‘Local radio is there for you’ says BBC Director-General

More than 100,000 people have contacted BBC local radio’s Coronavirus helpline since it was set up two weeks ago.

Published: 30 March 2020
Local radio is vital for keeping people connected and we want to reach as many people as possible.
— Tony Hall

The Make a Difference campaign was launched to link up those in need of help with those who can provide it.

It is the biggest response the BBC has ever had to a local radio campaign.

Make a Difference has already helped get essential items to a terminally ill father of three, find a lift to work for an NHS worker whose car had broken down and stopped a man from getting evicted from his home.

Meanwhile from today the BBC’s local radio stations will offer news bulletins, interviews, Coronavirus information and even whole shows to community radio stations to support them during the pandemic.

Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, says: “The response of the British people in this difficult time has been phenomenal and we are glad to do our bit by helping people help each other.”

“Millions of people are isolating but that doesn’t mean they have to feel isolated. That’s why from today you can nominate someone who is over 70 for a free DAB radio. We hope this will give some of society’s most vulnerable a constant companion.

“Local radio is vital for keeping people connected and we want to reach as many people as possible. For those stuck at home my message is simple: Local radio is there for you.”

Make a Difference was launched on all 39 BBC local radio stations on March 17. It gives half hourly updates on how the Coronavirus is affecting the local area, offers advice and puts people who need help in touch with volunteers.

Since the campaign launched some stations have seen a 300% increase in calls.

Help given includes:

  • A father of three with terminal lung disease whose wife had to go out in search of food and nappies despite the risk of contracting the virus. BBC Radio Nottingham linked them up with a volunteers who now shop for food and nappies for them
  • A frontline NHS worker who couldn’t get to work because her car broke down. A mechanic contacted BBC Radio Devon, gave her a lift and fixed her car while she was at work.
  • A man who feared he would lose his house was able to negotiate a temporary rent reduction after advice from BBC Radio Bristol

Meanwhile, BBC England has signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Community Media Association (CMA), an umbrella organisation for 300 community radio stations.

It means they will be able to take BBC local radio content for free during the crisis.

Danny Lawrence, Chairman of the Community Media Association, said: "We're delighted to be working with BBC local radio in this initiative to share their content with community radio stations during this health crisis. This is an excellent example of the CMA-BBC Memorandum of Understanding working in practice.

“It's vitally important at this time for BBC local radio to partner with local community radio stations to keep our communities safe, informed, and educated. We look forward to furthering the relationships between local community radio and BBC local radio going forward.”

The BBC is partnering with loneliness charity Wavelength to give away thousands of radios to people over 70. To nominate someone for a free DAB radio, go to www.wavelength.org.uk. Nominations open today.

The Make a Difference line will stay open until until the Coronavirus is over. Go to www.bbc.co.uk/makeadifference to find out more.