Fears over BBC Radio Suffolk’s future eased – for now

A COST-cutting proposal that threatened the future of daytime shows at BBC Radio Suffolk and other local stations has been scrapped – at least for the time being.

Staff were told yesterday(Thursday) that a move to share daytime programming with Radio 5 Live is unlikely to go ahead, which is good news for fans of Suffolk presenters such as Lesley Dolphin and James Hazell.

But the controversial proposal still hangs over local stations as the corporation tries to reduce its costs.

It is also believed that the threat of more regional programming – sharing content with bordering counties – remains on the table.

There is already uproar among country and western fans over the axing of Brian Mann's Sunday afternoon Suffolk Country programme, which is to be replaced by a syndicated regional show.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, a staunch supporter of local radio who raised the cuts issue in the Commons last week, said she was told the development by a BBC staff member.

'I understand the specific item about Radio 5 Live programming is off the agenda, it's a small step in the right direction,' she said. 'There could still be regionalisation, like sharing things with Radio Norfolk. I don't know that to be true but there's still a requirement to save money. I have no reason to doubt that I have been misled on it but that does not mean that everything is safe and will remain as it is. But that's one part of the battle won, now we need to win the rest.'

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A BBC spokeswoman said: 'No decisions have been made so it would be wrong to speculate. We have only just started a major BBC-wide consultation.

'It is only right that BBC staff have an opportunity to input ideas about shaping the BBC's future.

'Inevitably this has led to speculation. We are not going to get drawn into a running commentary– no decisions have been taken and therefore these reports remain speculation but local, regional and national services are at the heart of what we do.'

She said that any decisions coming out of the consultation process would be subject to approval by the BBC Trust.

The proposal to cut back programming at BBC Radio Suffolk and other local stations has prompted protests from listeners across the country, and earlier this week the Country Land and Business Association voiced its opposition to the moves, warning that rural communities would be badly hit.