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Will it still be Radio Merseyside without the Merseyside bit?

Its budget is slashed. Big names and a quarter of staff are set to go. Laura Brown wonders can it survive

Written by . Published on October 6th 2011.

Will it still be Radio Merseyside without the Merseyside bit?

PICTURE the scene. There are big changes planned at the BBC. The big boss says we need to save cash. The only way it's going to work is if similar stations are moulded together. Not throughout the day, just at different times. So instead of The Archers and the Afternoon Play, Book Club and special programmes up to the PM slot at five, Radio 4 is instead going to share output with Radio 2 and Radio 3 every afternoon.

What do you think?

We might not want to admit it, but for a lot of
people in the city, the only voices they hear,
day after day, are Snelly's, Roger's and Billy's

OK, let's picture this scene instead. You're not a massive fan of national network news. You've grown up in the city, you've lived here your whole life. You want proper, local news. No obsession with a shooting in London, no rolling coverage of a Prime Minister from Pakistan visiting the UK Government. Stuff that's important and reflects the city and what it is about. Instead, you're told those programmes will be replaced with an all-England local radio show, coming from either Bristol, Newcastle, Birmingham or Manchester.

Which is more important?

Two thousand jobs may be going across the BBC by 2017 but it is at local radio where there is real, palatable fear and a loss of identity.

Roger HillRoger Hill Radio Merseyside will lose ten and a half posts. In a staff of 46 that's a sizeable chunk.

It's the biggest BBC station outside London, and, as local MP Luciana Berger says, one of the worst hit. There will be shared programming from 7pm until 1am on weeknights and shared output from 1pm at weekends.  Live football commentary will be protected but not the rest of the sports output, and no more specialist programming.

This means that Roger Hill's Popular Music Programme will go, but Dave Monks' The Pool will stay.

It means no more Linda McDermott, no more Folkscene, Billy Maher, Frankie Connor, Sounds Country or Pure Music Sensations or Open House. No more Spencer Leigh. Individual programmes might be saved but in one fell swoop that's removed the programmes for Merseyside's Asian, black, Chinese and most of its diverse music scenes. Shows about the city’s history, its culture and its identity. What's left? Will it still be Radio Merseyside without, y'know, the Merseyside bit?

Billy ButlerBilly ButlerYou might as well listen to 5 Live, the national station with the northern voice. Is the Salford move (1,000 more BBC jobs are to relocate there) the iron fist in the velvet glove, sounding the death knell for stations like Radio Merseyside and Lancashire?

5 Live's North West identity is very strong. Put aside Tony Livesey, who straddles late night 5 Live output and regional programming on North West Tonight and Inside, and think of those presenters of this parish who shape the station's image; Shelagh Fogarty, Mike Hamilton, who produces Stephen Nolan, and cut his teeth at Juice FM, and sports broadcaster Jonathan Legard.

In its quest to make itself seem less London-centric and more suited to its new northern home, it sounds more like a North West station. But like a cuckoo in the nest, has it pushed out the local city brands.

LindaLinda McDermottMarc Gaier, the NUJ rep for Radio Merseyside isn’t convinced. He doesn’t believe 5 Live has taken much of its audience. He’s more worried about why the Hanover Street station seems to be being punished for being good. Delivering good content on a shoestring, without the teams of staff "Network" enjoy.

But hang on, let's calm down here. No one died. And honestly, do you really listen to what one competitor describes as “Radio Miseryside”? The target market for BBC local radio is 55+. Hands up if you turned 55 this year and switched off  5 Live, or Radio 2 or 6 Music because you felt that, at your time of life, you should really be listening to Billy Butler. Of course you didn't.

So if it's not catering for you then why keep it?

Let’s look at the figures and be brutally honest, Radio Merseyside is slapped in the listening figures by Radio City every quarter. The population for both stations is between 1.6 million and 1.8 million. Radio Merseyside has a reach of 338,000, Radio City 497,000. 

But as Radio City and City Talk’s News Editor Steve Hothersall says, Radio Merseyside provides a vital remit. “The demographic in Merseyside is 60+ they’re not all going to listen to Radio City. They don’t want the same service as say a 30-year-old man.”

Tony LiveseyTony LiveseyOn paper they may be competitors but look at the sports offer. As Hothersall  points out, City firmly focus on Liverpool and Everton. Merseyside add to that Tranmere, Chester and Southport. “City doesn’t have enough airtime or staff to cover all of those teams. Radio Merseyside is a public servant and it has its place”.

Radio Merseyside may have a smaller reach but the average tuning-in hours per listener tell a diffreent story. For City, each listener tunes in for an average 8.8 hours. City Talk 4.5 hours. Merseyside? A whopping 16.2. For an awful lot of Radio Merseyside listeners the station is a major part of their life. We might not want to admit it, but for a lot of people in the city, the only voices they hear, day after day, are Snelly's, Roger's and Billy's.

The whole point of local radio was to invest in areas that commercial outlets couldn't: sport, news and chat. But BBC local radio was never about talking to everyone. Its audience is largely older, poorer and more northern than those listening to network radio. BBC Radio 4 might be a huge deal in London but the further north you go, the more its influence wanes.

The BBC is protecting the shows with the biggest audiences like breakfast and drive where they reach 86 per cent of their audiences and also where there is the most competition, But where is the public service remit there? Why should the BBC be about competition? By losing its specialist programme, Radio Merseyside will lose a large chunk of its identity. Will it ever recover?

 *You can contact the BBC Trust to tell them what you think about the cuts at BBC Trust Unit by emailing them here. Or writing to them at 180 Great Portland Street. London. W1W 5QZ

Follow Laura Brown on Twitter @finny23 

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

Roger Over and OutOctober 7th 2011.

Will anyone really miss those niche programmes?????

AnonymousOctober 7th 2011.

My nan will. She likes that Asian one

1 Response: Reply To This...
GeorgemciverOctober 13th 2011.

And I like the Icelandic one...

Knob TwiddlerOctober 7th 2011.

You can't compare listening figures of Radio Merseyside and Radio City. No-one 'listens' to Radio City, least of all a '30 year-old man'.
Radio City is at best just a background noise of nails-on-blackboard jingles and the same handful of records played over and over again. You only hear it in launderettes, drop-in centres where it is supposed to attract 'yoof' and booming out of badly-driven cars.

Knob TwiddlerOctober 7th 2011.

Radio Merseyside is incredibly popular when you consider that it gets all its audience without the benefit of all the television promotion that BBC Radio Manchester gets on BBC North West Tonight almost EVERY evening because the TV presenters have second jobs on Radio Manchester.

1 Response: Reply To This...
GeorgemciverOctober 13th 2011.

All very true...another way to save millions would be to scrape Salford Uni off the back of the BBC...this might also invite some 'external' talent to Media City that might improve its broadcasting techniques

Tranny sisterOctober 7th 2011.

Intellectually challenged hairdressers and taxi drivers usually have Radio City on too. I find it unbearable, not because I am a snob or don't like pop music but because it is noise pollution to the point of crassness. Those jingles make my ears bleed

The Voice of ReasonOctober 7th 2011.

If the BBC wants to save money it could sack all those overpaid, clapped-out, Radio 1 reject 'celebrities' that now occupy (and have ruined) Radio 2, and cut Chris Moyles' enormous salary to what the foul-mouthed slob is actually worth.
If they are serious about saving big money, they could close down BBC3 and cheer up the nation by cutting back 'Deadenders' to one episode per week.
The BBC has archives of stuff we wouldn't mind being repeated, as long as it isn't Deadenders or Only Fools and Horses AGAIN!

Alexandra PalaceOctober 7th 2011.

Only a year or so ago the BBC could afford to pay a man living in South America an absolute fortune to arrange the move of London's less important BBC Services to Salford. Is it any wonder the Corporation's skint with such profligacy at high level?

What would they pay to move proper services such as BBC1 or Radio 4 to Salford? Would they use a local man (or woman)?

AnonymousOctober 7th 2011.

On two occasions I've seen Tony Livesey on NW Tonight and he had managed to come to work without shoes! Does he live rough in a skip? Often he looks like he does. I suppose his radio job is safe.

1 Response: Reply To This...
GeorgemciverOctober 13th 2011.

Safe as houses..(or skips)

AddledOctober 7th 2011.

Wrong that they should kick Roger Hill off in favour of that interloper Monks who knows nothing of modern music, a man who kicked Jayne Casey out of the studio recently because some 75 year old listener complained.

EditorialOctober 7th 2011.

Press release from the city council this morning:

LIVERPOOL City Council is to write to Chris Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust, to outline concerns over proposals to cut Radio Merseyside’s budget by 20 percent.

A formal consultation is getting underway on the plans, which are due to savings the Corporation has to make as part of its licence fee settlement.

Deputy Council Leader Paul Brant said: “Radio Merseyside is a cherished part of the fabric of Liverpool and listening to the station is a way of life for hundreds of thousands of people.

“The station plays a hugely valuable role in democracy in Liverpool, giving people the opportunity to air their views, debate the major issues which affect their lives and hold the city’s leadership to account.

“A cut on this scale will have a serious impact on the ability of Radio Merseyside to fulfil its role as a public service broadcaster, and will also lead to the loss of jobs for a number of extremely talented people.

“Much of the programming that is at risk is unique and serves a truly local and bespoke audience, and any loss will be felt greatly.

“I would urge people to join the city council in letting the BBC Trust know their views and how valuable Radio Merseyside is to the people of Liverpool.”

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 7th 2011.

I'm surprised the city council hasn't opened a book of condolence!

AnonymousOctober 7th 2011.

If you start cancelling shows like Roger Hill's eventually the UK will lose it's place as the biggest music market outside of US/Japan, his show is an inspiration to the next generation of musicians

AnonymousOctober 7th 2011.

Surely Roger Hill is about 75 by now?

1 Response: Reply To This...
GeorgemciverOctober 13th 2011.

Roger 'over' the hill

Media watchOctober 7th 2011.

Maybe it was him who complained

Wireless WillyOctober 7th 2011.

I am not hopeful. On several occasions I have spent hours of my time diligently completing on-line surveys for the ‘BBC Trust’ when they appealed for audience opinions about BBC services.

Every time, the conclusions they announced were the diametric opposite of what any thinking BBC viewer and listener would have asked for. The last one notoriously was the one in which BBC4 was to be closed down to pay to keep BBC3 boring everyone over the age of fourteen!

Another claimed that the public wanted the BBC to put music on Radio 4 (which is our only national speech station) and a threat to put pop music on Radio 3 - which has already lurched downmarket into Classic FM territory.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 13th 2011.

IF they close BBC three then some of those programmes will make it onto Beeb one and two. better that they have there out of the way home where they dont trouble the rest of us.

AnonymousOctober 7th 2011.

Radio City is the station for people who drive with their mouth open

AnotherviewOctober 7th 2011.

Come on lets be truthful, is it not time to sell off the BBC, why are we forced by law to pay for TV and Radio? We need one public service TV station and one or two radio stations that do not have adverts and that's it. Sell the rest.

1 Response: Reply To This...
GeorgemciverOctober 13th 2011.

Hear..hear..well said

Lord ReithOctober 11th 2011.

Good idea! Yes, the BBC ought to start broadcasting 'public service' output rather than most of the mind-numbing rubbish they broadcast now on BBCs 1, 2 & 3, Radios 1, "1xtra" and 2

Lord ReithOctober 11th 2011.

And that Radio Five Tripe.

AnonymousOctober 11th 2011.

There is a place in Hell for Victoria Derbyshire

AnonymousOctober 11th 2011.

Only after Fi Glover has already been settled in, head-first in a barrel of boiling lead...

AnonymousOctober 11th 2011.

That Moyles could be rendered down to solve the world's grease shortage. It would also save the licencepayer nearly a million quid a year too.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 30th 2012.

how they have the nerve to put this repulsive person chris moyles on tv ---yuk.

AnonymousJune 30th 2012.

the most repulsive man ever to be seen on tv.

Meg O'CyclesOctober 11th 2011.

Apart from listening to the John Peel programme in the seventies and eighties I have never listened to (the otherwise infantile) Radio One and I rarely hear it elsewhere.

In fact, the only occasions I’ve actually heard it is when on holiday in the south of England when it always seems to be on loudly in old pubs, largely ruining them.

I do hope that the licensees have their public broadcast licences fully paid and up-to-date!

They might face arrest or a hefty fine… fancy that…

AnonymousOctober 13th 2011.

Oh yes! The Manchester bias on regional telly has always been plainly apparent and as a Liverpudlian I felt aggrieved for us - until I found out that the Isle of Man also gets its news from Manchester.

Those poor Manx get about one news story mentioned on regional television news about once every five years! It's a wonder they haven't demanded a refund on their licence money.

Perhaps 'Granada Reports' and 'NW Tonight' ought to be renamed 'MUFC Boardroom Tittle-Tattle' - because that's all it flipping well is.
Real news items are cut short to make sure this tedious rubbish gets its full ten-to-fifteen minutes every evening.

AnonymousOctober 13th 2011.

The weird thing about Tony Livesey is that when he was the little-seen editor of the Sunday Sport he was better dressed and much better groomed than he is now we have to watch him on the telly.

Is he really so badly paid by the BBC that he can't afford a haircut, soap and razor blades?

He looks like a tramp.

AnonymousOctober 13th 2011.

With a hangover.

AnonymousNovember 20th 2011.

Get rid of it. Local radio has always been the preserve of lazy, boring presenters who are just marking time towards their retirement

AnonymousJune 30th 2012.

roger phillips is a sanctimonious know all, the phone+ in is much more balanced with the other chaps presenting.[he seems to know little about popular culture }_

AnonymousJune 30th 2012.

also roger phillips is a mancunian ,so send him to radio manchester thereby keeping a merseyside person employed.

AnonymousJune 30th 2012.

my last2 comments are not now being shown why?

1 Response: Reply To This...
HelpfulJune 30th 2012.

Try refreshing the page or doing a control F5

AnonymousJuly 1st 2012.

just get rid of roger phillips (on the merseyside phone in) the other 2 chaps that preent it are far more balanced and not condescending sanctimonious know alls like him==send him back to manchester !

Inform, Educate & EntertainJuly 1st 2012.

Don't be daft. Even local radio in Liverpool requires at least one articulate presenter with a brain to deal politely with all those thick racists and ignorant numbskulls who phone in.
Phillips is about the only presenter on local who is communicating when his mouth is open. All the others are just making whining noises.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 2nd 2012.

Dee do dough don't dee dough!

Pete PriceJuly 1st 2012.

So who does it for Radio City then?

A Judgemental SilenceJuly 2nd 2012.


...July 2nd 2012.

<Tumbleweed blows across thread...>

Anna LogueJuly 2nd 2012.

There is no comparison between Radio Merseyside which even at its dullest is valuable community-centred radio and Radio City which is just a lot of frantic, repetitive and meaningless noise between the adverts.

Big-Hearted ArthurJuly 2nd 2012.

Is that the REAL Pete Price or the miserable, misanthopic, complaining impostor?

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