Save BBC Radio London 94.9 – The Fight Starts Here!November 14, 2011
Three weeks ago, I was at a protest. To save my local station.
The BBC, like many other organisations in these austere times are having to find savings, thanks to the six year freeze the government placed on the price of the licence fee. Some of these savings, otherwise known as cuts, are going to affect local radio. London is the most heavily affected, losing shows broadcast between 12 and 5pm and 7pm to 6am. Breakfast, the mid morning show and drivetime will remain. Shared programming (whatever the hell that means) will be put in place covering all the regional stations in the southern end of the UK. Large chunks of what makes a local station unique will be removed, almost certain never to return.
We have Robert Elms in the afternoon providing a great mix of music, interviews and articles about London history. Then there’s Danny Baker: a unique genius that has to be heard to be believed. We have a good sports show between 7 and 10pm, except on Friday when it gives way to Jazzy B with his soul and funk show at 8pm. Late night is helmed by Joanne Good, who champions the arts, especially theatre and new bands. She also covers relationship topics in a fruitier way than would usually be allowed on radio and has a slot called Barking At The Moon for dogs and their owners, possibly the only programme of its kind in the UK. Overnights are covered by a number of presenters including Nikki Bedi and Ray Khan. They keep the insomniacs and night workers entertained. And the head honchos at the BBC want to replace all that with generic stuff that won’t please anyone… pah!
I heard there was going to be a protest on the 28th October. I decided, as a long-time listener of this station, to show my face and fight for my beloved BBC Radio London 94.9. I didn’t think I’d make it, as I got a last minute call to work, but I managed to get to the meeting place of All Souls Church, a magnificent John Nash building sited opposite BBC Broadcasting House at just after 6pm. The driving force that is John the Cabby was in full flow, stating the case for saving local radio in general and our London one in particular.
Banners were held aloft by some of the protesters that numbered 100 strong. BBC Radio 4 interviewed some of the demonstrators, including me, having been put forward by the group of listeners I had made friends with.
Suddenly, we were given an opportunity to enter Broadcasting House to state our case, which we duly did. Chaos ensued.
We were quickly ushered outside again and basically hung around. A well-dressed couple turned up wearing big skeleton heads.
We hung around some more. Then the police turned up. Apparently the staff at Broadcasting House was unhappy with us.
It was all sorted out in the end with no arrests. It had started raining by then and it was time to go home (we’d been there for three hours). It was great to put faces to some of the regular callers. There’ll be more demonstrations to come. The next one will be a Carol Service with a difference on the 1st December. I can’t go to that one, but if I could, I’d have found something festive to wear. Maybe a Santa suit. My station as I know it must not die. I will not allow it.