RADIO listeners in Cumbria are being urged to fight plans to slash funding to the county’s primary station by 20 per cent.
Despite being the most listened to local station in the country, Radio Cumbria could be the hardest hit in the UK by the BBC’s cost-cutting measures as the corporation aims to save £670 million a year from its budget, leading to about 10 job losses.
The budgets of other local radio stations are being cut by an average of 12 per cent and Cumbrian politicians have vowed to lobby hard against the proposal, which they believe will have a ‘significant impact’.
The station is the most listened to station per head of population in the whole of England, and last year achieved its highest ever audience reach of 39 per cent.
South Lakeland MP Tim Farron has invited Lord Patten, BBC Trust chairman, to the region for a ‘Question Time’ style event with a cross section of listeners expressing their views and quizzing him on the situation.
"I think this news is awful and shows BBC bosses in a very bad light. To me this feels like London elitism of the worst kind. They have agreed to protect Radio 4’s budget whilst slashing the budget of a much loved and valued local service.
“Our local radio station is a pillar in our community and I will do all I can to continue to fight for it.”
The cuts would mean more shared programming with other BBC stations during off-peak times.
Julie Clayton, National Union of Journalists’ representative for the station, said staff knew the cuts were coming but were in shock at how hard they had been hit.
Coun Eddie Martin, Leader of Cumbria County Council, said: "BBC Radio Cumbria is one of the most popular local radio stations in the country - and that's because Cumbrians want to hear about what's going on here.
"They don't get that from local television news as Cumbria falls in the gaps of coverage between Look North in Newcastle and BBC North West in Manchester.”
A spokesman for South Lakeland District Council said: “As a public sector organisation, the council understands and has some sympathy for the difficulties the BBC faces in times of financial constraint. However, any saving’s made should always be made in mind of how they will affect front line services. In this instance it appears the BBC is cutting a vital community service without considering the needs of the community it was set-up to serve.”
BBC director general Mark Thompson said: “This is a plan which means stretching efficiencies and significant job losses.
"It's a plan for a smaller BBC, but a BBC which uses its resources more effectively and collaboratively to deliver a full range of services to the public.”
The plan is out for consultation until December 21 and residents can email their views on the proposed cuts to firstname.lastname@example.org