BBC Radio York’s Jonathan Cowap is standing down as presenter of the morning show after over 34 years with the station.
Speaking on air this morning he said it was because of the cuts to local radio and it was his decision to go but he can’t pretend that it was an easy one to make.
He said he wished that it wasn’t happening and expressed his disappointment that a senior BBC manager withdrew an offer to appear on the programme to explain the changes to BBC local radio.
The BBC plans to close local transmission (apart from short local news updates on the hour) at 2pm each day with nothing but sports coverage from York at weekends.
A presenter from Sheffield will fill the gap from 2pm to 6pm on weekdays.
The move will save some cash but also help the BBC reinvest in digital content – which critics argue is of more appeal to younger audiences. The corporation has been accused of deserting older listeners who have grown up with their local BBC station.
Others have pointed out that the open market already provides local digital news services – which could be undermined by the BBC’s taxpayer-subsidised digital expansion. However, the market cannot provide local speech radio like Radio York.
A BBC spokesperson said they respected Jonathan’s decision. You can read the corporation’s full justification for the changes here.
This is what Jonathan Cowap said on air shortly after 11am today (Thursday):
“I’m going to try and keep it together through this which might not be terribly easy.
“A week today, next Thursday, will see me presenting my last ever programme here on BBC Radio York.
“As you know, the BBC has decided that it wants to make some changes to its local radio services.
“Ninety million pounds is being reallocated from local radio budgets, so that we can provide a better digital service to people in York and North Yorkshire and more investigative journalists.
“As we’ve discussed on air before, you will have local programmes from our York studios from six in the morning through until two in the afternoon on weekdays.
“Outside those hours, including most of the weekends, apart from sports, our programmes are now going to be shared with other radio stations in this region.
“Now, I had most sincerely hoped that a senior member of BBC management would appear on this programme to explain these changes.
“Indeed, I sat face to face with such a senior member of management in the office upstairs just a few weeks ago, and he did promise me that he would appear on the programme to explain and to hear your reaction.
“Unfortunately, that isn’t now going to be possible and that offer was withdrawn, not something I’m terribly happy about.
Jonathan Cowap continued “However, as part of the change process existing presenters here at Radio York and right across the BBC local radio stations were told that we could, if we wished, apply to keep our own jobs.
“As you might understand, after 34 years of presenting a daily show here on BBC Radio York, I really didn’t appreciate being told that the only way to keep my job was to make a demo tape and go through an interview.
“It just didn’t seem fair. It didn’t seem right to me. So I’ve decided not to go through that process, though it was offered to me and have decided to take the voluntary redundancy.
“I can’t pretend that this has been an easy decision to take, it feels rather wrong, rather disloyal to you (the listener) for which I apologise.
“I have enjoyed my time here. All of my working life really.
“I’ve had the privilege of working alongside some amazing and hugely talented people across three and a half decades.
“There is no question that I’m going to miss life here at Radio York tremendously.
“And I do wish this wasn’t happening now and wasn’t happening in this way. But those decisions were really out of my hands.
“What I’m gonna miss most is chatting to you, reading your emails, your texts, your set of messages, you have been so tremendously generous over the years, sharing your views, your opinions, your stories, and your experiences.”
He said he had “no idea what I’m going to do with my life in the future. Unless someone steps forward with a job offer which I simply can’t refuse. That hasn’t happened yet.
“I will probably take a few weeks away, to gather myself together and then a new life beckons.”