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Wednesday 1 December 2010, 16:25

David Holdsworth David Holdsworth Controller of English Regions

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Traffic held up by the snow

I've been in regular contact with our teams across England this week, hearing about their snow coverage; the issues they are facing getting around communities and the amazing responses we've had from members of the public letting us know their stories; hearing about how they are looking after their neighbours and sending us their photos and other critical information.

Local services are a lifeline to many communities in times of severe weather. Nowhere more so than in the North of England whose residents have had more than their fair share of critical weather during the past year.

Local radio is the natural place for people to find out how the big stories impact locally. Our teams work long hours to give the best, most up to date service possible. Many stations have departed from their normal schedules to go live and local throughout evenings and weekends.

Our radio cars, reporters and cameramen have been out from dawn to dusk to cover snow stories and give eyewitness accounts of the conditions. So we've been local whenever and wherever the audience needed us and we're carrying on while the information is required.

Yesterday, according to our overnight figures, 8.1m people tuned into their 6.30 regional news programme. This is the highest reach for the evening regional news in England since the 'big freeze' in January this year. This was particularly high in the North and North East, where the snowfalls are biggest and whose figures were up by more than 10%.

Our online sites also attract a great many visitors during bad weather. On Monday for school closures alone - BBC Newcastle's special web page had 85,000 unique users and more than 160,000 page impressions!

I've been impressed by some of the work that has been done using crowd sourcing - for example the Cornwall map which takes our data and adds others to it.

School closures and transport available to schools which are open are always high on people's lists of 'things I need to know' and we make a point of ensuring that this information is on our local websites whenever relevant. This is how we do it in Shropshire.

BBC Newcastle tweets the list of school closures daily and keeps re-tweeting throughout the morning. Our Twitter feed, on Monday alone, had more than 600 clicks, potentially reaching new audiences and moving school closures into the social networking world.

We've got an incredibly important role to play in providing both information and companionship to our audiences - often we're a lifeline in every sense of the word. As I've written this blog I've seen a note from our radio Editor in Lincolnshire describing today's conditions as unprecedented in the station's history, so it looks like we will be doing this for some time yet . I am proud of our teams and what they can achieve for our audiences.

David Holdsworth is the Controller of English Regions


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