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The BBC's Cuts to Local Radio Are Simply Unfair

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Today in Parliament MPs will debate a set of changes to the BBC which endanger the future of local radio.

In October the BBC announced a series of budget cuts to their TV, radio and online services. There are many casualties of the 'delivering quality first' review, none more tragic than the 2,000 people who will lose their jobs.

To a large extent the BBC is in a difficult place. Reforms have to be made after the corporation received a licence fee freeze that is due to last until 2017.

Unfortunately BBC management have exacerbated these difficulties by producing a set of reductions which are in some places fundamentally unfair. In doing so they are hitting local radio the hardest.

Severely reducing the output of the 39 local radio stations across the country would be a huge loss to our communities. 7 million people listen to their local BBC radio service across the UK and 2 million of these listen to no other BBC radio station.

We all see local radio's value in emergencies, like flooding or the riots during the summer. If it is gone we will lose a vital service which reflects, celebrates and affirms countless local identities across the country.

The feeling from those I talk to who work at the BBC is that local radio is being set up to lose its audience, so that it can be scrapped completely at the next licence fee settlement.

I sincerely hope this isn't the case. As a Liverpool MP I see the real value of local radio every day.

For many people BBC Radio Merseyside is the voice of our local community, and is home to of some of Liverpool's most famous institutions - like the Roger Phillips show, Billy Butler show and others. It is also hugely successful and is the most popular local BBC station outside of London, with 312,000 listeners who on average tune in for a staggering 16.2 hours a week.

Yet the station will be one of the worst hit by the changes and will see its staffing funding reduced by 20%.

Radio Merseyside is run on a shoestring compared to the larger BBC services. As the majority of expenditure at the station is on fixed costs like buildings, any budget reduction of this size cannot be made without the loss of locally produced shows and cutting jobs.

Given this, it's strange that no cuts will be made to Radio 4, which has an annual budget of £99 million - larger than many commercial stations. And with 66% of the licence fee being spent on TV, it is hard to understand why funding for BBC One has only been cut by 3%. I just don't believe it isn't possible to find savings from these significantly larger budgets.

For example You and Yours, a one hour show aired five days a week on Radio Four has more people working on it than the entire staff component of Radio Merseyside. Is the BBC really saying we can't find any savings at all from that programme? It just doesn't add up.

In times like these, when money is tight it's only right that the BBC looks at where it can reduce its costs. But it is just as important that this is done in a way that is fair and protects local services and jobs where possible. Currently they aren't as 280 of the 380 jobs scheduled to be lost in the English regions, will come from local radio.

These cuts are simply wrong, hitting one of the most efficient parts of the BBC the hardest. I hope Mark Thompson will think again.

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