NUJ calls for ‘pause and engage’ on BBC Local cuts 

  • 13 Jun 2023

Following a grilling of BBC director general Tim Davie at the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, in which he revealed no formal consultation had taken place over cuts to BBC local radio, the NUJ is calling for the corporation to “pause and engage” over the unpopular cuts.

In a wide-ranging session, Tim Davie was accused of being the “Mr Beeching of local radio” and compared to P&O fire and rehire tactics – both of which he denied. 

NUJ is in dispute with the BBC over plans to cut local radio output by almost half making many popular presenters redundant, cancelling shows and forcing local stations to share content across larger regional areas. Last week, a 48-hour strike by 1,000 NUJ members in BBC Local including radio, TV and online resulted in many local radio stations being off air, with others broadcasting shared ‘sustaining service’ programmes and even pre-recording evening television news programmes. 

In response to a question from Simon Jupp, Conservative MP for East Devon, about whether the BBC should have consulted audiences on the local radio cuts, Tim Davie told the committee: “We’re talking to audiences all the time. There wasn’t a formal consultation. You’ve got to scale these processes to the scale of change.” The director general defended cuts saying the 5.7m listeners represented “only 13 per cent” of the population. 

In response to further questions from Conservative MP for Winchester, Steve Brine, about the way presenters had been asked to do “60-second pitch” during the process to re-apply for their own jobs, which he compared the P&O fire and rehire practices, Tim Davie claimed he had no knowledge of the process. 

 Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“Tim Davie has an opportunity to take on board the widespread concerns and criticism of these damaging and unnecessary cuts to BBC Local. We’re calling on the BBC to pause and engage with staff and audiences in a meaningful way. BBC Local services are clearly treasured by listeners the length and breadth of the country. Local radio in particular plays a role that other media has largely abandoned, as local papers have folded in towns, villages and cities across the country in the past decade. Now that licence fee payers are aware of the cuts to shows and presenters that they love and value, they are speaking out. The BBC should pause and engage with listeners and politicians across the political spectrum who are all calling for a different approach - one which treats journalists and presenters with dignity and respect and seeks to preserve local public service broadcasting.” 

During the committee session, Tim Davie referenced the “unavoidable” impact of funding cuts, saying “the BBC has had 30 per cent of income taken out over the past decade and we’ve had to absorb inflation for the last two years”.  

He repeatedly spoke of his love for and commitment to local radio during the session. In response to accusation of workplace bullying in relation to reselection processes, Davie defended local management saying he believed the process was fair. 

 The NUJ dispute remains live. Dozens of MPs have written to Tim Davie raising concerns about cuts to BBC Local. 

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