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Poets and playwrights speak up for Radio Merseyside

Open letter by McGough Bleasedale, Russell and more

Published on January 20th 2012.

Poets and playwrights speak up for Radio Merseyside

Willy Russell (pic by Stephanie de Leng)Willy Russell (pic by
Stephanie de Leng)

SOME of Liverpool's biggest names in the arts have written an open letter to The Times protesting at proposed BBC budget cuts to Radio Merseyside.

It has been signed by scriptwriters Willy Russell, Alan Bleasdale and Frank Cottrell Boyce, poet Roger McGough, photographer Mike McCartney and the TV producer Mal Young.

The letter, below, lists the cultural credentials of Radio Merseyside as a riposte to BBC director-general Mark Thompson's statement that Radio 4 and BBC One were protected from cuts because they represented a "unique cultural exercise".

They say Radio Merseyside - which is facing cuts along with all other local radio stations - broadcast Alan Bleasdale's and Willy Russell's first work, featured Roger McGough in its inaugural broadcast, has always championed new music, and was the only platform to broadcast Paul McCartney's homecoming concert.

It concludes by paraphrasing Mark Thompson and the former Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly: "BBC Radio Merseyside is not merely a 'unique cultural exercise' it's much more than that".

The BBC is looking to save £670m a year until 2016-17 because it agreed to a licence fee freeze. Around 2,000 jobs are expected to go across the organisation. At the Radio Festival in November Radio Merseyside's Roger Phillips challenged Thompson on the cuts and said the station would lose 15 of its 46 staff.

Letter to The Times

Radio_Merseyside_Towerr"Sir, The Director-General of the BBC was recently challenged over his protectionist attiude to the budgets of Radio 4 and BBC One as part of the proposed BBC cuts. He cited the 'unique cultural exercise' which these offered the licence fee payer as the reason for their special status.

Meanwhile, BBC Radio Merseyside, with more than 40 years' experience in its community, more than 350,000 listeners, and figures that outperfrom BBC national offerings in the patch, it to lose 20% of its budget and more than a third of its staff.

BBC Radio Merseyside was where Alan Bleasdale's first broadcast work was aired and where Willy Russell's first radio broadcast took place in Folkscene.

BBC Radio Merseyside welcomed Roger McGough on its inaugural broadcast, and again, during the city's 800th birthday when he worked with the people of Liverpool and the station to produce the award-winning Liverpool Saga. BBC Radio Merseyside has always championed new music, new writers and the arts.

In 2008 the station was the sole broadcaster of the opening and closing ceremonies of the capital of culture year in full. It was the only platform in the world to broadcast the Paul McCartney homecoming concert.

Whether in politics or sport; whether in celebration or sometimes crushing defeat, BBC Radio Merseyside has given voice to the beating heart of this community.

To paraphrase Mark Thompson and the great Bill Shankly, BBC Radio Merseyside is not merely a "unique cultural exercise" it's much more than that. We hope that the BBC Trust holds this in mind as it makes its deliberations."


*This story was first published on our associate site How-Do

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Absinthe & TurksJanuary 21st 2012.

"Sir, The Director-General of the BBC was recently challenged over his protectionist attiude to the budgets of Radio 4 and BBC One as part of the proposed BBC cuts. He cited the 'unique cultural exercise' which these offered the licence fee payer as the reason for their special status."

Then why not scrap BBC Three and save far more money whilst making everybody in the country happy?

It might even help the British people tolerate the London-obsessed, right-wing bias in increasingly estuarine accents that are taking over our NATIONAL radio station.

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2012.

Yes, but don't scrap BBC4.

Paul WilliamsJanuary 27th 2012.

Well for a start BBC 1 is not a 'unique cultural exercise' and certainly less of one than Radio Merseyside..which undoubtedly is ! The BBC, in it's heyday, in my opinion, and arguably, manged to broadcast a more diverse range of programme material with just two TV channels. Each new 'minor' BBC network added since, has a highly paid 'channel controller'.. money that could go towards better quality shows for BBC1/2. The BBC's 'move' to Salford , seemingly to lessen their southern 'bias' is a bit of an exercise in posturing. The BBC have in fact been in Manchester since 1954 (ish) and of course the 'legitimate' move to the 'regions' big time, occured in the seventies with the opening of the Network Production Centres. Regional TV was at it's most diverse in the eighties, probably , BBC Manchester making it's own low budget regional drama's, light entertainment and music shows as well as current affairs. Media City will not, i suspect make TV any more regional at all . This makes the local radio stations essential to do what Network Radio will only ever do in a clunky patronising way ! ( you know.. 'Scouser's Week' or something!!)

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