Broadcaster Sophie Little has criticised the extensive BBC regional radio cuts during her final show, describing them as “unbelievably unfair”.
- READ MORE: Inside the fight to save the local BBC Introducing shows: “It’s so much bigger than just radio play”
The radio host shared her thoughts on the widespread cuts to various BBC Radio stations while hosting her final show on BBC Radio Norfolk, and criticised those involved in the decision as creating a “detrimental” situation for both employees and listeners.
“Something that has always bothered me is when an individual has any kind of platform and they don’t use it to speak up for others at a time when they should,” she began, opening the final Treasure Quest show after its 15-year run.
“And it is my opinion that these drastic, sweeping cuts that are taking place to BBC local radio stations all across the country are not only detrimental to anyone that enjoys switching on their local station and hearing their favourite shows, and detrimental to the local communities who value it and use it.
“Actually these cuts are unbelievably unfair to those who need local public service broadcasting the most. Those who are lonely and isolated, or those who are unable to leave their house, or unable to use the internet, or unable to pay for broadband. Those who not only take comfort from the company of a familiar voice coming out of their radio, but who truly rely on it to keep going.”
She added: “If you think that sounds dramatic then I wish you could be privy to some of the conversations I’ve had with listeners in recent weeks that have reduced me to tears,” before stating that the broadcaster responsible for the changes “must be scrutinised and held to account to protect its own integrity”.
New audio – "ageist, ableist" and "unbelievably unfair". @SophieLLittle offers her thoughts on the BBC Local Radio cuts at the start of her final show @BBCNorfolk (Sept 10th 2023).#AircheckDownloads pic.twitter.com/FIZSR8FuT5
— Aircheck Downloads (@airchecks) September 10, 2023
The backlash from the presenter comes after it was revealed that the BBC proposed to cut 39 BBC Introducing shows down to 20.
Back in February of this year, BBC staff voted in favour of a strike over the radio cuts. This took place on March 15 – the same day as the Budget – and after 83 per cent of members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted in favour of the move.
Under the proposals from the company, the stations would keep their own weekday morning programmes but then share 20 afternoon weekday shows, 10 shows after 6pm and a single all-England programme after 10pm. Weekend output will also be affected by the restructuring.
Music fans previously greeted the news with dismay, foreseeing potentially harmful consequences for the British music industry. In response, BBC 6 Music broadcaster Tom Robinson launched a campaign in which he encouraged listeners to post messages of support for local BBC Introducing presenters to his blog, in order to raise public awareness of the situation.
The planned changes also led to from a group of music organisations, that BBC Introducing, would be scrapped entirely.
On his Instagram page last month, Sir Elton labelled the cuts across BBC Introducing as “a worrying step” that shows a “neglect of musicians”.
“BBC Introducing’s network and support of new music has been one of the best ways for emerging artists to get airplay and find listeners from local to national radio,” he told his followers.
“To stop investing in the future of the UK’s influential music industry whilst cuts are being made to the creative sector across the board would be a worrying step and neglect of musicians who bring culture and capital to the UK at home and abroad.”
Earlier in the month, Nile Rodgers of Chic also weighed in on his opposition to the merging of local BBC Introducing Radio on his social media channels.
“Over the last few weeks, while large parts of BBC Local Radio have been on strike, it’s become clear the extent of these cuts – particularly around music,” he wrote.
He also described the network as “a true outlet to shine a positive light on some of our most creative talent”, as well as claiming that the upcoming change will mean that emerging talent and local music scenes both “lose out”.
Elsewhere in the post, he also emphasised how “many of these people who live and breathe their local scene” face the threat of losing their positions, and “not being offered anything in the restructuring”.
Additionally, an NME feature about the changes agreed, adding that “even if they are to become wider regional shows, the pool of talent that will successfully make it onto the airwaves in the future will likely become smaller”.
It continued: “The current infrastructure preserves the autonomy of local radio, and eases some of the earlier upward steps musicians have to make by providing contacts, music education and gigs in places where opportunities are few.”