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Feedback: Does the BBC take its radio audiences for granted?

Roger Bolton

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Editor's Note: You can listen to Feedback online or download it here.

Does the BBC take its radio audiences for granted, because they are loyal and have nowhere else to go?

I raise the question because it has been raised with me by a number of listeners as a result of continuing problems with iPlayer radio. Three years ago on Feedback we discussed the problem of radio programmes made available on iPlayer after broadcast, sometimes cutting out before the end, leaving listeners frustrated, rather like readers of detective novels who come to the climax of the story only to find that the last, crucial, pages are missing.

Well the problem has recurred and this is how we dealt with it on this week’s programme.

To return to the larger question of whether BBC Radio is the poor sister of BBC TV; some senior radio figures think it is.

They point to the fact that whenever the Director General, or other senior managers, make speeches, there seem to be few mentions of radio, and often those are tagged on at the end. Some also say that radio has been cut to the bone, compared with TV, where failure is often rewarded by additional investment, and where audiences are often a fraction of those who listen. They would also argue that the best of BBC public service broadcasting is found in radio, while some TV programming is nakedly commercial. Local radio feels equally neglected, being more appreciated in the country as a whole than in W1.

Some see this alleged bias as a result of radio being outnumbered on the BBC management boards, others still regret the failure of Channel 4 to develop a public service radio alternative.

This effective BBC monopoly, they say, is a disincentive to change and to innovation, and results in the Corporation taking its listeners for granted.

I could not possible comment, as Francis Urquhart of House of cards would have said.

But of course I will.

I think there is some truth in the above and I certainly think radio budgets have been cut to the bone.

The largest part of those budgets pays for people and fewer producers mean less original research and a less rich listen. It also means that producers travel less and remain stuck near their bases meaning that there are increasing large parts of the country which are rarely visited by network programmes. Those producers are increasingly poorer paid, certainly in the freelance and independent sector, and I have seen far too many talented journalists, particularly women, drift away from broadcasting, unable to support their families, let alone buy a house, particularly in London.

After the election the future of the BBC’s charter and the size of the licence fee will be decided. In my opinion BBC Radio cannot bear any more cuts without cutting services.

If you care about that then get ready to campaign and have your voice heard.

And wouldn’t it be good if the BBC’s Director General made speeches in which public service radio was the centrepiece and not an afterthought, and if the strangely silent BBC Director of Radio got on the campaign trail!

Roger Bolton


Roger Bolton is the presenter of Feedback

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