Radio York staff have accused their bosses of overseeing the ‘managed decline’ of BBC local radio as they strike over programming cuts.
Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) mounted a picket line outside the Bootham Row studios of BBC Radio York for the second day today (Thursday).
It’s part of a national walkout protesting at cuts to its services. Local programming is set to be replaced by shared content from nearby stations like Leeds and Sheffield from 2pm.
Broadcast journalist and chair of the NUJ York chapel Richard Staples said: “There will be very few radio programmes generated from this building.
“If you’re a rural arts group in Thirsk, the chances of you getting on Radio York when you’re competing with the Crucible in Sheffield or the Leeds Playhouse is remote.”
The strikes follow the announcement that longstanding presenters at BBC Radio York Jonathan Cowap and Adam Tomlinson took voluntary redundancy last month after 34 years and 30 years respectively at the public broadcaster.
The BBC says it wants to reduce the amount of local programming to make way for more online and digital journalism, due to shifting audiences.
That’s despite sites like YorkMix providing lots of online news for York and North Yorkshire.
When challenged on whether it is necessary to change the BBC’s approach, Mr Staples said: “Part of that reduction in audiences is due to the fact that we’ve never had any publicity for local radio funded at all by the BBC to help us do that.
“It’s a managed decline, a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you don’t invest in local radio stations they will gradually disappear.”
‘Long and lasting damage’
Richard Edwards, political reporter at BBC Radio York, said: “To remove dedicated local programming after 2pm on a weekday and at weekends, we think is a mistake.”
Mr Edwards added that “when the damage is done it’s very hard to repair.”
“It will cause long and lasting damage, not only to BBC local radio but also to the communities that we serve,” he said.
Mr Edwards was disappointed there was not a public consultation and described the decision to speak out about the BBC as “an absolute nightmare.”
“I’m gutted to be standing here holding a placard when I want to be out doing my job talking to people, holding politicians to account,” he said.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We understand this is a difficult period of change for many colleagues and we will continue to support everyone affected by the plans to strengthen our local online services across news and audio.
“Our goal is to deliver a local service across TV, radio and online that offers more value to more people in more local communities.
“While the plans do impact on individual roles, we are maintaining our overall investment in local services and expect our overall level of editorial staffing across England to remain unchanged.”
According to BBC News, twenty-six cross-party Yorkshire MPs have written to the BBC’s director general Tim Davie to raise their concerns over the proposed cuts to local radio.
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