BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Cuts – Tim Bishop Interviews

07:07 Friday 7th October 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Good morning. (TAPE)
MARK THOMPSON: We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that the diminution of service to the public is as modest as possible, and that for the overwhelming majority of the public, almost all of the time, they don’t notice a loss of service. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: That was the Director General of the BBC Mark Thompson yesterday. The results of the BBC’s Delivery Quality First review were announced. The corporation has to make budget savings of 20%, as a result of a freeze on the licence fee and having to incorporate the BBC World Service into our main organisation. Amongst the proposals, and they are just proposals at the moment, are plans to scrap 2,000 jobs and radically change programming. Daytime programmes on BBC 2 will be replaced by news and repeats, and local radio will share more output, although no stations will close. BBC 1 will see much smaller cuts§ however, and Radio 4’s overall funding will not change. Well the Head of the BBC in the East of England, the region which covers BBC Radio Cambridgeshire of course, is Tim Bishop. He’s with us this morning. Morning Tim.
TIM BISHOP: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Obviously there’s a lot of worry internally at the BBC at the moment. But externally, what really .. what changes are people going to see overall, and particularly here at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire?
TIM BISHOP: Well as of some of the savings, they shouldn’t see any changes at all. There are big efficiencies in things like management, in HR, and what you’d call the back-office. But with this scale of less money, we simply have to change some of what you hear, what you see, and what you use on the website. So particularly in local radio, we feel like we’ve got to keep up the content of what we do in the mornings, where most of the audience is. And so what we’re mainly doing is looking at sharing programmes in the afternoons. For some of the listeners who’ve been around, listening for longer, they’ll remember that’s how local radio started. And we’ll return to that, looking at very much sharing in evenings across England. And we think there’s some editorial advantage in that, in the sense that there’s nowhere England talks to each other. We talk together as a UK, but we don’t very much have that England-wide conversation. And the Best of Local Radio might make some great programming in the evening. In Cambridgeshire itself, we’re talking about saving around seven jobs at Radio Cambridgeshire, or the equivalent in money. And that means that we think we can’t any longer continue to provide two Breakfast Shows for the area. So we’re looking at really moving towards one Breakfast Show for the whole of Cambridgeshire. We haven’t decided yet whether that will come from Peterborough, the show you’re doing at the moment, or from Cambridge. And that’s the sort of proposal. Anything to do with anything on air will go out to public consultation by the BBC Trust.
PAUL STAINTON: Isn’t a show like this though, successfully fulfilling the remit of what the BBC is supposed to be doing in the morning? It’s delivering a show to a city that hasn’t got any other outlet, and soon won’t have any radio station in the city. Shouldn’t we be doing that at the BBC?
TIM BISHOP: Very much the essence of local radio is to stay local, and that’s why we launched a Peterborough Breakfast Show, because we felt that a city the size of Peterborough very much deserved its own programme. But as we cut our cloth according to the money we have, if we can’t sustain the level of local content we need, then there’s no point in us wearing the badge of Peterborough, if the reality is that we’re providing content from the whole of Cambridgeshire.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. So we’re going to have one Breakfast Show. This is not now though, is it? This is ..
TIM BISHOP: No. This is .. what will happen now is there’s about three months where the BBC Trust, which is separate to the BBC, the BBC Trust will go out to consultation. We saw that most recently with 6 Music, where the BBC management proposed the closure of 6 Music. The BBC Trust did a review of it, and as a result of that, said to the BBC management, you can’t close 6 Music. It’s too significant. And so 6 Music still exists.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. There’s already been quite a bit of people saying things in preparation for what you were saying this morning, having their comments. If people do want to get involved in this, and they want this decision reversed in any way, can they affect it?
TIM BISHOP: Well I think the 6 Music lesson shows very much that actually what the BBC is fundamentally about is what the audience wants. So if enough of the audience wants something and has their say, I think the 6 Music reversal of the decision to close it, shows that actually the BBC Trust does listen. It’s there to represent the audience, and that’s what it very much did in that case. But the truth is we have to find money from somewhere. We’re looking for all sorts of internal efficiencies. But the BBC’s view is very much that we can’t simply do what we’re doing now, to the quality we absolutely know people expect from us, unless we actually start trying to do less. And the great thing in local radio is that we’re not closing any stations, which I think everyone would have found very difficult, particularly people like you and I who worked in local radio throughout our career, at various moments. And fundamentally, if local radio doesn’t cover the country, doesn’t cover the whole country, then we’re not delivering to licence fee payers right across England.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. So we’re potentially going to get one Breakfast Show, perhaps in a year from now, unless the people’s voice is heard. And they can get in touch with the Trust, we’ll give you all the details on that throughout the show this morning. And in the afternoons we’re going to share some programming, are we?
TIM BISHOP: That’s the idea. Fundamentally, most of the audience in all radio is there in the mornings, And while we provide some great local content, in all sorts of ways, across the region and across England in the aftrenoons, some of that content can enrich our morning programmes, and we feel that we can share programmes in afternoons. It’s the least worst option. And I think the thing that we have to remember about the BBC is everybody loves something about the BBC. They don’t all love the same bits. So everyone can agree on a BBC saving, it’s just that they agree on saving on the bit they don’t like. So if you love sport, you want the BBC to do sport. If you hate sport, you generally think that well, why doesn’t the BBC do a lot less sport.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. And we’ve had many comments as I said. People saying, suggesting that instead of getting rid of a Breakfast Show, they should do other things. “If we lose the Peterborough Breakfast Show, I won’t be listening to the BBC. They can stick their licence fee.” Already, people getting angry.
TIM BISHOP: I actually hope that’s the case. Even as we make some very tough decisions, if somebody somewhere doesn’t love the Peterborough Breakfast Show, there is absolutely no point in having it. And unless we as the management are completely incompetent, there must be someone listening. So we would very much hope that local radio has that sort of reaction. But the truth here is we have to find £700 million a year, and something has to give.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. Martin says: “Tell Tim to get hold of Chris Moyles. Get rid of him. That’s 600 grand saved.” I mean there are some major salaries around, aren’t there? There are some big salaries around that could be cut back couldn’t they?
TIM BISHOP: There absolutely are. And one of the things that people have been most angry about the BBC in some ways is those presenter salaries, as they’ve been published. But the BBC has worked very hard to reduce lots of those, and generally presenter salaries are going down. We’re now publishing the overall levels of those, and they are going down. And that’s part of these savings. Just as people get angry about all sorts of other things about the BBC. But you can love and hate the BBC at the same time. Lots of people love lots of things that we do. And every time we suggest a change, somebody loves it, and somebody very much wants to fight for it. But we can’t carry on doing everything we do now, at the quality we do it now.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. The unions are up in arms as well. They’re threatening strikes. There could be all sorts of disruptions here.
TIM BISHOP: Well from a union point of view, this is very uncomfortable, isn’t it? This is not the BBC doing anything unsane. We have no choice but to save a large sum of money. So we’ll happily engage with the unions in the choices that we’re making, but actually there’s no escape from this. We have to save a large sum of money. And I was reading .. actually .. I don’t read the Financial Times every day, but I was looking at it yesterday. And when we made changes in 2005, the unions said it would be the end of quality broadcasting as we know it. And this year, appreciation of BBC televsion has never been higher. So this is not the end of the world as we know it. It’s very uncomfortable to people who might face the loss of their jobs. We very much understand that. We’ll be trying to do all of this by voluntary redundancy. We’ll very much try and work with the unions. But I don’t think they’re saying anything you wouldn’t expect unions to say in these circumstances. And lots of other people externally are saying, well maybe the BBC should have gone even further.
PAUL STAINTON: Tim, thank you for coming on this morning, and being so frank, and answering all the questions. Tim Bishop, Head of BBC in the East of England.


08:16 Friday 7th October 2011
Cambridge Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

LIZ RHODES: Now, the results of the BBC’s Delivering Quality First review were announced yesterday, and made a lot of the front page headlines this morning. The Corporation has to make budget savings of 20%, as a result of a freeze in the licence fee, and having to incorporate the BBC World Service into the main organisation. Well, amongst the proposals are plans to scrap 2,000 jobs and radically change programming. Daytime programmes on BBC 2 will be replaced by news and repeats, and local radio will share more output, although no stations will close. BBC 1 will see much smaller cuts however; Radio 4’s overall funding won’t change at all. Well the Head of the BBC in the East of England, the region which covers this one, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, is Tim Bishop, and Tim is with me this morning. Good morning Tim.
TIM BISHOP: Good morning.
LIZ RHODES: 2,000 jobs to go. Do we know where most of those will come from?
TIM BISHOP: Well about half of them will come out of savings, and what people call the back-office, in other words things like HR, management, finance, all the things that help run the organisation behind the scenes. And the rest will come out of us trying to do less stuff. So we’re both trying to be more efficient in what we do, and the way we do it, and also to preserve the quality of what we do, we feel we will just have to do less.
LIZ RHODES: Well, it’s going to affect the radio station that we’re talking on this morning, isn’t it? And crucially, there’s some information isn’t there about possibly having one Breakfast Show, instead of the Peterborough and Cambridge Breakfast Shows as we have at the moment?
TIM BISHOP: Across local radio, we need to save about 12 % of the money we spend on local radio. Now in Cambridgeshire, that means we’re talking about something about seven posts. And a few years ago we very much felt that we wanted to provide a separate service for Peterborough, and we could deliver better local services by doing that, having a service that you’re listening to now in South Cambridgeshire, and a service for Peterborough. Looking at the level of savings we’re facing, what we’re proposing is that we go to one Breakfast Show for the whole county again. Because we simply don’t believe we can sustain the level of quality local content with those two shows. We haven’t made a decision on which of those shows we would close. But the proposal, which will now go out to consultation by the BBC Trust, is that we close one of those programmes.
LIZ RHODES: What does that actually mean, it will go out to consultation? Does that mean listeners will get to have their say?
TIM BISHOP: Yes, very much so. The nearest example I can give you is the BBC management, which is separate to the BBC Trust .. there used to be BBC Governors. The BBC is now overseen by the BBC Trust, which is independent from the BBC .. so the BBC management proposed the closure of 6 Music, and moving to one national music channel with Radio 2. The Trust went out to consultation. It got a lot of reaction in from listeners, and in the end said to the management, no, you can’t close BBC 6 Music. You have to find those savings elsewhere. And so BBC 6 Music is still with us. And actually, in a slightly strange development, lots of people who heard about the closure, who didn’t listen to it, started listening, and it broadly doubled its audience.
LIZ RHODES: Which is rather dramatic, isn’t it. So these are proposals at the moment. The Breakfast Shows aren’t the only things that might change though on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. There’s also a plan to have an England-wide show between 7 and 10 for example. Can you give us any more information about that?
TIM BISHOP: Yes. What we’re looking at is trying to keep intact the bits of local radio which we feel are absolutely central to the BBC’s mission, in news, and information, and that conversation about local life, all of those things. And so that’s mainly in mornings, breakfast and mid-mornings. And we’re looking at sharing some programming in afternoons within this region. So one or two stations probably sharing an afternoon show. In the evening, where generally listening is much lighter, we think there’s a case, instead of sharing as a region, as we do now, of thinking for the first time of doing something that puts together the whole of England, talking to each other. Now there’s lots of national programming, for the whole of the UK, but there’s virtually nothing that allows England to talk to each other. So it would be a sort of Best of Local Radio. And when you put together all the really quirky and interesting stories from the whole of local radio, which Radio 4 used to do occasionally, actually you get a fantastic panorama and picture of England. So the idea is of England talking to each other. And we think there’s some editorial advantages in that.
LIZ RHODES: That’s 7 to 10 in the evening.And we’re also talking about changes early in the morning as well. No pre-6 am show. So in this case would mean losing Wally Webb. What would replace him, do you think?
TIM BISHOP: Some form of national show, but we very much look to keep the local travel service. So you still get the same level of local information. And the other changes we’re looking at, again is on Sunday afternoons, where we already share quite a lot of programmes, we’re looking at some more sharing there as well.
LIZ RHODES: Just finally, in sport there is a suggestion that commentary could be scaled back. Now this is always a very difficult one, isn’t it? Only the home station potentially would provide it. Now although local sports coverage is fair and accurate, it is partisan. We know that. All over the country. That’s not going to be popular with fans if that goes ahead, is it?
TIM BISHOP: Well I’m not sure it’s entirely popular with editors. They used to call Scottish football writers, fans with typewriters. And I think you call local radio commentators, fans with microphones. And I think there’s a real case, in lots of places, for saying .. I can’t imagine, for example, a Sunderland commentator commentating on a Newcastle game. So what we’re mainly looking at is seeing if we can spend less on sports rights, the money we pay to get the commentaries. And there is less competition for that now. At some moments it was more expensive. So we’ll look to try and drive down the cost of that. Where there is clearly a very partisan local feel to the commentary, we’ll very much try and maintain that. But in some stations where you’re commentating on four teams, you really don’t necessarily need a separate commentary on every team. And you might go for a more impartial commentary. And where for example there might be a commentary already available from the BBC,  5 Live are covering it, I think we should think very hard about whether we’re sending two sets of commentators to any one game.
LIZ RHODES: OK. Well you mentioned there that listeners will get their say. There might be some listening this morning who have quite a lot to say already. What are going to be the opportunities? What are going to be the ways to pass on their comments?
TIM BISHOP: Well this is very much run by the BBC Trust. So the BBC Trust have a website. That’s all open and up and running. So you can either write to the BBC Trust. I could give out the address if you want me to.
TIM BISHOP: Or there’s an email address. So the BBC Trust is based at 180 Great Portland Street London W1W 5QZ. Or the email address is .. there’s a terrible set of initials, I’m afraid, but Or just search for BBC Trust and you’ll find them on the internet. .. The BBC, in the end, is run for the licence fee payers. And it’s their views that the BBC Trust, in the end, will take into account. The difficulty always, with the BBC, is everything we do is loved by someone. And unless we’re completely incompetent, our radio programmes all have listeners. Those listeners are listening because they like the programmes. So these are inevitably very tough choices, and we do think about that before we make them. But the bottom line of this is that we have to save £700 million, and we can’t just carry on doing exactly what we do now.
LIZ RHODES: Tim, thank you very much indeed. .. Tim Bishop is the Head of the BBC in the East of England.


10:07 Friday 7th October 2011
Mid-Morning Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY HARPER: Well the BBC itself is in the news today, having to make budget savings of 20%, as a result of a freeze in the licence fee. The Cambridge News reports this today under the headline “Radio Shows face Axe as BBC Cutbacks Bite.” So, how will viewers and listeners in this region be affected? I’m joined by the Head of the BBC in the East of England, Tim Bishop. Tim, good morning to you.
TIM BISHOP: Good morning Andy.
ANDY HARPER: I suppose before we go into specifics, it might just be worth talking about how we got here. The top line obviously is a freeze in the licence fee. How did we arrive at a figure of 20% across the board to be saved?
TIM BISHOP: What happens is, as the licence fee comes up for negotiation, the BBC and the Government talk about it. The licence fee, in the end, is decided by Parliament. The negotiation is with the Government, in this case with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. This was a deal done very quickly, and that’s slightly unusual. It normally takes about 18 months. But it broadly came out with the same figure, or slightly less, than the rest of the public service are facing. And with the country in the state it was in, with all the economic problems we all know about, and with lots of households facing really quite challenging bills, the feeling was that the licence fee should be held static. So the BBC then faced having to find about £700 million in savings, which is money it had expected to get, that it wasn’t going to get. Now you can argue the rights and wrongs of that, but that’s where we got to, and the licence fee is negotiated on that regular basis. So we are now with a static licence fee, which in lots of ways is good news for households around the country. They won’t have to pay any more. And the BBC, like the rest of the public services, has now got to go back and find a way of saving quite large amounts of money.
ANDY HARPER: As well as saving money, the BBC were also asked, told, to finance World Service broadcasting, and indeed S4C, the Welsh language channel. And I suppose licence payers in Cambridgeshire could legitimately say, well why should we pay a licence fee which then goes to enable us to broadcast to countries across the world, or indeed to support a minority Welsh language station. Would they be fair in having those thoughts?
TIM BISHOP: I think some people might well think that. In a sense they were already funding those through taxation, because the World Service was funded through what was called grant-in-aid, which in effect came out of our taxes. So we’ve shifted, as a country, where we pay for that. The World Service, a, provides a lot of material that feeds back into the BBC’s domestic services, but is also very much about our role in the world. And you could argue that we try and take too grand a role in the world, we provide too much development, that the World Service is a remnant of the past. But in another way it’s a fantastic celebration of the best of Britain. And round the world, the BBC is one of the things that are iconic. It’s one of the things that the UK is known for. It’s seen as the world’s best broadcaster. And the World Service plays a very big part in that. As to the Welsh language service, and there are Gallic language services, the aim is across the UK, that everyone gets something from the BBC. So you could argue, why should people in Wales fund BBC Cambridgeshire. But that’s the deal we make in the licence fee, and if we don’t all get something from the BBC, actually less of us will be willing to pay the licence fee. But generally, in all the surveys we’ve done in recent times, instead of people being more anxious about the licence fee, as they’ve seen how much it costs to buy, say, digital channels elsewhere, they seem to think the licence fee represents good value for money.
ANDY HARPER: The headline figures are made, I suppose, by the redundancies. Around 2,000 jobs to go. Do we know where most of those will come from?
TIM BISHOP: Well, the idea is very much to start by trying to save on things that the viewers and listeners and users of the website won’t notice. So around half the savings will come from what are called efficiencies, and that does mean less people in areas like there will be a lot less management. There’ll be management who are paid less money. We’ll save on things like HR, on finance, and all of those things which are in the back-office, that you don’t necessarily hear on air. But we know we can’t do all of it from those areas, so the rest of it will come, not by slightly diminishing the quality of everything, but trying to concentrate on the things that we believe the audience wants most from the BBC. And that is quality programming on radio and on television.
ANDY HARPER: And as far as we are concerned, here in Cambridge, we will lose 6 to 7 jobs. I suppose you are hoping that people will volunteer to leave, but that might not be the case, might it?
TIM BISHOP: Well, what we’re doing in radio, in the overall look at radio, the core of the BBC, and where the BBC started in some ways, was in radio. And Radio 4 is the best speech radio station in the world. That’s the way it’s known, and I think it would broadly be accepted that way. Maybe we should say probably the best speech radio service in the world. So that has got to find its own efficiencies, but it also will get investment in high quality programming. In local radio, what we’re saying is, what we see as the core of local radio is a news service that we deliver, weather, travel, all of that, and that conversation about Cambridgeshire and about the local area. And in a sense local radio also obviously offers companionship and lots of other things across the day, some specialist music, a variety of other services. But we’re putting most of our money in Breakfast and Mid-morning and in Drivetime, where most of the audience are. And we reckon that while we are going to share some new services, around 86% of the listeners are listening to services which will stay local.
ANDY HARPER: We went out onto the streets of Ely yesterday, to ask people what they thought about these decisions, and what they thought about the future of the BBC. And it might be interesting at this stage to have a little listen. Because it was a good cross section I think. (VOXPOP)
1.Although it’s state-owned it has its own independence, and it’s not influenced by advertisers.
2.I think it should be funded at the same level as what inflation goes up. Because I think there’s got to be some rationalisation, but I think it shouldn’t be too severe, because it’s one of the finest broadcasting services in the world.
3.There’s lots of repeats anyway. So obviously there’ll be more.
4. Not before time. They’re overstaffed, overpaid.
5. Well it’s bad that people are going to lose their jobs, but we ourselves don’t really watch the BBC, because there’s so many repeats on them. So yes, but I do feel sorry for the people who are going to lose their jobs. It’s tough times.
6. Well freezing the licence fee’s fine. the only problem in that as far as the pensioner goes, that’s very pleasant. But money has to go in in order to be able to support the services that the BBC are trying to do. So where do you draw the line?  (LIVE)
ANDY HARPER: A mixed bag there Tim. I must just say that I think perhaps the BBC sometimes lets itself down. We heard those people yesterday saying, there are too many repeats. So I got out the BBC 1 schedule, and the BBC 2 schedule yesterday, and there were no repeats at all in peak hours. And so if you like misconceptions sometimes take a hold , don’t they?
TIM BISHOP: Yes. They do say nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. We had the former Controller of BBC 1, Michael Grade, who was by then the Chairman of the BBC, came to the region, and one of our radio presenters collects old Radio Times. And he got out the schedule from what is seen as the golden age of British television, and Michael Grade was looking through it. He was the Controller. And it was full of American shows. It was full of repeats. And we buy less American and foreign imports than we’ve ever done. We make more original programming than we’ve ever done. And actually, on BBC 1, there are hardly any repeats, but people do still see that. For some people, a repeat is another chance to view, but on BBC 1, there really are less repeats. In these proposals, there will be a lot more repeats on BBC 2 in daytime. That’s how we’re going to save some money. But on BBC 1, there will continue to be lots of original programming.
ANDY HARPER: This email Tim comes from Brian. It’s the sort of email we like to get. He says, “I seem to be in the minority, as one who thinks the licence fee is great value , and I don’t think it should have even been frozen. Yes, like any business, the BBC should have to look where sensible savings can have been made, but compared to SKY subscriptions, that so many people seem happy to pay, mostly for sport, which are not subject to price control, the licence fee is a bargain. As for savings at the BBC, well here’s a question. Just how much do weather forecasts cost? We seem to get back to back weather forecasts on TV, often within minutes of each other, and they’re not even accurate. By the way, keep up the good work, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.” Well Tim that’s what Brian has to say. I suppose specifics about weather forecasting, and we’ll come to other bits and pieces in a moment, but do we know how much that costs?
TIM BISHOP: Well I’m sure we do. It’s not a figure I have off the top of my head. What we do is the BBC works with the Met Office. We have a BBC weather centre in London, and then we have a variety of weather services that we do in the regions, which are pretty in lots of ways pretty cost-effective. We are going to try and save some money in the way we deliver weather within the region, as part of all these proposals. But we do know one of the things that people value most, even if they spend a bit of time complaining about it when it’s inaccurate, people want a decent weather forecast from the BBC. They want it not mucked around with. They want to know what the best estimate, and a weather forecast is only ever an estimate, of the weather is. And that’s one of the things that people want from us, and that’s what we’re going to carry on delivering.
ANDY HARPER: Let’s talk about some specifics, as far as it affects here at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. Now the plan is to share the afternoon shows, regionally or nationally, we don’t know yet.
TIM BISHOP: We do know that. The proposals in afternoons is … we share in the evenings already between the region. And basically in the east region, and there are six radio stations, and we share programming on Sunday and Saturday nights, and we share actually sometimes beyond the region. Richard Spendlove’s show on a Saturday night goes out into Kent as well, because they value what he does. Paul Barnes’ programme also goes further than the region. But in general we share as a region in the evening. In afternoons, when local radio started, sometimes it actually went to Radio 2 in the afternoons, because it had relatively little money. And it quite often shared programmes in the afternoons. Now generally less people are listening to radio in the afternoons. It doesn’t mean that those programmes aren’t good. It doesn’t mean they aren’t valued by lots of listeners. But generally there are less people available to listen in afternoons. So in these proposals, Cambridgeshire will share its afternoon show with another radio station. Now we haven’t decided where that would be. And either basically Cambridgeshire would take a programme from another station, or the other station will take a programme from Cambridgeshire. And we’d obviously need to think a bit about the content and what that programme is. But that’s the basic proposal, which the BBC management now puts to the BBC Trust, who consult with licence fee payers, and say, well, what do you think about that.
ANDY HARPER: How do we define the afternoon? Because we have two shows between mid-day and five. When would you consider the afternoon to be?
TIM BISHOP: One of the things I love about local radio is .. we have 40 stations, which basically have the same mission. But we all do it slightly differently. And I’ve been on every radio station in the east this morning. And they all ask slightly different questions from the same central brief, They all do it in slightly different ways. That’s true in afternoons. Afternoons starts at different times. And when I think broadly you’re thinking between either one to four or two to five. In the mid-afternoon. Drivetime is protected, which is where we mainly do all the sort of travel news and weather that sums up the day, that gets people home, or they get at the end of their working day, or the end of their day in all sorts of other ways. So it’s that mid-afternoon slot we’re talking about.
ANDY HARPER: And there are alsp plans to change the programmes, the local programmes I suppose, which bookend our day really, aren’t they? Wally Webb, early in the morning, and Sue Marchant from seven in the evening.
TIM BISHOP: Absolutely. What we’re saying is the core of local radio is at breakfast. So we’ll think about what we do before six o’clock. We’ll still try and keep local travel there, but we’ll probably have a different service there which will probably be a national service. And then, in mid-evenings, where we share as a region now, Sue’s programme does come from BBC Cambridgeshire, but we share as a region that programme across the region. We’re looking for the first time in that particular time of day at a national programme. Now we actually think there are some editorial advantages in that, and there’s a cost saving clearly, and that’s the main driver. But there is nowhere where the whole of England talks to each other. We have lots of Uk-wide programmes, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but there’s nowhere the whole of England joins up. And one of my colleagues, David Clayton, he’s the editor of Radio Norfolk, used to run a thing called the Local Radio Network on Radio 4, which was like a Best of Local Radio. And the best of local radio has some fantastic stories from across the country, things from Cumbria, things from Devon, that you don’t hear about. Things from Cambridgeshire as well obviously. So we would put all that together, and allow England to talk to each other in some way or other. And we think editorially, that might be a really interesting programme. We would only need one presenter, so we could afford to choose to have a really good presenter, and share that across the country. That’s the aim.
ANDY HARPER: Now Sheila from Peterborough has, I suppose, hit one of the nails on the head, as far as we’re concerned. “Dear Andy, I would like you to ask why it is proposed to cut the award winning Peterborough Breakfast Show. Surely quality programmes should be kept. I am not particularly interested to hear what is going on in Cambridge, but I do like to know what is happening on my doorstep.” Now she may be jumping the gun a bit to say we are cutting the Peterborough Breakfast Show, but we are going to somehow have to cut from two programmes to one at breakfast time, aren’t we?
TIM BISHOP: Yes. This proposal has come relatively late in this process, but when we saw the scale of saving that we needed to find in BBC Cambridgeshire, it became clear to us that to keep up the local content,. we were really going to struggle to run two breakfast shows. Now we started the Peterborough Breakfast Show not that long ago. We think it’s been very successful, by the audience measure we have. It’s a good programme, as you say it won an award last year. And even listening to it this morning, it’s got high production, it’s very of Peterborough. And Peterborough is a big place. We wanted to deliver that sort of local service. But we can’t deliver that at the quality people want from it, with the amount of money we’ll end up with. So what we’re proposing is that we would end one of the two breakfast shows. So basically we do a breakfast show for Peterborough, and a breakfast show for the south of Cambridgeshire, the rest of Cambridgeshire .. because Peterborough does .. the Peterborough show travels into the Fens … but for basically the south. And we would move to having one show. Now we haven’t decided whether that would come from Peterborough or Cambridge. We haven’t decided the exact form of it. But the saving would be moving back .. because it’s back to where we came from .. to one show.
ANDY HARPER: I hesitate to read the first part of Ian’s email, because he says, “With cuts, does it mean that the BBC won’t continue to employ older people, say people up to 70 years of age? Shouldn’t jobs go to younger presenters?” Well that was the first part of his question, which I’m going to move swiftly on from Tim.
TIM BISHOP: Yes. We’re getting into sensitive territory here Andy, I think for both os us, the notion of older presenters is probably quite a popular one.(THEY LAUGH)
ANDY HARPER: It is with me. And secondly, he talks about the weekends, and says are there changes planned for the weekend.
TIM BISHOP: Right. I’ll do those in order. Local radio is basically a service that goes out to a largely older audience. We’re really proud of that, and we think it’s one of the great strengths of the BBC that it delivers something for as many people as possible. What local radio does is it reaches an older audience that a lot of other services don’t, and it gives people lots of things, it gives them news, it gives them information, but it also gives them companionship, a friendly local voice. And those are all things they value. Now we have lots of young people who want to get into radio, and that’s great. But also, if we’re talking to an older audience, people, a bit like yourself Andy, with a bit more life experience shall we put it ..
ANDY HARPER: Well put.
TIM BISHOP: Well I thought that was good. .. have a huge value. And you bring that fantastic range of experience from things that you did before you were in broadcasting. And you can hear that in your programme all the time. And we have a range of presenters who do that. So I think there does come a time where every presenter maybe .. some of them will slump over a microphone, and that will be how they bow out. But sometimes there is a moment just to move on, and make room for someone else in all sorts of ways. and we do a bit of that. But we’re very proud of our older broadcasters. And actually some of our most successful broadcasters are at that older end of the spectrum. So that was the first bit of that question. We already share quite a lot of programmes on a Sunday and Saturday. And the idea is we will extend that sharing, and we will share more after one o’clock on a Sunday. Now that’s not going to save us a vast amount of money, because of the amount of sharing we already do, but that is an area we’re going to look at. And wherever we’re sharing, we’ll still have the ability to opt-out when there’s a football or a sports commentary that we think the audience want. So we won’t lose that ability. And we’ll also still provide a news and travel service wherever that’s happening.
ANDY BURROWS: Now Bob makes a point, which could be applicable nationally, but also locally as well. He says, “When you speak to the Oracle,” which is you Tim, “can you establish why it is necessary for about five reporters to cover the same story. A case in point is the recent Dale Farm debacle. On site were a main news reporter, two Look East reporters, probably reporters from Radio Essex, Radio Suffolk and possibly Cambridgeshire as well. With a little forethought and planning and scheduling, one reporter could have covered the lot, saving at least 3 or 4 persons’ time, travel and use of expensive vehicles.” But he does also make a point that with all the channels provided by the BBC, and the radio stations as well, for somewhere around £140 a year, some years ago it was pointed out that the cost of commercial television cost each person about £573. So he still says BBC is a good bargain, but he does talk about this duplication of staffing, and we hear it on the national news as well, don’t we?
TIM BISHOP: Absolutely. And one of the probably very painful things that he won’t have seen is we are moving to address that. Whether we completely address it or not, we have two people who work for BBC Network in the region, and both of their roles and both of those posts are being closed as part of this. And the idea is more if you like the Look East family and faces will appear on the network television news programmes and on the BBC news channel. And to a certain extent the same in radio, you will hear more of the same radio voices on 5 Live or on other channels. I think, while the core of the BBC is news, it is recognised that actually there are some savings that can be achieved there without necessarily diminishing the service. And I think Dale Farm is quite a good example of that. It was such a big story, that lots of BBC outlets felt they needed to be there. Because we have more than one radio channel, more than one TV channel, you can’t be on all of them at once. I was a correspondent for quite a while, and if you’re trying to serve six radio stations, a TV channel, then if you add in the network news channel and the network news, at some moment you do go quietly bonkers. But there is more we can do in that area, and that’s part of these savings proposals, very much so.
ANDY HARPER: We’ve had a huge number of comments and questions, but we’ll wrap up with sport. Because one of our listeners says, “ I think the BBC has made too many cuts in sport already.” They should have all England games etc. And Angela and Sheila both asked about our local football coverage. What’s the plan for sport?
TIM BISHOP: Sports rights, some of them are very expensive. Some of them are relatively cheap. We pay a certain amount to do football commentaries on clubs right across the Leagues, and actually sometimes we do non-League commentary as well. We’re going to start by trying to save money on the rights, by paying less for sport. There’s less competition for those rights now. Commercial radio basically isn’t doing any form of commentary. So we think we might have an ability to spend less overall on sports rights. Alongside that, there is a proposal to suggest that we don’t duplicate commentaries. So quite often we have a commentary done by the home radio station, and a commentary done by the away station. Now sometimes it seems to me that that’s the right thing to do. They used to call Scottish football writers fans with typewriters. And I think there’s some part of local radio commentary that you want that local perspective. So our commentators always strike me as being fans with microphones, to a large extent. And they share the fans’ passion. But if you’re on a station where you’re doing commentary on four teams, actually maybe just maybe on some occasions you could do one commentary. So the fans still get a commentary, but it’s rather more neutral. And all that local perspective is around that. I’m not hugely personally a great fan of that.As an Ipswich supporter, I can’t imagine a Norwich commentator telling me about Ipswich. And I equally know, as I now live in Norfolk, how much Norfolk would hate an Ipswich perspective. So I think we need to rake a bit of care with that. But our main saving will be looking at sports rights. And some people believe the BBC still spends far too much on sport, and others obviously passionately believe that we should buying lots of sport, because that’s what they want. And that’s the whole BBC dilemma. People have differently things they love from the BBC. But everybody loves something.
ANDY HARPER: As you pointed out at the start Tim, none of this is a fait accompli. It is now open to discussion. I think quite rightly, people of Cambridgeshire have very little faith in consultations, given what we’ve talked about and then seen happen. But on the other hand, will people be listened to, if they have their say? And how do they do it?
TIM BISHOP: Well you don’t really have to depend on me for that. To give you the example, the most recent example, the BBC used to be run by Governors, who were very much seen as part of the BBC. So the BBC is now policed by the BBC Trust, which is very much more separate from the BBC. So it’s not very long ago since the BBC proposed the closure of BBC 6 Music, which is one of its digital channels. I thought it was a very rational case. What we were saying is we’ll have one national music channel, Radio 2. Radio 2 the commercial world felt was getting too successful, and what we’d do is take some of the perhaps quirkier and more interesting bits of 6 Music, put them into Radio 2, and actually we would have that one national music channel. And that should work. We would save money. Everyone should be happy. It went out to public consultation. Lots of people rallied to the support of 6 Music. In the end it doubled its audience as a result of all that discussion and debate. And the BBC Trust came back to the management and said, no, you can’t close 6 Music, and it’s alive and kicking annd still going. So I, like you, have a certain skepticism about certain forms of consultation. This is being done independently of the BBC, by the Trust, who have an ability to come back to the BBC management and say, no, that’s not what licence fee payers want. You can’t do this. But the thing to bear in mind is, if we don’t dave it in one are, we have to save it in another. And if everyone loves something, in the end, there are going to be places where people are going to end up a bit unhappy. But I think it is a very real consultation. And as people feed in their views, we’ll see what unfolds. But some of what we’re talking about doing, we will not be able to do any of the on-air changes until we’ve been through that consultation process, which is run independently of the BBC management.
ANDY HARPER: Tim Bishop, thank you very much.