BBC radio staff facing jobs axe

ANGELA SMITH MP AT HIGH GREEN    Angela Smith MP at the Angram Bank Centre, High Green for her surgery.   13  May 2011
ANGELA SMITH MP AT HIGH GREEN Angela Smith MP at the Angram Bank Centre, High Green for her surgery. 13 May 2011
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NEARLY one fifth of Radio Sheffield’s 45 staff could lose their jobs and local broadcasting is set to be reduced from 16 to nine hours a day under money-saving plans by the BBC Trust.

The station is set to lose 16 per cent, or £300,000, of its £1.8 million annual budget.

The plans, which are open for public consultation, have been criticised for ‘devaluing’ local radio.

Critics say Radio Sheffield’s budget cut is disproportionately high, compared with savings of no more than 7.5 per cent being required from national stations.

Meanwhile budgets for Radio 4, children’s services and BBC Parliament, will be protected.

The budget for coverage of the Proms is being increased.

Regional or national programmes are set to be broadcast on Radio Sheffield for 15 hours each day, with local broadcasting during peak hours only.

There will also be an end to guaranteed local commentary of sport, meaning when teams play away, listeners will hear commentary from the BBC local radio station in the opponents’ area.

Kate Linderholm, National Union of Journalists’ representative at BBC Radio Sheffield, said: “While my members are concerned about jobs cuts they are more shocked and angry the service we provide is being devalued.

“Our listeners want and expect the BBC to reflect their lives, their communities, their voice, where they live.

“Most local radio listeners are working class, many are poor and many are old. Local radio is likely to be the only BBC Radio they access. For the universal licence fee to work, the BBC has to serve all those who pay it. It has decided it no longer wants to serve many of its working class listeners.”

A 40 per cent cut to regional television current affairs programme Inside Out is also planned along with the loss of medium wave for local radio, bringing to an end language programmes for ethnic minority groups.

Penistone and Stocksbridge Labour MP Angela Smith said she was ‘really worried’ about the cuts and was planning to organise a debate in Parliament about the future of local radio.

She said: “The BBC Trust says it is right to protect the budget of Radio 4 and increase funding for the Proms when it also wants to cut local radio quite seriously when it is a service which reaches far more people.”