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Monday, 25 April 2011

Dorset needs fair play from the BBC!

A key response in a survey carried out by The Dorset Broadcasting Action Group (DorBAG) some time ago was that 95% (of some 4,000 respondents) wanted local news and events coverage on both local radio and on terrestrial television.

Even today, Dorset has no County Wide local radio station - neither from the BBC nor from a commercial operator.
And, apart from the lack of local news and events coverage available to all, there is also the issue that in the event of a major emergency in the county, we will not be informed what to do from our "local radio station"!

DorBAG has since been trying to persuade the BBC to provide the same service that similar sized local counties have e.g. Cornwall and Somerset.   But negotiations have so far proved fruitless.   From the summary of the saga/history on BBC's promises/plans/proposals, (as shown on the DorBAG web site under "Latest News"), all of which have gone by the wayside with various excuses from the BBC, it is clear that Dorset is being given the runaround.   Two of those plans were for a full local radio station based in Dorchester!

Dorset did have a part time (25 hours per week) opt-out programme from BBC Radio Devon between 1993 and 1996, but this was then closed, with the promise that Dorset would receive the same "just under 25 hours per week" dedicated Dorset programmes from Radio Solent.   Today, the only opt-out appears to be a short session on a Saturday morning.   So much for promises!

The BBC's latest plan is for a Breakfast only show "hosted by BBC Radio Solent".    However, as usual they qualify this plan by saying that they can't do anything at the moment because:

a) the BBC English Regions are currently carrying out a pilot in the Yorkshire and South East regions, where groups of BBC stations are sharing output in the afternoons to release resources for peak-time audiences at breakfast. This pilot will come to an end in the summer
b) The plan will then need to be assessed by the BBC Trust in the autumn once the above pilots have been assessed, before any new local radio initiatives can be considered, including a breakfast show for Dorset.
c) It will also be subject to a "Public Value" test in case it is deemed to be competing with Wessex FM.
d) Any decision is unlikely before the end of this year.

This despite the fact that their plan anyway is only for a brealfast programme, so it wouldn't even exceed their minimum requirement!

No doubt they will, once again, tell us that it is not approved because it failed one of the above tests or even that they don't have any money!    Mind you, they can afford a dedicated TV programme for Gaelic speakers in Scotland (for about 60,000 we understand, while Dorset - even without Bournemouth and Poole - has a population of over 500,000!).  

Surely it is time that Dorset had fair play from the BBC??