LEWES MP Norman Baker says BBC bosses on ‘wrong wavelength’

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BBC bosses should tackle waste, excessive layers of management and inflated salaries, instead of taking the axe to local radio - that is the view of Lewes MP Norman Baker, who has now written accordingly to BBC’s Director General, Mark Thompson.

Mr Baker said the BBC is seeking to cut local radio by 20 per cent, in a move that could irrecoverably damage local radio news and community reporting, and lead to a quarter of the jobs at BBC Sussex being cut.

The Delivering Quality First initiative is expected to lead to the loss of about 2,000 jobs across the corporation, and much of the cuts are focused on local radio.

However, the local MP has questioned the need for such a drastic cut to local radio and believes that cuts should be found elsewhere. Mr Baker has found information showing that:

•In one 12-month period, the BBC spent £8.23m on consultants

•The BBC employs more than 340 staff earning more than £100,000 a year (up 17 on last year)

•The BBC employs more than 1,000 staff earning more than £70,000 a year

•One Match of the Day host gets £40,000 an episode

Mr Baker said: “5.5million of the 7.5million people who listen to radio only listen to BBC, yet it is radio that the BBC is targeting for cuts.

He said: “As with many organisations, in these tough economic times the BBC has to reduce spending, but I really question how they are going about it. 5.5million of the 7.5million people who listen to radio only listen to BBC, yet it is radio that the BBC is targeting for cuts.

“I am sure the average listener would agree that first they should start by addressing the haemorrhaging of money on the top management and presenters’ remuneration packages, before they even think about touching the extremely valuable local radio services, which encourage a sense of local community. BBC’s top management is simply not on the same wavelength as the BBC’s listeners.”

A spokeswoman for the BBC said: “News and radio across the UK are not immune from the need to find efficiency savings but we are seeking to achieve these savings at times which will have the lowest impact on audiences. The DQF proposals will protect peak-time programmes when the audience is highest and the output is the most distinctive i.e. breakfast, mid-morning and drive-time programmes; news, weather and local information will remain specific to their stations; and stations will retain the ability to stay local when major stories break. The Trust consultation on the BBC’s proposals is ongoing and no decisions have been made.

“In July of this year, we agreed an Executive Pay Strategy with the Trust to further reduce the proportion of senior leaders in the organisation to around 1% of BBC staff (taking numbers to the low 200s). We already had a target of a 25% reduction in the paybill and 20% reduction in headcount for senior managers between August 2009 and the end of December 2011 which we are on track to meet. We announced in November, that car allowances will not be given to new senior managers.”