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Feedback: Delivering Quality First and local radio

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Roger Bolton Roger Bolton 15:42, Friday, 3 June 2011

Wast Water in the Lake District, Cumbria

When I was growing up in Carlisle in the years after the war (no, not the Boer one) there was no local radio anywhere, let alone in that somewhat isolated city, 300 miles from London and eight miles south of the Scottish border.

We got our TV news from BBC Newcastle and later from Border Television as well. As the latter was actually based in Carlisle we felt more warmly towards it, but while the BBC gave us lots of news about the north east , which didn't interest us at all, Border told us a lot about southern Scotland which interested us even less.

So when BBC Radio Carlisle started it was warmly welcomed.

Its first offices were on a hilltop in the southern suburb of Harraby where the unfortunate highlanders who followed that dreadful man, Bonnie Prince Charlie, were executed by that equally dreadful man, 'Butcher' Cumberland. (Mind you a good song came out of it - The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, written in his cell in Carlisle castle by a condemned Scot). He took 'The high road' (was hung at Harraby), his lover took 'the low road', the A6, and he was back in Scotland before her, in spirit at least.

BBC Radio Carlisle has now become BBC Radio Cumbria and has a spanking new building just opposite the castle. Several feet below are the remains of the major Roman city, which lies just south of Hadrian's Wall.

I went there this week for Feedback to see whether the BBC's second most popular local radio station - Radio Jersey is the most popular in terms of percentage reach - is performing a vital public service.

As part of DFQ, the BBC's Delivering Quality First initiative, which has to find 20 per cent savings in the Corporation's spending over the next five years, possible cuts in local radio have been mooted.

One of the ideas that I have heard being discussed is that a number of local stations could share their afternoon programmes.

I took up these issues with the editor of BBC Radio Cumbria Nigel Dyson who had a maverick idea for saving money.

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And also with Sue Carter who is the programme manager at Oxford-based Jack FM, a commercial station where they already are saving money as they only man their breakfast show. For the rest of the day it's automated music.

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Do let me know where the BBC should look for savings in radio. Or on the other hand you might take the view that TV has more fat available for trimming.

Next week I'll be talking to the head of Radio 5 live. Do let me know what you'd like me to ask him.

Leave a comment on the blog or get in touch via the Feedback web site.

Roger Bolton is presenter of Feedback

  • Listen again to this week's Feedback, produced by Karen Pirie, get in touch with Feedback, find out how to join the listener panel or subscribe to the podcast on the Feedback web page.
  • Feedback is on Twitter. Follow @BBCR4Feedback.
  • Picture caption: "Wast Water in the Lake District, Cumbria. 29/11/2004 BBC A view of Wast Water in the Lake District, Nov. 2004 - Wast Water in the Lake District National Park is Englands deepest lake, at its deepest it is below sea level."


  • Comment number 1.

    Two radically different approaches to giving licence-fee payers value for money.

    Nigel Dyson thinks that selling off BBC buildings and moving operations to cheap huts would do part of the trick. Staff worried about having to work in unsatisfactory conditions, however, should rest easy because he would also like to see more people working from home (very useful, perhaps, for those living in rural Cumbria who cannot leave their homes in winter because of the cold, snowy conditions).

    Sue Carter demonstrated a considerable knowledge of technology and working practices that the BBC should adopt. Computers should be used to minimise inefficiency. I also think it makes sense for programmes produced for, say, Radio 4, to be shared throughout the BBC local radio network. Reforms are needed.

    "Wiping the floor with every other radio service in the county" should not be the primary role of BBC Radio Cumbria. A public service broadcaster that seeks to do this is likely to cause harm to the commercial sector. Perhaps it is dominance of BBC local radio that prevents private radio stations from setting up and succeeding?

    I would like to have asked each interviewee what the consequences for their radio station would be if they suddenly had the budget of the other!

  • Comment number 2.

    It would be nice if Feedback could be broadcast via a Podcast.

  • Comment number 3.

  • Comment number 4.

    you should look at radio 4 extra the money they are spending rebranding radio7 and now advertising the station ,after all the complaints from ex radio 7 listeners and some radio 4 listeners was it really worth it? , surely you should question them about the money they seem to be wasting trying to cover up their poor choices.
    how many local radio stations could have used that cash?


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