Radio York blasts MAFF for lack of verbal response



The managing editor of BBC Radio York has called for an inquiry into dealings by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with local radio stations during the foot and mouth crisis.

Barrie Stephenson claims that since the first outbreak was reported in the area, the station has been unable to get any MAFF officials to agree to speak about the crisis on its programmes.

"Information has been available online from MAFF, but on radio you need voices, not just information," said Stephenson.

"We are really cross about what’s happened – there should be a post mortem into what has been going on once the crisis is over."

Stephenson claims that despite repeated phone calls, MAFF officials have not put forward any spokespeople to comment about the slaughter policy or the disposal of carcasses. "We have had people from the National Farmers’ Union coming out of our ears," said Stephenson. "But they have very different views on some issues. I wouldn’t have thought they would be happy that their views were not being put forward."

There have been 41 cases of foot and mouth in North Yorkshire, an area where the disease struck later into the crisis. Since the focus of the national media has moved away from the issue, some 21 cases have been reported in Settle.

But Stephenson claims the crisis has become an issue on which local radio stations should still focus. "We have to keep reporting on the new cases, but the national story is that the disease has gone away," he said. "I don’t disagree with that. I think if I was working on a programme looking at the national picture, I would have dropped foot and mouth from the running order too."

A spokesman for MAFF said an official in Leeds had been given special training in media relations and was available for interview on radio.

"We understand the importance of transmitting information and answering legitimate questions from the public through the local media," the spokesman said. "It’s true that in the early days we were obsessed with the need to tackle the outbreaks. But after receiving media training, the official in Leeds is now fully operational, and if Radio York was to ring him, I am sure they would get an interview."

By Julie Tomlin

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