The NUJ has joined calls for an urgent equality impact assessment to be carried out into BBC local radio staff facing redundancy across England after a local radio presenter blasted the cuts as “ableist and ageist” during her final show.
BBC Norfolk presenter Sophie Little, who had presented her Treasure Chest show on Radio Norfolk for around 10 years, later took to Twitter (X) to complain that her comments had been edited out of the BBC Sounds on-demand version of the show:
There could be hurdles ahead for the corporation’s planned cuts to local radio services after freedom of information (FOI) requests from the National Federation of the Blind of the UK (NFBUK) revealed that the BBC had not undertaken an equality impact assessment of local radio cuts on audiences, many of whom are elderly, disabled, not online or hard to reach.
The NFBUK in May handed a petition against the cuts to 10 Downing Street, backed by over 220 local organisations and at least 40 MPs. Now lawyers representing a blind listener have written to director general Tim Davie on the grounds that the Equality Act may have been breached following the lack of formal assessment revealed by the FOI revelations.
Despite strong opposition to the planned cuts in parliament, among the public, and from unions, the broadcaster plans to merge many local shows after 2pm on weekdays and throughout the weekend. Local shows across 39 local radio stations in England are disappearing, with longstanding well-loved presenters, journalists and producers made redundant and local news bulletins shared across regional stations.
Paul Siegert, NUJ broadcast organiser, said: “These plans remain deeply unpopular among staff, audiences, politicians and communities across the country. We want to retain as much local programming as possible, and we absolutely want to see news kept live and local. Pre-recording 20 minutes before means news bulletins will miss any breaking stories and seriously undermine the quality of BBC local news.”
Prolific North has contacted the BBC for comment. The BBC previously said in a statement: “We understand this is a difficult period of change for many colleagues and we will continue to support everyone affected by the plans to strengthen our local online services across news and audio.
“Our goal is to deliver a local service across TV, radio and online that offers more value to more people in more local communities. While the plans do impact on individual roles, we are maintaining our overall investment in local services and expect our overall level of editorial staffing across England to remain unchanged.”
BBC director of nations Rhodri Talfan Davies has also insisted that the plans will ultimately offer “more value for audiences” in a briefing last November.