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What is in store for the next round of BBC regional TV cuts?

Taking out 25% - 250 million pounds - from the BBC television budget next year is going to be a challenge. Today I look at how the BBC regional news services in England might be "reshaped" to the smaller budget.

BBC South Today ... could be BBC South Coast Today?   Photograph:
BBC South Today ... could be BBC South Coast Today? Photograph:
published on UK Free TV

Here is the cuts graph again, for the period ending 2016/17

BBC cutsI have looked at this topic before in the Why the BBC should abandon 700+m "regional news" to fund local radio, BBC three… article.

BBC Regional News in England is very expensive -  perhaps half of the BBC One budget, if 25% cuts are to be made then the regional news seems an option.

There are basically two options here: reduce the output, or reduce the regions.

Option 1: Reduce the regions

There are 14 regions in England (on top of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).      One option would be to reduce that down to 8, each with 12.5% of the homes in.  Here is a how that might work out:

BBC England split into eight

This would mean "joining" some regions ("Leeds" and "East Midlands"), keeping some the same ("North West", "London") and splitting some ("West Midlands").  The above scheme notes that London+Heartland+SouthCoast is 3 eighths in total.

Such a scheme would be more equitable in terms of budget breakdown, but someone, somewhere is going to feel "distant" from their news centre.

These changes would make sense from a money-saving perspective.  Larger regions would mean fewer studios and savings on broadcast costs, especially satellite where each BBC One region is broadcast separately.

Here's how the figures work out

The maths


Option 2: Reduce the output

Another option would be to keep all the 14 England regions, but reduce the number of broadcast minutes a year.

BBC Regions

Currently the regions insert their own content for a few minutes per hour during Breakfast weekdays, for a quarter hour at 13:30, half an hour at 18:30, an update at 19:57, seven minutes at 22:25.  At the weekend there is segments of Sunday Politics and news updates, with regional documentaries Inside Out.

To save 25% of the budget, the weekday evening programmes could be taken back to 22.5 minute, with shorter late updates and less minutes during Breakfast.   The Inside Out programme could be broadcast for only 75% of the current hours. 

Compared to Option 1, this option will not reduce the number of BBC studios or satellite broadcasts, but may be more acceptable to the viewer.  Extending the national news by four minutes and starting the One Show three minutes sooner could cover the loss somewhat. 


Over to you

Would you accept shorter programmes and bigger regions, or the same programmes covering larger regions?


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Monday, 8 December 2014
Chris Guest
11:47 AM

Instead of simulcasting the 6.00pm News on BBC1 and News24, the BBC should save money but cutting out the BBC1 6.00pm News slot and replacing it with regional news programmes.

The 'old' 6.30pm regional news slot could then be utilised for normal programming.

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Chris Guest's 2 posts GB flag

12:05 PM

Chris Guest: simulcasting is a way of saving money.

The suggestion you made would cost the BBC one budget an extra 2.5 hours of extra output a week.

Also... That news show is one of the highest rating TV programmes in the UK.

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Briantist's 38,899 posts US flag
12:33 PM

The weather department is certainly one that could be overhauled. Given the supposed increased accuracy of weather forecasting today, why do we need a live presentation of the weather on the News Channel every 15 or so minutes?

Expanding this to the regions, if weather were centralised, each region, whether that be 8 or 14, would not need their own weather department and presenting team. Weather presenting isn't something that benefits from local knowledge - certainly not in the way it is broadcast on the BBC anyhow.

I believe that for Breakfast the local weather comes from BBC HQ anyway. They certainly appear to be undertaken by the national forecast team and not the local so why not go the whole hog here and drop it from later programmes?

If the national team aren't engaged in 15 minute cycles, they certainly would have time to provide a local forecast for use by the regions.

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Closer's 1 post GB flag

1:26 PM

Closer: Let's answer that. Firstly, the weather turns up on News channels twice an hour, and there's a good reason for it.

The weather presenters are (at least at the BBC) actual metrologics from "the Met Office". They are able to take the raw output from the computers and convert this into a "story", with accompanying images.

Due to the nature of rolling news, and also the ability of the weather to go from "dull" to "critical", they are past masters at taking a slot that they don't know the length of it and making it look like an efffortless chat.

If the news runs over, it has to be a quick summary, if the newsroom has a a breakdown they often have to cover!

As far as I know the duty weather presenters do all the forecasts (TV, radio and online) centrally, there aren't "teams" in every region. Live weather forecasts on other channels are staggered to allow one person to do them all.

Also, it is worth remembering that many people tune in JUST for the weather. Not you, perhaps.

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Briantist's 38,899 posts US flag
2:26 PM

Simply cut down the number of Presenters. We have two in South East where one would be ample.
Quite a few Regions - London as an example - only has one.
Also cut out the Outside Broadcast Reporters. Too many times we have a Reporter (and Crew etc) outside in the same town as the Studio. Can't see the point except maybe to spend all their Budget.
Same with the Sports - oten an OB from Medway but no apparant reason. (maybe the Presenter lives there).
And if the Weather Presenter is a metorologist I must be on another planet.
Use the ONE Presenter to do Sport and Weather.

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Trevor's 1 post GB flag
J Peter Wilson

3:05 PM

The trouble with the existing BBC TV local news service is that for us Yorkshire folk we cannot get a proper Yorkshire service at present as the news areas seemed to have been organised by transmission engineers rather than people who understood the regions of the country. People in Scarborough get a different version of the news from those in Bridlington and Leeds & the southern parts of Harrogate get a different news from those in Ripon & the north parts of Harrogate.

If for instance the Yorkshire area was combined with the same feeds to Belmont, Bilsdale and Emley Moor then The White Rose County would have a proper news coverage. This area could be combined with Newcastle and Teesside while the West & East Midlands/Lincolnshire could be joined together.

Real local news coverage is best done through local radio e.g. Stray FM or Yorkshire Coast Radio.

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J Peter Wilson's 30 posts GB flag
4:21 PM

Part of Suffolk in with Newcastle? Please be serious. The BBC regions are already too large. I live in North Essex. What's Northampton? You can't remedy that by creating a coastal strip hundreds of miles long and calling it a region.

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dud5ers's 6 posts US flag
Dave Hagen
8:06 PM

I still can,t understand a need for national & international news on BBC1 now when there is a rolling 24 hour news channel. By all means keep the local news but no need for national.

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Dave Hagen's 19 posts GB flag

8:23 PM

Chris Guest: But since the 6pm news has been a fixture since at least 1970, and its second to only the 10pm bulletin in viewers (4m), that might come up against some resistance!

Dave Hagen: Its wider than just that. Not everyone watches News 24, and even if they did, how would it save any money? The reports still have to file their stories, etc. Its local/regional news that costs - all your doing is moving the news half an hour earlier, and finding something else to fill that half hour on BBC1. Its adds costs, not reduces them.

The same goes for all of you who want more local news. The regions dont make sense, everyone knows that. But even Brian's idea for a change doesn't really change the slightly strange logic of my parents in Dorset watching a report about something in Kent - the regions are too large. But to make them smaller and more local means spending more money, not less...

Trevor:: Not all your weather presenters are trained meteorologists, but Kaddy Lee-Preston, Rachel Mackley & Sara Thornton are.

Since my signal comes from Waltham, I get East Midland Today, rather than Anglia. However, that does mean I get to see the freelancer (and trained meteorologist) Kaye Forster. The weather forcast is not very useful for me, but it has its compensations!

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag

10:32 PM

If you combine the regions as suggested there's not much point in having them at all, I'm in Leicestershire I don't care what's happening locally in Leeds! If I lived in Norfolk and tuned into local news only to find out it was covering Middlesbrough I would be a bit miffed to say the least.

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Ian's 497 posts GB flag
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