Well it’s been an interesting few weeks in the industry whilst I’ve been on my travels. But perhaps the most important development has been the apparent lessening of the threat to merge BBC Local Radio with Five Live. On Thursday, the BBC’s Chief Operating Officer Caroline Thomson gave an update on the BBC’s Delivering Quality First programme, described to staff and the wider world as an open conversation about the BBC’s future.
Earlier in the week, the Director General Mark Thompson also seemed to indicate that the idea of sharing significant parts of Local Radio’s output with Five Live was now no longer on the table. But whilst staff working in Local Radio may be breathing a small sigh of relief, there’s also a sense that this is a battle that’s far from over.
So it’s good to see more organisations coming forward to support the cause. The Country Land and Business Association. And once again, it’s not rocket science.
The East Midlands Director Andrew Shirley seems to sum up much of the argument in one sentence “Crises do not occur at convenient times, and radio can often be the only source of current information.”
And that, to some, will always be the eternal dilemma with networking programmes. When does a story become big enough to warrant a return to local programmes? For how long do you keep with local output? And what kind of resources do you have left if some local output has been scrapped?
Yet many observers also fail to see the existing, very important relationship between Local Radio and network stations. Much of this work is done behind the scenes, so isn’t always obvious to the listener.
And occasionally it may not be obvious to senior managers, which is why this audio package from BBC Radio Cumbria illustrates the value of Local Radio within the wider BBC family. This is the kind of “demo tape” that individual presenters and journalists often compile when they’re applying for jobs – showcasing the very best bits of your output.
And what’s easy to forget is that all of this is done – in 40 locations across the country – at a cost of just 3.2 pence per listener, per hour. Good value for money? I think so.