22 May 2024

A threat to local democracy

Now, I know this isn’t especially local to Holderness, and, indeed it could be viewed as a rival media outlet, but I feel I should comment on the news that the BBC plans to dramatically reduce its local radio output.

At times like this, I feel we are stronger together, rather than rivals, and a threat to any local journalism is a threat to us all, and a threat to local democracy, eventually. Fewer people going out and reporting on their own patch, whether it’s broadcast or in print, means fewer people finding out about things. Fewer planning decisions going unreported; fewer people in power being held to account; more speculation and misinformation on social media.

BBC local radio is in no way perfect, and I agree with many who have argued that it has, to an extent, been chasing a youth audience that just isn’t really there, and a fair few listeners have deserted it as a result.

I always used to joke that you know when you’re getting old when you enjoy listening to Radio Humberside, but I mean that as a compliment, really. It does have a generally older audience and there’s nothing wrong with that. So does the Gazette.

Indeed, there’s a whole generation of people aged from about 40 to 80 and above who do not consume digital media in the same way as younger people do, and are probably better for it, as they’re more able to avoid being glued to their devices 24/7. And they have every right to feel that they are being abandoned in this relentless crusade towards all things digital.

I’m not anti-digital, far from it – I’m a bit of a digital gadget nerd – but local radio and digital are chalk and cheese for me. Local radio faces being stripped of the very reason it exists, which is to speak to local people and hear their stories, as well as give opportunities to young journalists such as our own Bobbi Hadgraft, once of this parish, who gained vital work experience at BBC Radio Humberside.

I also feel very sad and sorry for those who are now at risk of redundancy and having to reapply for their own jobs. There are few of those of a certain age in journalism who haven’t been there, and it’s rubbish, so solidarity with you all.