NUJ rebuts BBC chair’s “off-beam” comments on local radio

  • 02 Jan 2024

Michelle Stanistreet reacts to correspondence between BBC acting chair Dame Elan Closs Stephens and industry expert David Lloyd.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“The correspondence between BBC acting chair Dame Elan Closs Stephens and industry expert David Lloyd makes interesting reading on a number of levels. I’m sure NUJ members who’ve lived through the BBC’s cuts to local radio over the past year will be surprised and disappointed to learn that she believes their implementation happened as “compassionately” as possible.

“Closs Stephens demonstrates she is similarly off-beam when she seeks to link recent technical issues in output with the NUJ’s industrial action. All such failures have in fact been a result of the flawed plan to cut local radio output and share the burden of news bulletins across more than one station.

"We’re pleased to report that a pilot is about to begin in two regions – where local newsreaders are retained – which we are confident will demonstrate the value of live and local output. It would also be a good use of her remaining time in the chair to visit some of the 39 local radio stations in England to gather more accurate feedback from colleagues on the ground.”

Dame Elan wrote to David Lloyd in response to questions concerning the BBC’s plans to cut local radio content by almost a half and shift local journalism online. He had questioned the BBC board’s role in oversight of the plans in relation to the BBC’s remit, the lack of consultation with the public and the broadcasting regulator Ofcom and how the cuts have affected the quality of the service.

In his blog, he says: “I did not know whether to laugh or cry with the boast ‘I am also confident that our programming will also be well received by audiences’ and I look forward to seeing the evidence for that confidence… She [Closs Stephens] suggested that the BBC had briefed Ofcom at all stages through the process, conveniently forgetting the tetchy letter from Ofcom in Feb 23. That suggested the BBC may have engaged but churlishly.”

Dr Samir Shah is set to replace Closs Stephens as chair of the BBC board

David Lloyd’s blog

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