The BBC should learn from its local radio stations to survive

Published:
19:00 18 January 2022



Mark Murphy, Nick Risby, Lesley Dolphin. All the names that play in our homes every day. Reliable sources of local news and companions for many of us as we eat breakfast, take the kids to school and drive to and from work.

So this week, as the government announced plans to radically reform the BBC and overhaul TV license fees, we would do well to reflect on what impact these changes might have on something many of us enjoy: our own BBC Radio Suffolk.

Many people would support the government in freezing annual license fees for the next two years. Energy bills are rising and households face other costs as we experience the ongoing economic fallout from the pandemic in the form of rising inflation. Asking the BBC to tighten its belt and seek efficiencies at this time is reasonable and should have little to no impact on the quality of its programming.

Certainly, of late, it is understandable that some people have questioned the impartiality and direction of the BBC. For example, during the EU referendum and subsequent Brexit negotiations, the company’s output seemed to be heavily skewed in favor of the Remain campaign.

Similarly, the BBC has set up a plethora of national television and radio channels that cater to non-traditional audiences, mainly the metropolitan elite.

There is a strong case for reform of the BBC’s domestic production to ensure that it is more representative of the views and interests of the whole country, not just London and the “talkative classes”.

From my own experience, I also have no doubt that parts of the BBC nationally are overstaffed and inefficient.

I regularly receive requests from various BBC news programs including Newsnight, the BBC News Channel and Radio 4’s Today programme.

Each different national news program – even when they air on the same TV or radio station – has a completely different production team. It is both unnecessary and costly.

Nationally, BBC channel bosses would do well to learn from our own BBC Radio Suffolk which runs the station just as well but on a smaller budget and with far fewer staff.

While it is easy to argue for more efficient and cost-effective running of the BBC at national level, the case for reforming or even abolishing the license fee is far more complex.

When the license fee was introduced, the BBC had a virtual monopoly on broadcasting in the UK, but times have changed and there are now hundreds of different TV and radio stations.

Many people, especially young people, no longer watch television and instead receive much of their social media news and entertainment via streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube or Amazon Prime. This trend is only continuing and for some the BBC plays little or no role in their lives. It is therefore understandable that people who do not use the BBC regard the idea of ​​paying a license fee as outdated.

However, we must also consider that we live in an age of social media which can often be filled with inaccuracies and misinformation, perhaps one of the worst examples being the behavior of the anti-vaccination movement in spreading lies and pseudo-science online. . Surely, if ever there was a time when unbiased and balanced information was needed from a public service broadcaster, this is it.

The BBC is not perfect. It must reduce its production costs. It needs to be reformed and more faithfully represent the interests of those who live outside the metropolitan bubble.

But, there remains an important role for a public service broadcaster in our country to present our news with integrity and accuracy. The best of the BBC is in our own BBC Radio Suffolk, which is why I will continue to support some form of continuing license fee, but for the BBC to survive Broadcasting House must learn a lot of lessons from their local stations.

– Dan Poulter is the MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich

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