BBC fail to listen to fans
The RFL has expressed its disappointment at the BBC’s decision to ignore the views of sports fans in the consultation process into plans to impose extensive cuts to local radio services across the country.
After launching two consultations last autumn, the BBC received a record response from the public, a significant proportion of which is known to have come from Rugby League fans after the RFL led a campaign to raise awareness of the impact of the proposals.
This appeared to have the desired effect and BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten instructed the BBC to reconsider its proposals whilst the RFL met the BBC to offer support on how it could implement changes without significant loss of quality to coverage of all sports.
However, the BBC appear to largely disregarded the views of all sports fans during the review process and made minimal changes that will see the initial proposals go through largely unaltered.
RFL Acting Communications Director Niel Wood believes the BBC is doing a great disservice to fans of all sports, especially Rugby League which forms an important part of the high quality content generated by the BBC locally.
“BBC radio is fundamental to local communities and does a fantastic job serving their listeners,” said Wood. “ We recognise the financial challenges the BBC faces and we offered to help to find solutions but after reviewing the BBC’s conclusions, it is clear that the concerns of thousands of sports fans have been largely ignored.
“This is not just something supporters of Rugby League need to be worried about: coverage of other sports including non-Premier League football, cricket, boxing and hockey will also be very badly affected.”
One of the most significant changes to local radio output will be the switch to a common national output between 7.00pm and 10.00pm, meaning the loss of local and regional sports magazine shows. The BBC has said local radio stations may opt-out from broadcasting the national signal, but has not provided any indication on how much it might cost for local stations or how it will work.
Other changes include:
• Local radio budget savings to be reduced from £15m to £8m.
• Sport and community content will be more protected to ensure range and variety.
• Safeguarding some coverage of minority sports.
• Most minority input, however, will be scheduled at weekends.
• Some sports output will be lost due to this, although there would be more sport phone-ins from 6.00pm-7.00pm.
• More detailed work is needed on whether AM transmitters will be shut down.
Wood added: “The sports magazine shows between 7.00 and 10.00pm are hugely popular with Rugby League supporters throughout the UK and we are worried they won’t be replaced because of prohibitive cost or lack of resources.
“There are also concerns from fans about the impact on stations in areas with strong Rugby League support, particular Radios Manchester, Cumbria, Merseyside, Leeds and London.
“We will certainly be seeking further discussion with the BBC to fully understand the extent of the impact of these proposals which threaten to inflict irrevocable damage on the Corporation’s output.”