BBC’s cuts to local radio must be stopped

The RFL is encouraging supporters to unite in order to salvage BBC Local Radio amid of the spending cuts the corporation has to face.

The BBC has been forced to make spending cuts due to its reliance on taxpayer’s money in an economic recession period. Part of these cuts will see a review on the way BBC Local Radio spends its budget, what it produces and the listenership.

The BBC plan to reduce their local radio output and broadcast programmes nationally or regionally, except at peak times. They plan to execute the following plans in order to limit their spending.

Weekday afternoon programmes will be shared across different stations in a regional area. This could see Radio Merseyside and Radio Manchester sharing their afternoon shows as northern stations.
The review aims to scrap all local programming between 7pm and 10pm. This would see the end of magazine programmes such as Radio Manchester’s Rugby League Extra, a show which recently won a gold award at the prestigious Gillard BBC Local Radio awards.
There would be a significant loss of live commentary, including updates, which would remove any broadcast media presence at local Championship games.
The BBC aim to share programming between local stations in the same regional areas. As stations in the north, BBC Merseyside, Manchester and Leeds could share the same programming schedule in off-peak times. The BBC trust’s latest local radio review document include Sunday afternoons as off-peak times, thus threatening the very existence of live commentary for clubs with traditional kick off times.
On top of the above, there will be huge costs for any station that plans to broadcast more than one live match. The use of medium wave as an alternative for listeners increases the chances of supporters listening to their favourite team if they are not able to attend the game itself.

The RFL believe the loss of local radio would be detrimental to the sport as well as the community. The coverage of rugby league, specifically on a Sunday afternoon when the majority of professional matches are played, would hit an all time low with the corporation should these cuts go ahead. I couldn’t agree more with the RFL’s agenda on this issue, and would urge every reader to fight against the cuts.

The coverage of the Championships on BBC local radio is the biggest media output the second and third tiers of domestic rugby league receive on a regular basis. BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Cumbria and BBC Radio Leeds regularly send reporters to local Championship games where the sport receives a very large following. While phone-ins and news is centred on Super League clubs, these two local radio stations dedicate a large proportion of time on Championship clubs and are willing to listen to semi professional supporters on matters rugby league.

Should the BBC press ahead with their review and condemn local radio to a mere skeleton, this type of programming will cease to exist. We know the BBC’s national news coverage of rugby league ranges from limited to non-existent, but this could spell the end of any regular coverage across the airwaves. Sports news could be centralised at Media City in Salford, but be broadcast to the entire nation therefore football would take priority. Gone would be the days of listening to local radio specifically to keep up to date on your team.

The BBC will review their local radio services and output before making a decision, therefore the RFL are urging all listeners and supporters of local radio to make their voices heard. The RFL have set up templates and recommended answers to the questions the BBC want to know, and are begging fans across the sport to submit their views.

To learn more, click on the RFL’s website here.

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