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Union bosses demand BBC stops plan to ‘kill off local radio’

Tim DavieUnion chiefs have demanded plans to cut the BBC’s regional services are stopped after accusing its bosses of trying to “kill off” local radio.

The National Union of Journalists has submitted a motion of no confidence in the senior management of BBC England and the corporation’s director of nations Rhodri Talfan Davies over a proposal that will lead to the loss of 139 roles.

The job cuts are partly due to the introduction of increased programme-sharing across its network of 39 local radio stations in England.

The union’s BBC reps have called for the plans to be “paused pending a review”, saying they are “deeply concerned at the prospect of redundancies”.

Under the plans, all 39 BBC stations will continue with their own dedicated local programming from 6am to 2pm on weekdays, but this will be cut to 18 shared programmes between 2pm and 6pm.

In a letter to BBC director general Tim Davie, pictured, the NUJ said: “Local radio is celebrating its 55th birthday, but the proposal to share output after 2pm is potentially the beginning of the end.

“Local radio is successful because it’s local. People in Norfolk tell us they don’t care about stories and issues from Suffolk, they want stories about the community on their doorstep.

“Please listen to the 5.7m local radio listeners and the politicians who want local radio to be protected. Don’t go down in history as the director general who killed off local radio. Please keep local radio local.”

In the no confidence motion, issued following a meeting of BBC England reps, the NUJ said: “We are deeply concerned at the prospect of redundancies and members being put at risk and are further concerned that the current proposals effectively spell the end of BBC local radio.

“This meeting therefore has no confidence in the senior management of BBC England and the director of nations. It calls for these proposals to be paused pending a review, noting that these plans are not about saving money – and therefore there is no pressing financial need to implement them.”

The planned changes were announced last week, with the BBC concurrently revealing the creation of 11 investigative reporting teams across the country, to be staffed by 71 new journalists.

A further 60 new editorial roles will also be created, replacing a previous plan announced last year to launch a network of 100 BBC journalists in an expanded local digital reporting operation called ‘Across the UK.’

Regional press bosses have accused the BBC of trying to “directly compete” with the regional press over that element of the plan, while Media Minister Julia Lopez has vowed to take the corporation to task after hearing concerns from MPs from across the political spectrum.

Rhodri Talfan Davies, BBC director of nations, said: “These proposals aim to maintain the distinctiveness of our local services while allowing the BBC to adapt with our audiences and ensure we remain relevant.

“Taken together they will ensure our network of local services – across TV, radio, online and Sounds – offer more value for audiences.

“Of course, change is never easy – and we will work closely with all our colleagues to introduce these plans sensitively and fairly.

“BBC local radio remains an essential service for millions of listeners – the very best local radio network in the world – but it’s also essential we make difficult choices that will enable us to reach out to many people that increasingly rely on their mobiles for local content.”