The BBC has been told it could save millions a year by cutting 50% of senior local radio managers rather than taking the axe to programs, according to a report by former GMG Radio chief John Myers. The BBC-commissioned report published 2/27 said the corporation could save U.S. $3,168,757 a year from its local radio budget by axing half of the managing editors across its 40 local stations inEngland.
Myers said the staff organization “was a little unwieldy” with too many people with management responsibility of some description and an overly complicated structure—in other words, too many Indian chiefs.
“What is absolutely clear is that there are too many people with management responsibilities and that a slimmer structure is required,” he said.
But Myers appeared pessimistic about his managing editors’ plan being taken up by the BBC: “I fear there is deep reluctance to move away from having individual managing editors for each station although I have not heard any convincing argument why they could not successfully manage a larger portfolio, if only two stations at a time.”
Myers said the maximum amount of savings that could be made in local radio without affecting on-air quality was $14,259,408, rising to $17,428,165 if managing editors were put in charge of two local stations each.
It is around a third lower than the $23,765,680 of savings BBC director general Mark Thompson sought to make in his Delivering Quality First proposals to save $1,109,065,088 across the corporation, reported The UK Guardian.
“In cutting as deeply as anticipated in DQF, there is a significant risk of reducing the level of audience even further and damaging the range and quality of programs that sets these stations apart from other networks and competitors,” Myers said.
Myers said morale was generally good at the nine of the 40 stations he visited. But he said there was at times a “them and us mentality … with many feeling they are second class citizens within the corporation compared to the more generously funded networks”.
The report warned that controversial plans to share afternoon programs across neighboring stations would accelerate the decline in listening to BBC local radio and damage the overall offering.
Although its audience has started to increase since 2009, the report said there had been a long period of decline in listening to BBC local radio, with the sharpest decline within the 55-64 year old demo, one of its key target audiences.
Myers warned that local radio’s audience cannot fall much more in terms of share and average hours without opening up a wider debate about its future.
Thompson’s proposals, which included sharing programs across neighboring stations in the afternoon, evening and weekend prompted widespread opposition and will be rolled back following a consultation by the BBC Trust.
Myers said savings could be found in weekday evenings, but warned against syndicated programs in the afternoons and at weekends, as predicted by MediaGuardian.
“Local output in daytime and weekends is paramount to the future of the local radio network,” said the report.
Myers also said a lot of local radio facilities were out of date, with 15 stations within the 40 in England operating analog desks that were invented over 30 years ago.
He said a large number of BBC local stations suffered from being housed in buildings that were outdated, unwieldy and expensive to run.
“Of the nine radio stations I visited four had equipment failures on their key breakfast program,” he said.
“In addition, reporters were recording interviews in the field with no obvious means of sending the recordings back without physically returning to base. “Frankly, this is an amazing observation to write about in these high-tech times.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Seems they’re having some of the same issues and considerations as here in the states. Here, however, the management cuts have already been made—along with a lot of other things. The good news is the report recognizes that becoming less local will result in fewer listeners. As well, if they do save any money by cutting some of the overlapping management, perhaps they’ll be able to replace some of the gear and infrastructure that’s 30 years old and falling apart.