Dyke: supports local radio
BBC director general Greg Dyke signalled his determination to strengthen the corporation’s profile outside London with a £600,000 pledge for factual programmes and plans for three new drop-in centres in the north.
In a bid to widen Radio 4’s appeal outside London, where it is most popular, Dyke announced plans to boost output with a new radio factual production unit in Manchester by the end of the year.
He also promised more broadcasts from Manchester of Woman’s Hour, the consumer programme You and Yours and the arts magazine Front Row, and more regular outside broadcasts from the north.
Speaking at the Radio Festival in Manchester, Dyke said he was concerned the BBC was perceived as too London-centric and biased towards the South East.
"We want people who listen to Radio 4 in York and Chester and Carlisle to feel that the network belongs just as much to them as it does to the listeners in Reading and Rochester and Guildford," he said.
BBC director of radio and music Jenny Abramsky said she thought the decision made by former director general John Birt to wind down the production unit in Manchester had been "wrong".
But Dyke also claimed that radio "has embraced localness like no other broadcast medium" and that, along with regional news, would "play an even bigger part in society in 10 years time". The BBC’s local radio stations had come into their own during the "three Fs" – floods, fuel crisis, and foot and mouth, he said.
Highlighting the role a BBC Radio York reporter, Victoria Green, played in helping a family save their furniture from the floods, Dyke said he wanted the BBC to be "more than a broadcaster" in the areas where its local radio stations were based.
Following the success of its first Open Centre, which provides internet access and education at BBC Radio Lancashire in Blackburn, Dyke announced further centres will open at Radio Merseyside in Liverpool, at BBC Radio Sheffield and BBC Radio Stoke in their new headquarters.
He said it was "no coincidence" that the centres were opening in areas of the North where there was "a need for greater educational input".
Dyke is the first director general in 20 years to have visited all but five of the local stations. He said he had ended annual cuts and increased budget to tackle the perception among local radio staff that they were "at the bottom of the BBC’s priorities".
By Julie Tomlin