Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson says Tory-Lib Dem cuts to

Bill Esterson



Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson has added his voice to calls to save BBC Radio Merseyside from massive Tory-Lib Dem cuts.

Despite being the most popular local BBC radio station in the country, outside London, Radio Merseyside is facing a 20% cut to its budget. Other stations around the country face cuts of as little as 5%.

Bill Esterson will be speaking out against the BBC Radio Merseyside cuts during a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament tomorrow morning (Wednesday, October 26 from 9.30am).

The Labour MP said the attack on Radio Merseyside was another example of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats disproportionately targeting the region with cuts.

Bill said: "I know only too well that many people in communities not just in Sefton Central, but across the region, rely on BBC Radio Merseyside. In many cases it is a lifeline. But it is a lifeline which is being cut by this Tory-Lib Dem government which is on a rampage of cuts throughout our region.

"Radio Merseyside is having to save £420,000 a year - 20% of its budget. A far greater cut than stations elsewhere in the country.

“If these cuts go ahead, Radio Merseyside will lose 10 - 15 people, from a team of around 45. A third of the staff.

“The effect of this will go well beyond the loss of local programmes in the evenings and at weekends.  There will also be a drastic reduction in the staffing of peak time programmes, news and sport services, significantly reducing the quality of the overall output at all times.

“The cuts will undermine the service local radio provides to the broader BBC news machine in terms of newsgathering. It will also limit its ability to hold local and regional decision makers to account, and represent local views and perspectives to those in positions of power.”

Not all local radio stations are the same. No allowance has been made for stations like BBC Radio Merseyside whose popularity unarguably makes it the 'core' BBC Radio service in its area. Radio Merseyside has a larger share of radio listening in its area than any local or national service, BBC or commercial.

·  BBC Radio Merseyside gets 16.7% of all radio listening in its area (compared with 8% for Radio 4 for instance), and reaches more than one in five adults.

·  179,000 people in the Radio Merseyside area listen to no other BBC radio service.  That's 55% of the station's total audience.

·  95,000 people in the Radio Merseyside area listen exclusively to Radio Merseyside - ie to no other radio service at all.

·  42 % of BBC Radio Merseyside's audience is age 65+

·  27% of BBC Radio Merseyside's audience is from the DE demographic group

Bill added:  “Where I am particular uneasy is that the reduction to staffing of peak-time Radio Merseyside output will not be part of the  BBC Trust public consultation process, so local licence-fee payers may not even get the opportunity to object.

"The whole point of local radio is that it is in essence local, making its own talent and creating its own style. Sadly, it lacks the big guns to press for a reprieve: no friends in high places, like Radio 3 and 4, or trendy London fans like 6 Music. For this reason, it's essential that those who do care join me in speaking out now.

"I, together the many people from Sefton Central who have contacted me to voice their concerns about the damage this Tory-Lib Dem government is doing to our local radio station, will be adding my voice to the campaign to oppose these cuts."