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Gloucestershire Business News

BBC boss quizzed over local radio cuts

A BBC boss was grilled on BBC Radio Gloucestershire this morning about the proposed savage cutbacks to local programming.

Jason Horton, acting director for BBC Local, appeared on the Mark Cummins breakfast show when the presenter repeatedly questioned the cuts, aided by listeners' questions.

As reported on Punchline yesterday, BBC bosses are looking to reduce the amount of uniquely local broadcasting on BBC Radio Gloucestershire from 100 hours a week to 46.

Local programmes would run from 6am to 2pm Monday to Friday but it would switch to regional content thereafter, with no Gloucestershire-based broadcasting at weekends, apart from sport.

Mr Horton said the BBC planned to reprioritise £90m from broadcast services towards online and multimedia production. He said there would be 11 new investigative reporting teams across England, improved online news services and a new fund to commission regional programmes and podcasts.

He said: "I run the BBCs local services and I will do everything I can to make sure we have a strong offer across everything we do.

"We will still be totally local from 6am to 2pm. Your local sports coverage at the weekend will still be completely local. News bulletins will be in exactly the same place as they are now.

"I think it's really important for me that we are spending the money where we reach the most audience."

Part of the debate centred around the difference between local and regional programming.

Mark Cummins said: "Salisbury to Tewkesbury, Burnham-on-Sea to Chipping Campden, Taunton to Cinderford - for those local voices that know every inch of our country that doesn't wash."

He read a message from listener Lee who said: "I can't believe they are even contemplating this. BBC local radio is so much more than a radio show, it brings us together and God we need that at the moment."

Another listener, Sarah, said: "I'm livid. The reason I listen to BBC Radio Gloucestershire all day every day is to stay abreast of what is happening. Why would I want to know what is happening in Wiltshire or Somerset?"

Asked whether this was the thin end of the wedge and the end of local radio, Mr Horton said: "On my watch there will be local radio and I think local radio has a really, really strong future. We have to make sure we are serving all our licence fee payers across Gloucestershire and England in the best way we possibly can."

Mr Horton promised to read every message from listeners regarding the proposed changes.

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