Creating an open, more distinctive BBC…


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Tomorrow’s BBC – Creating an open, more distinctive BBC

 “By 2017 children will have suffered three years without any public service radio for them”.

 BBC Studios aims to transform the majority of in house production for TV and online but, apart from BBC Radio Comedy, radio remains in the public service arena.  BBC Studios – Strengthening the BBC’s role in the creative industries

If radio is to operate separately from BBC Studios, will it set new quotas for independent production; allow more or less funding from Licence Fees;  top slice radio budgets for partnerships with commercial companies and, if so, which budgets will be sliced?

And what of children’s radio following Charter Renewal?  In 2011 the BBC Trust decision on BBC’s Strategy for Children’s Audio  reaffirmed, in its five editorial priorities, the provision of outstanding services to children across all its platforms as part of its public service mission, at the same time approving draconian cuts to BBC Children’s Radio budgets and airtime. Out of an annual radio budget of £650m just £600k was left for children’s radio – less than the then DG Mark Thompson’s salary.  As reported in Nursery World, a protest meeting in the House of Lords called for urgent review of the cuts but they took immediate effect.

In September 2014 Radio 4 and 4 Extra controller Gwyneth Williams  announced  that adult speech network, BBC 4Extra, was to stop broadcasting the only remaining BBC radio programme aimed at children because listening by children aged 10 to 14 was so low and the station attracts a largely middle aged audience. Listeners under ten were not counted.

The demise of this vital element of UK children’s culture is well documented in successive BBC Service Licences for R4, R5 and, particularly, R7 and R4 Extra during their 13 years on air.  Artfully reworded clauses drafted by Executives and ratified by Governors and Trustees eventually cut BBC Children’s Radio to zero last year.

A brief daily podcast, of variable quality in sound and content, remains for the under sixes. Parents complain that, unlike a preset push-button radio that a toddler can use, these need adult supervision, technical knowhow and internet access – unavailable to many families who may  benefit most from daily access to culture and entertainment via radio.

Parents who bought DAB sets specially for the BBC Children’s content have been short changed and, while BBC Children’s radio is reduced to nothing, specialist areas for grownups, including  classical and black music, South Asian interests, cricket and so on continue to receive millions from BBC Licence Fees.

By 2017 children will have suffered three years without any public service radio for them.


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