for fans of all sport and particularly rugby league because of the importance genuine local radio plays in the game. I am delighted that this Group of MPs has delivered this positive result for what is ultimately a very important issue for sports fans throughout the UK.
We in the Group recognise that increasing budget constraints as well as having to absorb the cost of other services means the BBC is facing some tough choices. But the proposals were ill-considered. Therefore, I applaud Lord Patten’s decision today and we in the Group look forward to working with the BBC to ensure that fans will be able to enjoy local broadcasts of their favourite sports.”