Cuts to fall on Ra­dio Berk­shire as BBC looks to save £125m

The Wokingham Paper - - NEWS - By PHIL CREIGHTON

CHANGES made to BBC Ra­dio Berk­shire’s sched­ules at the start of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic will be­come per­ma­nent as the broad­caster looks to save £125 mil­lion. In all, 450 jobs across BBC Eng­land are at risk – 15% of the work­force. A con­sul­ta­tion is now in place and it is not known­whatwill hap­pen to BBC Ra­dio Berk­shire’s staff num­bers. The BBC runs 39 lo­cal ra­dio sta­tions in Eng­land. Since March, it has di­vided the broad­cast­ing day into four-hour chunks – a break­fast show, a morn­ing show, an af­ter­noon show and an evening one. Spe­cial­ist pro­grammes, which in Berk­shire in­clude Ir­ish Eye, have been dropped and un­der the pro­pos­als it means that it is un­likely to come back. Each pro­gramme will only have one pre­sen­ter. And other changes will see re­gional pro­grammes made from 11 cen­tres such as Southamp­ton, re­placed with ones made from six cen­tres. The clos­est to Berk­shire would be London. Other changes in­clude chang­ing the 6.30pm re­gional bul­letins from mul­ti­ple news­cast­ers to just one, and mak­ing more pro­grammes from Brad­ford, Sun­der­land, Wolver­hamp­ton, Black­pool and Peter­bor­ough. He­len Thomas, the di­rec­tor of BBC Eng­land, says: “I’m proud peo­ple have turned to us for trusted news and in­for­ma­tion in huge num­bers dur­ing COVID-19, prov­ing the im­por­tance of our lo­cal and re­gional ser­vices. But those ser­vices were cre­ated more than 50 years ago, have changed very lit­tle and need sig­nif­i­cant rein­ven­tion. That has meant tak­ing some dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions. “We are in the age of the Face­book com­mu­nity group and the What­sApp neigh­bour­hood chat. We must adapt to bet­ter re­flect how peo­ple live their lives, how they get their news and what con­tent they­want.” She added: “We’re go­ing to­mod­ernise our of­fer to au­di­ences in Eng­land by mak­ing dig­i­tal a cen­tral part of ev­ery­thing we do. “We’ll take for­ward lessons fromCOVID-19 that will make us more ag­ile and more in touch with com­mu­ni­ties, while also en­sur­ing we’re as ef­fi­cient aswe can be. I’mcon­fi­den­twe can evolve our lo­cal and re­gional ser­vices while im­prov­ing our im­pact and bet­ter serv­ing our au­di­ences.” There is no news as to what will hap­pen to spe­cial­ist pro­grammes on lo­cal ra­dio, which on BBC Ra­dio Berk­shire in­cludes Ir­ish Eye and a Satur­day­morn­ing Trea­sure Hunt-type pro­gramme that sees pre­sen­ter Anoushka Wil­liams travel around the county in re­sponse to a team in the stu­dio an­swer­ing clues as to her lo­ca­tion. A BBC spokesper­son told Wok­ing­ham. To­day: “The BBC faces huge fi­nan­cial chal­lenges and our lo­cal ser­vices are not im­mune to th­ese pres­sures. “We an­nounced pro­pos­als to re­tain the suc­cess­ful changes made to the week­day day­time lo­cal ra­dio sched­ules at the be­gin­ning of the Covid-19 pan­demic on a per­ma­nent ba­sis. “All 39 sta­tions will con­tinue to pro­vide lo­cal con­tent and fur­ther up­dates to in­di­vid­ual sta­tion sched­ules will be re­viewed at a later date.”

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