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'Don't let Roger be over and out'

Exclusive: Radio Merseyside staff launch fight-back over 'London-centric' cuts

Published on March 16th 2011.

'Don't let Roger be over and out'

IS local radio a vital source of news and culture for a community, or is it out of date?

At BBC Radio Merseyside’s Hanover Street HQ, right now, there’s talk of revolution.

After an hour-and-a-half meeting this week, the staff at Radio Merseyside decided to tackle the proposals head on

Rumours of declaring independence, accusations of London-centric snobbery and of the BBC ignoring working class listeners are filling the corners and corridors of the biggest local radio station outside the capital.

Like a medieval castle defending the borders for a tyrant king 200 miles away, the soldiers on the front line are getting a little tired of being the cat that’s kicked whenever the palace is told to tighten its belt.

The latest axe to hover over BBC local radio comes from a briefing on programme sharing, called Delivering Quality First.

Most people tune in to local radio at breakfast and drive-time, it argues. Therefore, why bother wasting resources at other times of day? Instead of generating locally driven content why not put on 5live?

In an on-air response to the report last Friday, Mrs Butler’s Eldest cut the length of each song he was playing throughout his afternoon show. “That’s another 25 per cent cut,” he muttered.

The proposal is just an idea, the BBC argues. It’s not set in stone. Yet for local radio stations feeling embattled after nearly a decade of cuts, redundancies and reduced resources, there’s a sense this could be the final straw.

“We could lose Roger Phillips and Billy Butler,” scream the local headlines. Actually, a source there reveals, it wouldn’t stop there.

The plan would see 700 jobs go in local radio. Average that out across each of the BBC’s 40 stations in the regions and that’s a cut of around 50 per cent. Around 18 staff; reporters, producers, broadcast assistants.

It would also see the freelance budget virtually wiped out. So no more Maureen Walsh for the 90,000 people who tune in every Sunday.

Linda McDermottLinda McDermottRugby League and Tranmere coverage would have to be cut back, sorry Wirral.

Specialist programmes talking to minority audiences not covered by any other media outlet in print, online or on the airwaves, like Upfront, Open House, Orient Express and Daybreak, would go.

Presenters along with Roger Phillips on freelance contracts include Alan Jackson and Linda McDermott. They are voices, argue staff, who have entertained, informed and educated on local stories from the Toxteth riots and to Rhys Jones’ murder to Liverpool and Everton, the Pope’s visit and Boris Johnson’s bungled trip to the north.

These people would be gone, along with their experience, talent, knowledge, context and contacts, they say.

There is also talk that Radio M would no longer be fulfilling its service license, that is what it’s required to cover and deliver for its local audience.

The fury is coming, not just from an anger and frustration that colleagues and friends might lose their jobs, but that the proposals are yet another attack from a London-focused body on the poorer working class communities around the country.

A senior broadcast journalist at Radio Merseyside, Pauline McAdam, told the BBC's in-house Ariel magazine: “Unlike swathes of the BBC, across swathes of the nation, we are relevant in [audiences'] lives.

“In a caricature of this organisation's London-centric horizons, and at a time when the UK's jobs and communities are under threat, the BBC suggests finally taking their voice? Go ahead and move programmes 'up' north, but the UK is a lot bigger than Salford,” she says.

One-third of Radio Merseyside’s audience only listens to Radio Merseyside; listeners that like their news with a Liverpool accent.

Well, scousers get everywhere don’t they? Shelagh Fogarty will be on the midday slot on 5Live from May and we know her, right? She’s a scouser, that’s the same, right?

Roger PhillipsRoger PhillipsWell, no, argues the senior team there. Local radio’s target audience is 55+. In reality, it’s much older, but it’s also a demographic they argue that’s not really covered by network radio.

Radio 4 is perceived to be talking to an upper middle class market and doesn’t have much to say to a working class audience.

Radio 3 is too specialist and London heavy, despite efforts to diversify with its moderately successful Free Thinking Festival held in Liverpool from 2006 to 2008.

5Live will sit comfortably in the North West when it moves to Salford, so often does it cover the North West, but the feeling among BBC ranks is that it’s pitched very much at a middle class market.

This, they contend, is snobbery: protecting the stations that talk to conservative and more well-off markets by selling the ones down the river that have less well-off audiences at their core.

After an hour-and-a-half meeting this week, the staff at Radio Merseyside decided to tackle the proposals head on.

They are to enlist high level support to help them emphasise the importance of protecting their local radio output. A plan, the source tells me, is already being hatched. They’re not going down without a fight.

As the biggest local radio station outside of London, Radio Merseyside holds sway. Other station’s will follow their lead. While BBC Manchester squeaks that it wants to protect its output from 6am to 6pm, Merseyside’s actions will be picked up not only by BBC bosses but also the NUJ.

The ubiquitous Facebook campaign has already been launched and the station is hoping the city-region will rally.

(Click here to add text)
A decision is due in the autumn. “Cuts are inevitable,” a senior source says. “But local communities still need a voice.” 5Live probably won’t be interested in potholes down the Dock Road, jobs going in Speke, John Pugh’s latest rant from Southport.

Radio Merseyside doesn’t just cover the eponymous borough but stretches from North Wales, across to Cheshire, South Manchester and South Lancashire.

“We’re not perfect,” the source says, “but once we’re gone, we’re gone for good.”

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35 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousMarch 15th 2011.

So the People's Republic of Liverpool strikes again. Except Radio M I personally don't listen to Radio Merseyside, but I know plenty of people who get a lot out of it. Good on you for having a go.

AnonymousMarch 15th 2011.

Sorry, what I meant to say was: So the People's Republic of Liverpool strikes again. Except Radio M staff won't be allowed to publicly shout, they will have to go through quiet lobbying at high levels.
I personally don't listen to Radio Merseyside, but I know plenty of people who get a lot out of it.

Good on you for having a go.

Spoof NameMarch 15th 2011.

Radio M isn't just for W*rking Class listeners, I am defiantly Middle Class and I LOVE Radio Merseyside. It's the first preset in my fancy car, seriously. I'm very proud to be Scouse and daytime Radio Merseyside speaks to and for me. If anything Radio5 Live programming should be replaced with Billy, Roger and Linda not vice versa.

steve14598March 16th 2011.

apparently the heating controls for Radio Merseyside are on Manchester and the music play list for RM is complied from Birmingham, the bbc mancs could always freeze them out by turning the BIG Knob down to zero and set the playlist to Oasis only mode,

Exiled to Radio 4March 16th 2011.

Whatever happened to 'Morning Merseyside'? It was really good, like a more relevant version of Radio 4's 'Today Programme' presented by Roger Phillips and filled with contentious matters, local news of a vibrant city and it had a good 'density' of information. I used to listen to it every day.

Tune in now in the mornings now and all you get is some slowly rambling old geezer playing awful records with a cockney sidekick mispronouncing the "travvo" bulletins.

I thought I'd tuned into awful Radio City by mistake.

Why can't they bring Morning Merseyside back?

CheesmanMarch 16th 2011.

BBC local radio is at a low ebb. Anybody who's been inside one of the NW studios will understand how low morale is - lower than the usual quota of BBC low morale. But they shows need more resource not less. They should be really blossoming, unfortunately most aim at a very old market and don't do anything very interesting or challenging - maybe that's resources again of course.

Lord ReithMarch 16th 2011.

I want to support Radio Merseyside but whenever I tune in all I get is mumbled football commentary.

Evenings and weekends used to feature specialist programmes presented by real enthusiasts for their subject, jazz or other music types, and I have to thank Radio Merseyside's 'Tune Tonic' with Monty Lister for introducing me to Gerard Hoffnung for the first time many years ago.

Radio Five Live is just rubbish in an irritating estuary accent.

If the BBC needs to save money it should give Radio 5 back to children's programmes and scrap the execrable BBC3 digital television channel. There are umpteen commercial digital channels showing complete rubbish, so why the licencepayer has to pay the BBC to provide another one is beyond the bounds of reason.

Liverpolitan Wireless LoverMarch 16th 2011.

The problem with the BBC is that it does not listen to licencepayer. When the BBC bosses impose some half-baked plans to impoverish BBC output and licencepayers object, patronising replies from on high at the BBC are issued stating how THEY are always right and YOU are ALWAYS WRONG.

These are printed in the Radio Times, read aloud on Radio Four and when there is a right to reply such as on Radio Four´s 'Feedback' a hapless minion from the BBC middle-management is sent onto the programme to support and feebly defend the excuses, denials and deranged new policies of the BBC top brass; and they convince no-one.

They always claim to have 'evidence' in the form of undisclosed surveys of listeners and viewers in "focus groups" whose views always manage to be the opposite of what normal people want. It makes one wonder where they might possibly recruit these sample groups of alleged viewers and listeners, if indeed they exist at all.

Evacuation of the VowelsMarch 16th 2011.

What has 'scouseness' to do with anything? I was fourteen years old before I heard the name 'scouse' applied to anything other than that horrible stew we had to eat every week. We were 'Liverpudlians' until then. What was wrong with that?

What is needed is a quality radio station for Liverpool and its hinterland with local and regional news, discussions and subjects of interest.

Putting a Liverpool accent on a national radio station for comic effect and for the reinforcement of prejudices can only be negative.

People forget that such successful broadcast media figures as Peter Sissons, Robert Robinson, Clive Swift, Elisabeth Sladen, Tom Baker and many, many more were Liverpudlians and managed it with affecting to speak like stroke victims gargling with phlegm.

Those who do just make us a national laughing stock. "Scouse wedding"? What was he on about?

Evacuation of the VowelsMarch 16th 2011.

Typing error! Of course that ought to have read:-

"People forget that such successful broadcast media figures as Peter Sissons, Robert Robinson, Clive Swift, Elisabeth Sladen, Tom Baker and many, many more were Liverpudlians and managed it withOUT affecting to speak like stroke victims gargling with phlegm."

Sefton BriggsMarch 16th 2011.

As these unpleasant, exaggerated 'scouse' accents originated with 'Brookside' in the 1980s, surely the over-55s targeted by Radio Merseyside would find the sound of them embarrassingly false as well as 'common as muck'?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 16th 2011.

I agree...mostley on Wednesday night, Linda Mac's show..save her, but ditch her panel members..

AnonymousMarch 16th 2011.

Radio 4 is upper-middle-class? Get away!

I love the voice of Anfield girl Winifred Robinson on 'You and Yours'!

Terry SmithMarch 16th 2011.

Who remembers Trading Post with Billy Butler when he was on Radio City? The low point in local radio history.

Arthur FlangeMarch 17th 2011.

Radio City went crap in 1974. It's managed to get worse since.

AnonymousMarch 17th 2011.

They started to have Radio City on the radio in my doctor's reception but they had to take it off because of complaints it was making people feel worse.

Pete PriceMarch 17th 2011.

Radio City is truly awful. What is wrong with having professional radio presenters speaking in neutral accents -instead of gobby scousers crackling down the mic. I was only saying this to Angie McCartney and Herbert the other day. Although he has defected to that bloody Linda Mac show.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Julie BrownMay 23rd 2012.

Radio Merseyside - some good, some bad. Roger Phillips ok, and Linda - but she needs a change of format. Same old women on too much. Bring Roger Lyon in more, please!!

Alvar LiddellMarch 17th 2011.

I know what you mean, Pricey! All those women shrilly yapping at once! What's the point of it all?

Manchester Manchester ManchesterMarch 17th 2011.

BBC Radio Merseyside's popularity is all the more impressive in that it does not not get television plugs and puffs on 'BBC Morth West Tonight' every evening like Radio Manchester does as most of the television presenters on the programme have shows on Radio Manchester: Tony Livesey, Heather Stott, Dianne Oxberry etc.

LesMarch 18th 2011.

Why can't we have Crown Court back on the television in the afternoons. It was very good. I liked it.

Hooray HenriMarch 20th 2011.

Hate to be serious, but I would man the Hanover Street barricades to defend Radio Merseyside. The station has its good points and its bad points, but it is OUR radio station. We mustn't let it go under. Aux armes citoyens...

soft joeMarch 20th 2011.

Radio Merseyside can be great (Snelly, Linda Mac) but let's not get too pious and self-regarding. Ifor Juan would not be a*sed if they cut back funding to the affected Scouse accent department.

Old HarryMarch 20th 2011.

Same here.

E. I. AddioMarch 22nd 2011.

And dese proffeshnull scousers orlways live inna big 'ouse in west Wirral; dee do dough don't dee dough?

R. A. MateMarch 22nd 2011.

Or Berkshire

R. A. SoffladMarch 22nd 2011.

Yeah, never in der 'Pule!

Stereo-tripeMarch 22nd 2011.

Nobody has mentioned the benefits if Radio Merseyside was sunk, such as getting into a taxi during the day and not having to listen to Billy Sodding Butler for the whole journey. And they have the cheek to complain when you throw up on the seat!

&quotFive holidays this year!&quotMarch 23rd 2011.

Taxi-drivers aren't supposed to play music or anything else in their vehicles without the express permission of his passenger. It's the LAW!

Perform a Citizen's Arrest next time it happens, or just take his mumber and report him to Taxi Cab Licensing.

The real Pete PriceMarch 23rd 2011.

Sean Styles. There's a warm place in the afterlife waiting for his show.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Julie BrownMay 23rd 2012.

What do you mean??

THe Unreal Pete PriceMarch 25th 2011.

The glory days comprised the eclectic tastes of Brian Jacques and Monty Lister, the interviews of Bob Azurdia, the 'street sounds' of Janice Long and the man who read the morning traffic news at high speed with a hot potato in his mouth: where are their modern equivalents?

We still have Roger Phillips thank heavens so why can't we have a renaissance of BBC Radio Merseyside?

Speaking of traffic news, do you remember the long-lived hole in the road at the junction of Harlow Street and Mill Street?

Great days!

Maria DoddAugust 9th 2011.

are they already trying to put Merseyside off ? I used to listen to it in the car in North Wales and now it just won't tune in! I love it and I even thought of changing my car to get it back!!

Julie BrownAugust 16th 2011.

Linda Mac will easily get a job elsewhere - and leave her panel members behind, hopefully!

THe Unreal Pete PriceAugust 18th 2011.

The sad thing is that the BBC seems to be run by cocaine-addled lunatics.

Their latest wheeze is a plan to CLOSE DOWN BBC 4 (which does very much what BBC2 used to do before the BBC ruined that channel) so as to have enough money to keep puerile rubbish/repeats channel BBC3 going!

The people at the top of the BBC are plainly unfit to run what is a national cultural treasure, despite being paid very handsomely for slouching around, unshaven and tieless.

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