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Why the BBC should abandon 700+m "regional news" to fund local radio, BBC three,

In summary: the more I think about this, the more it makes sense for the BBC to withdraw from so-called regional news and plough the extensive savings - 715 million pounds a year - into an improved local radio network, keeping BBC three on the television, expanding BBC FOUR and creating a new daily tea-time family comedy spot. Part of the savings would be used for a Scottish Six news programme, plus NI Six.

Is Sally Taylor (and her colleagues) really worth over seven hundred million pounds a year?    Photograph: BBC
Is Sally Taylor (and her colleagues) really worth over seven hundred million pounds a year? Photograph: BBC
published on UK Free TV

Why am I making these proposals in the first place?

Following the recent announcement to "take BBC three online", I thought I would take a look at the BBC programme budget and see if there was an alternative.

It seems to me that to reduce the BBC budget by 0.5% by taking a service which is valued by a normally hard-to-reach demographic was unfair.

And I think there is a gaping hole in the budget of BBC One that needs urgent attention.

With the renewal of the BBC Charter coming up soon, now might be the time to act.

What am I proposing?

I am saying that the BBC needs to abandon BBC local news in England and Wales because it costs a fortune to provide, is poor value for money and it is not very good.

I am saying that the hundreds of millions of pounds spend should be used to provide:

  • Funding a new family-comedy slot at 6:30pm on BBC One;
  • Funds to keep broadcasting BBC three as a TV channel for the next decade;
  • Funds to make BBC FOUR a better service;
  • Money for local radio to improve the local radio news websites (and Red Button) and provide a full local news service in the 6:30pm-7pm slot.
  • Provide a Scottish Six news programme at 6pm on BBC One Scotland, and a similar service for Northern Ireland.
  • Save £615 million pounds;

BBC - Press Office - BBC Nations & Regions

"BBC Nations & Regions is the largest regional broadcasting operation in the UK- accounting for more than £550m of BBC expenditure and employing nearly 7,000 staff across the UK."

At 2014 prices, half-and-hour evening slot costs £715,000,000 a year.

The problem with regional news

The first problem with regional news is that it is very expensive - costing £715m a year. That's more than enough to fund BBC local radio FIVE times or BBC TWO, BBC three AND BBC FOUR.

The second problem is that it is poorly targeted. Even back in the 1960s the BBC observed:

"The boundaries were drawn some forty years ago not on any basis of community interest but to match the range of the transmitters. These are regions devised by engineers rather than sociologists. We respect the loyalties which the present English Regions have created but we now propose to replace them with eight smaller and more socially logical regions. " - Broadcasting in the Seventies

The current regions are too large to be socially logical and provide local news to anyone. Real people are interested in what happens in their street, their town. If they live in a city, they care what is happening in their part of the city.

No one really care what's happening in their "region". To spend over £700m a year on a service to these areas is wrong.

The reason for them is they are a legacy of the start of the ITV network in the 1950s and 1960s. The BBC had to match a network of ITV companies that most people have long since forgotten about.

The Scottish issue

The government and legal system in Scotland (assuming that it stays within the Union) is different to that in England and Wales. Because of this a special 6pm programme for BBC One Scotland should be provided. This should use the main BBC news packages for international and UK-wide news, but also provide suitable Scottish Parliamentary and domestic priority stories.

The Northern Ireland Issue

Exactly the same arguments can be made for Northern Ireland: therefore a 6pm news programme "edited and re-purposed" for the province is also essential.

What to do with the £715m saved?

Firstly there needs to be some funds allocated to Scotland and Northern Ireland for their special 6pm and 10pm news.

Then £20m should go to enable BBC local radio in England to provide a comprehensive news programme at 6:30pm and 10:25pm and training, staff and support to ensure that the BBC local radio news websites are fit for purpose.

£30m should go to BBC three to enable it to be kept as a television service. It is important to not disenfranchise those young adults who can't or won't go online.

£50m should go to BBC FOUR. It is an excellent channel that suffers from having too small a budget to provide what it does in enough quality. This money should be able to provide a weekly hour of new science, history, arts, international affairs and

And what of the empty slot between the BBC News and The One Show?

I propose that BBC One takes a leaf out of BBC Radio 4 and uses the slot as an comedy antidote to the news. Five slot might mean a panel show (say, QI), a stand-up show (like Russell Howard, but pre-watershed), something leftfield (like The Might Boosh) and there's still room for some satire.

All questions
BBC Three Linear channel re-opens1
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How do I get a test card with Freeview3
What can I do when my Sky Digibox says 'No Signal' or 'Technical fau4
Can I receive UK TV in Ghana?5
In this section
BBC salami-slicing returns to overnight services?1
#GreatBBC campaign launched2
Goodbye BBC Red Button!3
Want to know how much the BBC spend in England, Scotland, Wales and NI per home?4
S4C and Welsh Exceptionalism?5
BBC future: make sure you make the deadline6

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

2:38 PM

Aerialman: I can assure you and everyone else that no comments of yours have been deleted.

I have just checked the database and the logs.

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Briantist's 38,915 posts GB flag

2:48 PM

CliveEA: To address your points

"1. Regional news gets consistently higher audience figures across the nation than most other programmes. "

That depends on the region.

2. It's a requirement under the Charter

The Charter is being renewed. As per my article.

3. Regional News operations are an essential part of the national news system

In your opinion.

4. Your "it's not very good" comment is not objective, you don't like it most of the audience do.

MOST people don't watch. If they did, the viewing figures would be 51% or more.

5. Audience research shows that people want regional/local news

So? People always want stuff and then don't want to pay for it.

As per my article anyway: what people want is LOCAL news.

Faux "regions" created by the BBC: less so.

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Briantist's 38,915 posts GB flag
Mike Dimmick

2:49 PM

Aerialman: Briantist has recently reduced the number of comments per page. Use the 'First comments' and 'Earlier comments' links above the list of comments to go back to the previous pages, or click the page number tabs at the bottom of the list of comments.

Briantist: What's your source for the cost of local TV news? Are you seriously saying that this is nearly 50% of BBC One's entire budget, and costs nearly twice the running cost of BBC Two?

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Mike Dimmick's 2,486 posts GB flag
Dave Lindsay

3:11 PM

Briantist: I can't believe what I'm reading!

Look North is the only local news programme I watch, having not watched Calendar for years. I value it greatly. If I didn't have it then I wouldn't know what was going on elsewhere in Yorkshire.

I watch BBC national news broadcast on BBC One, but on occasions watch BBC News channel. I invariably watch Channel 4 News, which gives me my national news.

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Dave Lindsay's 5,724 posts GB flag

3:31 PM

Briantist:my appolgies,have found comments now,thanks

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Aerialman's 140 posts GB flag
David Roberts

4:10 PM

Briantist: Regarding the 'Wales Six' issue,it's true that viewers in Wales,now have an alternative to the Cardiff based BBC Wales and ITV Wales,that is within easy reach.In other words Satellite.

What I would really like to see,is the Broadcaster's,engaging with their audience's and taking on-board their opinion's.

I work in the TV Trade as both a repair tech and installer,in the North Wales coast area and what is more than apparent to me,is that the broadcaster's are out of touch,with viewer opinion.
In 2009,ITV Granada tried to offload their North Wales audience that they had served,since 1956. That hasn't worked as the ITV Granada audience, is as vast as ever it was. Reason's for this? There are a few I'm aware of.Firstly Social/family ties with the North West. The transport sytem is closely linked as is the use of Airport's.Most people living here,rely on Manchester or Liverpool John Lennon airport. Retail shopping in Chester,Liverpool,Warrington and Manchester,are favoured. I'm all in favour of both BBC Wales and ITV Wales improving their identities and increasing their own Programme output,but they must also accept that this is not for all viewer's in Wales and those viewer's who prefer to stay with the English region's they are presently viewing should be respected and catered for.In the North Wales coast area,for instance,BBC North West,should be encouraged to cover the major North Wales News stories and ITV Granada should be encouraged to restore the coverage they gave,until the Summer of 2009.
I am not without inside knowledge,as regards the battle to keep ITV Granada covering the North Wales coast. Ultimately,i involved my local MP,who held a meeting with the News Editor's of both,ITV Granada and ITV Wales. The decision to drop North Wales, was made by ITV,as an internal decision. Indeed,Two of our local AM's also wrote to ITV Granad to request re-consideration of their decision.
Ultimately,you can't force viewer's to watch a particular region,if they don't like it's output.

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David Roberts's 23 posts GB flag
4:20 PM

To come back to my points:

1. Regional news gets consistently higher audience figures ACROSS THE NATION than most other programmes.
You didn't read the answer properly

2. It's a requirement under the Charter
That's not going to change, believe me

3. Regional News operations are an essential part of the national news system
No, not in my opinion - FACT. That's how the BBC works.

4. Your "it's not very good" comment is not objective, you don't like it, most of the audience do.
Of course most people don't watch. MOST PEOPLE don't do anything, rarely do you get over 50% of the population.
Almost no-one watches BBC3 so your argument certainly doesn't stand up. More people watch regional news than will ever watch BBC2/3/4, ITV2/3/4 or all the other minority channels

5. Audience research shows that people want regional/local news
People want more local news not just local news.
The regions were not created by the BBC. It's the transmitter coverage that dictates the region and half of them were put up by the ITA. The ITV regions correspond with one or two slight tweaks.
"So? People always want stuff and then don't want to pay for it." Don't see the problem here, they've already got it and they're paying for it. Try taking it away and then see what fuss is kicked up!

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CliveEA's 3 posts GB flag

4:23 PM

Briantist: The East Midlands region of Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and Lincoln works very well. It is refered to as local news by the TV crews and for many of the local residents represents their daily work and leisure zone, including Skegness the nearest seaside town, the Derbyshire Peak District and both the out of town and city shopping areas used by many. I must admit that the Belmont region is a little odd, with Hull and Grimsby having little to do with Lincoln and even less with North Nottinghamshire or parts of Chesterfield where it gives the best signal. It is certainly true that instead of tuning in to BBC1 on a daily basis, if there was no East Midlands Today I would only view occasionally when there is a mystery drama series or New Tricks being shown.

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KMJ,Derby's 1,811 posts GB flag

4:43 PM

David Roberts: The trouble is the whole of Wales as a single region does not work! Not only are activities in Cardiff too far away to have any relevence to the daily lives of residents of North Wales, there is the additional problem that in order to serve Cardiff and Swansea adequately on days when there is a lot of news for that area any news for North Wales risks being squeezed out completely. In the East Midlands we used to have a similar problem when news came from Birmingham!

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KMJ,Derby's 1,811 posts GB flag
David Roberts

5:00 PM

KMJ,Derby: Thanks for the comments.Feedback from my customer's and the company I now Freelance for,mostly complain of South Wales Bias.Also BBC Wales in particular appears to them,to have a very pro-Nationalist editorial,which doesn't appeal to what is,a very Conservative voting area.

Yes Cardiff is a very long,long way away and so News from there and South Wales in general,is of no interest to viewer's in the North.I guess the same applies to viewer's in the South.
In the Day's of HTV Wales,there was virtually no North Wales News coverage.The reason why,was,quite simply,there was no electronic link between HTV's office in Bangor or Mold. Obviously in the Day before S4C came around,in 1982,most viewer's wanted to avoid the Welsh Language programmes,as they displaced Network programming. The samr could be said now,only that the programming is in English.It still displaces Network programming though and this doesn't go down too well with viewer's. I really hope both BBC Wales and ITV Wales,think very carefully,if they want to increase their own programming hours. Once a viewer is lost,they are very difficult to regain.

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David Roberts's 23 posts GB flag
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