BBC Local: political pressure mounts with No. 10 petition

  • 04 Jul 2023

Calls to pause and rethink cuts to BBC local radio were taken to the heart of Westminster on 3 July, as a huge petition was handed into 10 Downing Street.

Representatives of the National Federation of the Blind UK (NFBUK) – including Nellie the guide dog and her owner Sarah – were joined by politicians and NUJ representatives in Westminster for the occasion.

The petition addressed to Prime Minster Rishi Sunak has attracted the signatures of more than 230 local organisations and over 40 cross-party politicians, as concern grows about the impact of cuts to BBC local radio.

Sarah Leadbetter, NFBUK campaigner, said “Local radio means a lot to me”.

She continued:

“During Covid, local radio brought the community into my home, so I knew what was happening. You feel part of the community, the presenters put you at ease. Under current plans, you’re not going to get local news, you won’t know the presenters, and they’ll be covering a big area so you’ll switch off. For example, all the Midlands will be put together – how can Nottingham do Leicester? If these cuts go ahead a lot of people are going to be excluded and isolated, it’s not good.”

Politicians from both the Labour and Conservative parties had only praise for their BBC local radio stations. “There’s everything to fight for” said Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne, having been on BBC Radio Merseyside that morning talking about the value of local radio.

Robin Walker, Conservative MP for Worcester, in last week’s parliamentary debate offered to stand on the picket line with striking NUJ BBC members. “This isn’t quite a picket line”, he commented outside Downing Street, “but I’m very happy to be here and you have my full support.”

Completing the trio of MPs, Simon Fell MP for Barrow and Furness, was decrying the loss of BBC Barrow’s office. “They’ve closed our local office – the nearest one is in Carlisle now, which rather illustrates the point.”

The petition hand-in coincided with the release of a protest single – Need My Local Radio – made available for download in support of the campaign to save local radio output. Lead singer Justin Skelton performed live on Parliament Square and was filmed by several media outlets during the day’s events.

Paul Siegert, NUJ broadcast organiser, said:

“It’s clear to see that political pressure against BBC Local cuts is only continuing to grow. As we approach a general election, the important role that local radio plays in our communities comes to the fore, so the timing for these ill-conceived cuts is disastrous.

“We hope that Tim Davie listens to the wide range of politicians speaking up for their constituents and takes the opportunity to pause and rethink these cuts before schedules are changed. Local radio is a jewel in the BBC’s crown and provides some of the best-loved and appreciated content out there. Cutting it makes no sense.”

Download and share Need My Local Radio today.

Left to right: Justin Skelton, Robin Walker MP, NFBUK campaigner, Sarah Leadbetter and guide dog Nellie, Sian Jones NUJ, Paul Siegert NUJ, Ian Byrne MP, Simon Fell MP.


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