Suffolk: MP will raise cuts to radio in Parliament

A Suffolk MP has spoken out against possible cuts to the county’s BBC radio programme.

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey is the latest high-profile objector to criticise BBC plans to scrap its daytime local radio service.

Dr Coffey pledged to raise the issue in Parliament next week and said she was disappointed the announcement had not been made before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, on which she sits, met with newly-appointed chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten.

The proposals could see the broadcaster jettison local news and programmes during the day, replacing them with BBC Radio 5 Live content, but maintain breakfast and drive-time shows.

Disapproval has already been heaped on the idea, with the National Union of Journalists warning it would “rip the heart out of local programming”.

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Dr Coffey said Suffolk would risk losing its sense of community if plans were to go ahead. She added: “Here is a proposal that would centralise local radio. It goes contrary to what the BBC is doing in other departments like television.

“That doesn’t mean to say there are not some shows that could be networked – as is already the case during the early morning on Radio Suffolk – but I see no reason for it happening in between the morning and early evening.”

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Earlier this week Dr Coffey asked Prime Minister David Cameron to join her in congratulating the people of Suffolk for raising the �3million required to build a new children’s hospice in Ipswich.

The proposed cuts, she told the East Anglian Daily Times, would undermine the county’s ability to mount similarly successful campaigns in the future.

“Local radio represents a pulling together of the community,” she said.

“That was certainly made apparent by the timescale in which the Treehouse appeal has been achieved.

“I will be taking it up in Parliament next week and I wish the story had come out before the committee’s meeting with Lord Patten.”

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear has said the proposals would “sound the death knell for local radio”.

David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket and Needham Market, also voiced his distress by calling the plans “utterly appalling”.

But the BBC has reiterated its assertion that no decision has yet been made. The broadcaster said it would be wrong to speculate, adding that BBC staff would have an opportunity to input ideas about shaping the BBC’s future.

BBC local radio already broadcasts Radio 5 Live overnight but the corporation is still seeking to make savings – at the expense, say trade unionists, of more than 700 jobs if proposals are given the go-ahead.

Opinion among Radio Suffolk listeners has also been heated, with comments left on the EADT’s website largely exhibiting disapproval.

One reader, Samuel Davis, said: “It would be such a shame if this report turned out to be true as so many thousands of people rely on Radio Suffolk as part of their daily lives.”

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