My letter to Feedback regarding the cuts to BBC local radio

Dear Feedback team,

I would like to comment about the savage cuts to BBC local radio, which appear to be being dressed up as an ”improvement to local services” by BBC management.

As a former BBC Radio Humberside presenter of 25 years (I left four years ago well before this horror show started), I wouldn’t argue that the BBC needs to improve its local digital offering – have you ever tried to find local news on the BBC News app? it’s impossible. My issue is that this is being done by cutting back BBC local radio to the bone, a valuable service and lifeline for many people across the country.

As far as my local station is concerned, BBC Radio Humberside has told ALL of its presenters, apart from one, that they are no longer required to be on air. This, after they were asked to submit a 15 minute demo of “their best bits from over the years” and then given one minute to talk to the clock to save their jobs in the interview. It’s inhumane. Soon, these programmes will either be covered by presenters in other stations, by sharing output or presenters driving to Hull from other regions to host. Even saying it out loud it sounds ridiculous.  What do these new people know about this area? Why remove all of that local knowledge and experience?

When the new schedule was unveiled to the staff in Hull via a Zoom call (a lively meeting by all accounts) there were gaps in the schedule marked “to be filled”. Imagine after many, many years on air, being told that you’re no longer required – but also that no one who applied was good enough to fill some of the posts. It’s a sickening way to treat people in any industry, let alone those who’ve spent their lives championing their local areas on air and building up a relationship with the listeners.  

These are the people that provided information, news and comforting companionship to thousands of people during the Covid pandemic. For many, their local presenters were the only voices they heard for months. When Hull flooded, people turned to BBC Radio Humberside for information and reassurance – and many of the presenters stayed on air, through the night, even though their own homes were at risk in many cases.  When Hull became UK City of Culture Radio Humberside made a bold statement that it would cover every single event across the year – and it did! From the screams of joy at Hull Truck Theatre when the news was announced during a live broadcast, to the firework finale – multiple live outside broadcasts every single day of that year. It was, for many, their only connection with the celebrations.

How will this invaluable sense of community work when programmes here come from Leeds or Lincoln or Sheffield? It’s not local radio. If people want a national radio station they’ll turn to Radio 2. People don’t feel the comfort and companionship that comes from the shared experience of a live broadcast while reading a web article or listening to a podcast.

Also, on a personal note, where will the fresh faced 18 year old turn to gain valuable experience and training in radio, as I did all those years ago? Where will the next “big name” presenters learn their craft?

The BBC management seem desperate to leave older listeners behind, many of whom are excluded from this new digital world in which we all live.  Remember when BBC 6 Music was at risk? There was national outcry and the decision was reversed. Sadly, much of the BBC local radio audience don’t Tweet and many don’t yet know of the news, as presenters have been warned to keep quiet or risk losing their redundancy payments and any future cover work. Eleven separate presenters from all corners the UK have contacted me privately to say that they received this warning as friendly advice in their interviews.

Instead, management should realise the BBC local radio is what makes the BBC so unique. It’s one of the best arguments for the licence fee with 5.7m listeners across the network, fierce loyalty – and for many it’s the closest they can get to the mighty BBC.

I can only assume that the master plan is to make sure no one listens, then they have the perfect excuse to close BBC local radio for good, fitting in with the DG’s wish to be “digital only” in the future.

Having worked for most of my adult life in BBC local radio, these changes break my heart. There is no reason for them, they’ve been appallingly executed with staff waiting for months to find out if they still have a job (while still expected to be on air every day), and there has been no consultation whatsoever with the people that matter most – the audience.

Kind regards,

Carl Wheatley

Former BBC Radio Humberside presenter

5 thoughts on “My letter to Feedback regarding the cuts to BBC local radio

  1. Superbly written! Makes exactly the right points, we, as listeners, would like to promote! Sadly, I doubt anyone will take the excellent letter into account – but at least it’s been said. Well done Carl


  2. So very well put Carl. Extremely well explained and obviously from the heart. I agree that the desired end result appears to be that, as no one is listening to Local Radio anymore, it might as well be closed down completely. The people who make these decisions are so utterly out of touch and heartless.


  3. Well said Carl, it’s devastating what’s happening, I think so many people love RH. Unfortunately I don’t think the BBC is wanting to listen to this message and will simply carry on with their wrecking ball tactics.


  4. As a regular Radio Humberside listener for many years, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you have written Carl. But as Claire Levy says, I feel the BBC have no interest in hearing listener feedback, which shows a total disregard for not only their talented team of loyal presenters, but also for the listeners who are their very reason for existing.
    They are taking away that feeling of local inclusivity that so many people enjoyed and relied on, especially the elderly, the housebound and the lonely, but also thousands of regular listeners across the region.

    (And to this day, we still miss” Carl and Gloria” in our house!)


  5. Couldn’t agree more!!!

    As a relatively recent convert from Radio 2 to BBC Radio Devon to intersperse & vary my Radio 4 listening, I’m not only extremely saddened but very angry that such a valuable resource is going to be ‘modernised’ beyond current recognition.

    Fellow listeners, if you value your local BBC Radio station please stand up & make your views known to:

    Thank you

    Amanda, Exeter


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s