The National Union of Journalists has condemned BBC plans to do away with large parts of its local radio service, a move it claims could cost up to 700 jobs and result in the closure of some stations.
As part of a massive cost saving exercise, the BBC is proposing to axe all local radio programmes except breakfast and drive-time shows and replace them with content supplied by the national station BBC Radio 5 Live.
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The NUJ warned the cuts would ‘spell death of local radio’and called on the BBC to “step back from the brink” as its 40 local stations served an important public service.
Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the NUJ, said: “Local radio plays a crucial role in keeping local communities informed.
‘These proposals would rip the heart out of local programming and effectively sound the death knell for local radio.
“The BBC’s plans would be a blow to quality journalism at the BBC and fly in the face of public commitments to localism and transparency.
‘Local radio programmes are produced by local people for local audiences yet these decisions are being taken far away from communities and behind closed doors.
‘The BBC must step back from the brink and protect local radio services.
‘If they do not we will actively resist plans which threaten to inflict such devastating damage to local radio services.”
Employees are expected to be briefed today about the BBC’s plans for the future of its local radio services.
The BBC is currently engaged in a massive cuts programme aimed at reducing spending by around £400m annually to compensate for the freezing of the licence fee until 2016 and the corporation taking on responsibility for the funding of the World Service – both of which came as a result of the Government’s comprehensive spending review last year.
The cuts programme has already seen the BBC announce plans to cut around 650 jobs and five language services from the World Service in a bid to save £46 million a year and cut its online budget by 25 per cent to £103m by 2014, with the loss of 360 posts.
A BBC spokesman told Press Gazette: “No decisions have been made so it would be wrong to speculate. It is of course only right that BBC staff have an opportunity to input ideas about shaping the BBC’s future.
“The DQF sessions are designed to provoke discussion amongst staff about the way the BBC works and any decisions coming out of the process would be subject to approval by the BBC Trust. Reports of a staff meeting on this today are not true.”