Documents to download

In May 2022, the BBC announced its plans to become a digital-first service. This plan was formulated as both a response to the new licence fee settlement announced in January 2022, and broader changes to its audience’s listening habits. These plans included a commitment to focus the BBC’s local radio programming to where it has the most impact.

In October 2022 the BBC announced more detailed proposed changes to local radio output:

  • All 39 BBC Local Radio stations will continue with their own dedicated local programming from 6am to 2pm on weekdays.
  • Between 2pm-6pm on weekdays, the BBC will produce 18 afternoon programmes across England, with a number of local stations sharing programming.
  • Between 6pm-10pm on weekdays, there will be ten local programmes across England. This will also apply all day on Saturday and on Sunday mornings.
  • These programmes will serve areas that broadly mirror the BBC’s existing local television areas: North West & North East, Yorkshire & Lincolnshire, Midlands, London & East, South and South West.
  • A national ‘all-England’ programme will be launched after 10pm across the week and from 2pm on Sundays.
  • Local news bulletins and sports coverage will continue.

On 24 January 2023, the BBC said that it had “listened carefully to the feedback we received from staff and audiences”. In response, the organisation announced several adaptations to the previously announced proposals. This involved:

  • Increasing the proposed number of afternoon weekday programmes from 18 to 20 between 2pm and 6pm.
  • Increasing the proposed number of weekend daytime shows from 12 to 18 between 10am and 2pm on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
  • Revising some of the proposed pairings of stations in response to feedback from audiences.

The BBC also said that it was “maintaining our commitment to dedicated programming on BBC Local Radio for Black and Asian audiences”. These shows would be moved from their Sunday evening time slot to new programme slots on Monday and Friday evenings. The move is designed to make these “shows more accessible”; stations featuring this programming would also increase from 20 to 33.

Stakeholder responses

Ofcom, whilst agreeing with the analysis of listening data that underpins the proposals, expressed particular disappointment with the “lack of detail and clarity” contained within the policy announcements.

Broadly, other stakeholder responses have focused on the possible consequences of the changes for local communities, their impact on Black and Asian programming, and the effect upon BBC Local Radio staff.

The Government has suggested that whilst it is up to the BBC to decide how its services are allocated, it must make sure it continues to provide distinctive and genuinely local radio services. It has raised these concerns with BBC leadership.

Full line-ups and schedule changes are due to be announced later in 2023.

Documents to download

Related posts