Petition delivered to Downing Street slamming the Local BBC Radio changes

Protesters attended 10 Downing Street to hand in a petition organised by the National Federation of the Blind today.

The document is backed by over 220 local organisations and at least 40 MPs from across all parties. They say the plans are discriminatory towards the elderly and disabled and have been criticised in Parliament.

Andrew Hodgson, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The NUJ, the NFBUK and more than 220 other supporting organisations are calling on all lovers of local radio and music to download Beldon Haigh’s song Need My Local Radio, a tune of love and in support of the joys, value and place in the community of local radio – and a plea to the BBC to think again.”

Singer Beldon Haigh, who was among the delegation that attended Downing Street, said: “As a musician I care passionately about the BBC, it’s always held a special place in the hearts of the UK communities and given a means of expression to local musicians and other artists.

“It’s been said in Parliament that the BBC is effectively trying to get rid of local radio. This would be a terrible loss for entire communities, especially for the vulnerable and the lonely. I’ve been told that people within the BBC may be scared to speak out so I hope this song is a way of giving a voice to everybody who is affected.

“Local Radio is a key part of the UK cultural eco-system and is worth investing into and protecting. The proposed cuts don’t seem to consider that. The presenters in these regions are much loved and cherished but that special relationship also appears to be under threat, all in the name of a perception of digital progress. I thought that the government was trying to level up Britain, but cutting back on local content and local presenters isn’t levelling anything up. Quite the reverse in my opinion.”

Sarah Gayton, Campaign Coordinator for the NFBUK, said: "Making these cruel cuts and changes to the daily schedules will isolate people who are already marginalised from society and disconnect them from what is happening where they live. The proposed changes will result in the afternoon and weekend shows being shared across regions, and late night shows being replaced with a national show, with many presenters losing their jobs. This will rip the heart and soul out of local public broadcasting.”

Paul Siegert, NUJ National Broadcasting Organiser, said: "So far BBC bosses have been tone deaf to the criticism about their plans to try and kill off local radio so it’s time to turn up the volume of the campaign. We are urging everyone to spend a pound and download the song. Let’s get it in the charts and make it impossible for BBC radio stations to refuse to play it.”

Campaigners say that the BBC – which traditionally purports to champion transparency – is guilty of secrecy and double standards over the proposals.

Sarah Gayton said: “The NFBUK asked for the BBC’s Equality Impact Assessment and a Public Value Test on the proposed changes through a Freedom of Information request but the BBC said it was exempt from providing this information.”

On May 25, Need My Local Radio was uploaded to BBC Introducing. BBC radio stations were contacted and asked to consider playing it.