RadioCentre challenges BBC to deliver quality distinctive services

By Maisie McCabe, mediaweek.co.uk, Friday, 07 October 2011 10:50AM

RadioCentre, the trade body for commercial radio, has challenged the BBC to deliver quality with the most distinctive radio services possible, following the corporation's announcement of widespread cuts yesterday.

Andrew Harrison: chief executive of RadioCentre

Andrew Harrison: chief executive of RadioCentre

Yesterday the BBC executive's Delivering Quality First (DQF) initiative outlined plans to reduce spending by 20% over five years including cutting around 2,000 jobs and moving a further 1,000 to Salford.

In the radio business the budget of Radio 4 will be kept stable but there will be greater sharing of news bulletins, a reduction of the amount of original drama and live music on Radio 3, Radio 5 live will focus on its core output of news and sport and the (once threatened with closure) BBC Asian Network will see cuts of 34%.

Earlier this year Radio Academy chief executive and former GMG Radio chief executive John Myers’ report on efficiencies in BBC national radio suggested a number of synergies between BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, 1Xtra and 6 Music.

In local radio there will be a focus on the core slots of breakfast, mid-morning and drive time, more sharing of programming on weekday afternoons, evenings and Sunday afternoons and reductions at BBC London.

The BBC Trust (the regulator of the BBC) has opened a consultation on the future of BBC local radio to ask the public what it thinks of the executive’s proposals and the current BBC local radio output.

Andrew Harrison, chief executive of RadioCentre, said: "RadioCentre has argued for many years that the BBC's generous public funding for national and local radio should be scrutinised to secure best value for licence fee payers. 

"The recent Myers report into radio production and the National Audit Office's efficiency review both identified opportunities for significant cost savings.

"Even after these changes BBC radio will still have vast resources. Its real challenge will be to do what DQF promises, and deliver quality with the most distinctive radio services possible."

The BBC Trust has also launched a public consultation on the DQF proposals in their entirety and people wanting to participate have until 21 December 2011 to submit their thoughts. The Trust is expected to reach conclusions early in 2012.

The consultation into local radio also closed on 21 December and the BBC Trust said it expects to publish its findings in early spring 2012.

Harrison said RadioCentre looks forward to responding to the substance of the Trust's consultation on DQF in due course.

The BBC is committed to save £670m after agreeing to freeze the licence fee at £145.50 a year for six years, to 2016/2017, in a quick settlement with culture secretary Jeremy Hunt last September.

Follow @MaisieMcCabe on Twitter

This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk

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