Scarborough councillors say cuts to local radio would be ‘seriously detrimental’ to coast and council

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Coastal councillors have said that proposed cuts to BBC local radio stations are “a slap in the face to licence fee payers” and have called for a “rethink” following a 48-hour strike by journalists.

BBC local radio journalists in York and across England have staged a 48-hour strike on June 7 and 8 over proposed cuts to programming, with Scarborough councillors expressing their support for the radio staff.

Conservative and Labour councillors have said that the “curtailing of the local radio service will be a serious detriment to North Yorkshire and the new unitary council” and have called for a “top-level meeting” between BBC bosses and North Yorkshire Council.

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As part of the proposed changes, the BBC has announced that it will be cutting roles from local radio stations in England alongside plans for shared programming across stations after 2pm on weekdays as well as introducing a national “all-England” programme on Sunday afternoons and evenings.

Strike action outside BBC Radio York.Strike action outside BBC Radio York.
Strike action outside BBC Radio York.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that in the afternoons, York would share its programming with Leeds and Sheffield.

Speaking to the LDRS, Cllr David Jeffels said: “The value of BBC Radio York to North Yorkshire over several decades, has been immeasurable and the BBC proposals to cut the service will be a major blow to the whole life of the county and must be reconsidered.”

The Conservative councillor who recently celebrated 50 years as an elected representative, said that local radio is “a splendid vehicle for bringing together people and organisations from all aspects of the county’s varied life”.

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A cross-party group of 26 Yorkshire MPs also recently wrote to BBC director general Tim Davie to raise their “concerns” over proposed cuts.

Labour’s Cllr John Ritchie said: “In short, I agree with the 26 cross-party MPs who have written to the BBC’s director general expressing their concerns over planned cuts to local radio.

“As a former journalist I am keenly aware of the incredibly important role local media, including local radio, has in defending local democracy.”

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Ritchie added: “There is no doubt in my mind that the director general’s plans to merge content nationally in the afternoon will dilute the impact of local radio.

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“Bearing in mind that the BBC is a publicly funded organisation these proposals are a slap in the face to licence fee payers who at the very least should have been consulted about this ill-thought-out scheme, and I join those calling for an urgent re-think.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “All 39 BBC Local Radio stations including Radio York, Radio Sheffield, Radio Leeds, Radio Lincolnshire and Radio Humberside will continue to provide local programming throughout the week under these plans.

“We are passionate about serving local communities but Local Radio is just one of the ways we reach our audiences.

“We want to modernise our local services so that however licence fee payers choose to get their local information, we’ll be there across radio, television and online for many years to come.”