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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.

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Comments
Friday, 14 March 2014
G
Greg
11:04 AM

Moving BBC Three online is not an ideal way but is a more sensible way to save money compared to your proposal to eliminate televised local news, Briantist. BBC Three content will still be funded, produced and shown on BBC One or BBC Two and will be available online so no one will miss great new comedy etc.

If you want to see what will happen to BBC regional news if its funding is vastly reduced, just turn over to ITV. 'Thin and crispy' analysis and reporting at best and dominated by the largest conurbation in your region, which could be a hundred miles away or more.

Sure there are probably some regional news savings to be made but not by your proposed method.


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Greg's 2 posts US
Saturday, 15 March 2014
A
Alvin Pritchard
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

8:01 PM

I think these proposals are quite foolish, this is because many people depend on regional TV news as their primary source of news information.

A BBC "National TV news service only" would inevitably force viewers to look elsewhere for their cherished regional bulletins.

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Alvin Pritchard's 40 posts GB
Sunday, 16 March 2014
Watlingfen
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

5:43 AM

BBC 3 only apeals to youngsters many of which don't have to pay the £145.50 a year perhaps some - the more popular programmes from '3' could go to BBC2 or BBC4. BBC TV regional news has, especially with the floods etc kept folks informed in places a local 'paper couldn't be had and local radio couldn't show important pictures and plans though perhaps an alternative would be a closing of some TV sub-regions which terrestrial transmitters don't fully reach the borders of (i.e. East Midlands) and a longer regional news programme from Birmingham (in this case) . After all whitehall created the so called East Midlands and West Midlands - it was The Midlands before they messed it up. Wales and Scotland already have their local 'regional' news so why change it ? Stations to get rid of are Radio 1 (there are now plenty of commercial stations playing pop) and The Asian Network - this is England and everyone living here should speak English . Ok BBC 1 has become crap in recent years with such as The Voice , Come Celebrity Prancing crap yank films desparate comedy and dramas where shouting passes as acting including Eastenders going from bad to worse . but the idea no one really cares about their region is daft . No, scrap BBC3 , Radio 1, Asian Network and then , providing the areas news is covered properly , combine sub-region news back into the former regions (i.e. East , Midlands , West (including Devon, Cornwall C.Islands) South (including S.E) North (including Yorks,Newcastle, Carlisle) and give them a full hour . Scotland , N.I. , Wales a full hour from one studio in each country. Perhaps recorded and repeated instead of the crap American film later or on BBC2.
BBC4 has too many limited audience interest programmes , liven it up with a few mid-brow dramas or popular series/serials of the 70's 80's from the vault. Make every station , TV and radio worth its audience .

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Watlingfen's 38 posts GB
D
dave williams
8:57 AM

I live in a area were my local news can only be recieved via sky or freesat .my freeview tv channels are from Wales, as is a large part of the Wirral ,so what happens to us? If the local news goes off satellite Under current plans ,we will not even be able to recieve Bay tv, the new local Liverpool channel ( i live 10 miles from Liverpool ) .Whereas the authories in Wales managed to get Storeton (in Wirral) to transmit Wales Tv ,We where told get sky or freesat for you local news .
sorry for rant

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dave williams's 1 post GB
D
David Roberts
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

9:31 AM

dave williams: Hi Dave,the reverse should happen in this instance. There are plenty of elevated site's above Flint and Holywell,where the exisitng Storeton North West channels could be relayed from,instead of the present Easterly beam from Storeton.
When i used to come to the Wirral,with my old job,i noted that many properties,had aerials directed towards The Wrekin.Would this be a slightly better solution than having to put up with the Welsh services.

The Welsh services from Storeton was a Political solution and it may be productive to make complaints to your local MP and OfCom. I would also consider making a complaint to both ITV Granada and BBC North West,if only to make them aware.

However i can't really see the Freesat satellite system being undone,as far as Regional TV provision goes.
Not sure how effective a 2KW Westerly beamed Bay TV service will be received from Winter Hill,on Merseyside.

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David Roberts's 23 posts GB
T
trevorjharris
sentiment_satisfiedGold

4:56 PM

Don't worry about it. Noel Edmonds has setup a consortium to buy the BBC .

Deal or No Deal!

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trevorjharris's 367 posts GB
D
dave williams
9:31 PM

Hi Dave
Thanks for your comments ,i was aware of the Wrekin in, fact on Digital switchover i received info on tuning into that transmitter , I am quite happy to receive Wales TV ,But the the original item was to remove regional TV news and replace it with national news . as to MPs many people have complained over the years and the answers was no channels available wait for satellite TV . As for local relays there is one a West Kirby but it only serves a very small area mainly the town of the same name . Many years ago there was plans for a relay by the Shotton steelworks to beam winter hill channels to the English side , but it was stopped by politics .

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dave williams's 1 post GB
Mark Agius
sentiment_satisfiedGold

9:41 PM
Haywards Heath

The Scottish issue.
BBC One Scotland local news at 6:00pm

Why can't they show it to BBC Alba? (On all Scotland transmitters)

Still leaves a problem with BBC1 Northern Ireland and Wales thou.

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Mark Agius's 361 posts GB
Monday, 17 March 2014
N
Nick Anderson
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

12:36 PM

Has Brian Butterworth really taken leave of his senses? The regional news programme on BBC1 is about the only programme that some busy people watch. To suggest that they should stop covering the regions is completely rediculous as surely every intelligent person is interested in the area in which they live and in some homes actually takes the place of the local newspaper which recently have become increasingly unaffordable for those on a limited budget. Brian should try living in the real world today.

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Nick Anderson's 95 posts GB
Tuesday, 18 March 2014
M
Mr Tim
7:31 AM

I disagree. I only listen to local radio if the weather is really bad and I need traffic news whilst still at home. Removal of local news from the television would be a retrograde step. Plus this suggestion would lead to yet more dross being served up at one of the few times I watch television - at least there is Mr Portillo with his Bradshaw to compete...

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Mr Tim's 3 posts GB
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