Friday, 7 October 2011

BBC Radio Suffolk–Afternoon Schedules Deserve Preserving

Suffolk Online - Lesley Dolphin

Once again, the BBC, in it’s infinite wisdom, has decided on local radio as a soft target for its cuts. Local Radio can never win when size of audience matters and that seems to be the main rationale behind the cuts – which changes will affect most people and are therefore best avoided. The decision appears to be (though there now follows a consultation process) that local radio morning schedules will be left in tact, having been allegedly “beefed up” in line with earlier edicts, but afternoon schedules are under threat of becoming far less local. The “sharing” could be with Norfolk or a wider area.

As a relative newcomer to Suffolk (ex Croatia and London where Capital Radio was my favoured local station) I’ve been very impressed with the quality and content of all the BBC Radio Suffolk programmes. However Lesley Dolphin’s afternoon program has been a particular godsend.  It consistently get’s under the skin of Suffolk, and its huge variety of places and personalities. It’s hot onto anything new happening in the county, delves into its history, and helps us all realise what a county full of talent, artisans and heritage it is.  And it’s presented in a way that draws out the very best from the many Suffolk residents that participate on a daily basis - by email, phone, twitter and the wealth of other social media. In short, it’s an interesting, enjoyable and relevant programme that seems to  deliver exactly what anyone, no matter how demanding, might expect from a good local radio program, paid for by a miniscule part of our licence fee.

For me BBC Radio Suffolk, and particularly the afternoon program, has become an essential part of Suffolk culture. The afternoon program is widely recognised for its value and quality so why make it a part of a general budget cutting edict just because there are less people listening to local radio in the afternoon than watching obscure drama, broadcast nationally, in prime time?

I’m very fond of Norfolk, and the rest of the country for that matter, and Lesley is the first to admit to her Norfolk roots. This is not a question of xenophobia or being insular; it’s a question of trying to prevent the dilution of local news and information so that it becomes no more than an echo of national radio. Suffolk may not be that densely populated but it covers a big area and has plenty going on. Doubling, or more, the size of the catchment area  will turn it from “local radio” to “remote radio” and if we want that there are plenty of existing choices. As far as the BBC is concerned, I fear they will end up losing out too as people turn to more local commercial radio stations to find out what’s happening nearby.

Anyone who feels this is a backward step, can voice their feelings effectively by signing up to the following petition:

Preserve BBC Radio Suffolk Afternoon Schedules

The website is run by the government and if we get 100,000 signatures, we’ll get a debate in Parliament! That’s a tall order for a county with a population of around 720,000 but the principle applies nationwide even though the specific detail may differ county to county.

Pictured above is Lesley Dolphin who has been presenting the BBC Radio Suffolk afternoon program for some time. You can read more about her on her profile page.

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