According to the Guardian today Lord Patten (Chairman of the BBC Trust) is to ask the BBC DG Mark Thompson to find £15m to mitigate the cuts to BBC Local Radio. The proposals for networked afternoon programming look dead.
This is hardly surprising. At the Radio Conference in Salford last year I was telling two Editors of local stations that the proposals would be a bridge too far. Simply put, most listeners to BBC Local Radio are over 55 years old, most people who vote in elections are over 55 years old, and if you are the MP for Blandville North, it’s likely the only station you’ll ever get to go on regularly would be BBC Blandshire. When you add in local councillors, then it was obvious that Mark had bitten off more than he could chew.
@steveackerman MD of Somethin Else tweeted earlier today that this was ‘driven by MP’s rather than the needs of the audience.’ I disagree and here’s why.
In the age of globalisation and global mass communications ‘Local’ is more important than ever. The only sector of the UK job market that is rising at the moment is the Self Employment sector. Self employment increased by 101,000 in Oct / Nov / Dec 2011. There are now over 4million self employed in the UK today (the highest since records began in 1992). (ONS 18.1.12) Figures out today showed that the UK economy shrunk by 0.2% in the last quarter of 2011. The life support system keeping the UK economy alive at the moment is small business.
One man who had the foresight to see the importance of small enterprise and community empowerment way back at the fag end of Thatcher’s Government was the then Secretary of State for the Environment – a certain Chris Patten. The work of the UK Government at the time led to the Rio Conference of 1992. At this conference all the world’s major powers signed up to a pledge to reduce the inequalities created by globalisation and to reduce carbon emmissions and help the environment. The deal agreed in Rio is today known as ‘Agenda 21’. It can be summed up in four words. ‘Think Global, Act Local’. Anyone that has studied Environmental Science since 1993 will, like me, have been bored to tears by the end of their course by this amazing agreement. Likewise for anyone that studied Geography, Planning, Development, Regeneration et al. To realise how far reaching Agenda 21 is, rather than doing a wiki search, search your Local Authority name and Agenda 21. In Lambeth where I live, there are more pages that come up, than there are for waste (which, incidently Agenda 21 covers). Agenda 21 forces / empowers *(*delete as appropriate) Local Authorities to consider all development in sustainable terms.
Lambeth Town Hall sits over the road from Brixton’s Market Arcades. In the 90’s Brixton’s Arcade’s were the place you’d go to for street dealers selling everything from weed to crack cocaine, publically. Market traders had a nice sideline for illegal bushmeat and muggers hung out at every corner (of which there are many). It closed after dark. Not that they were ever busy.
Today Brixton’s Arcade Market is a foodies paradise. Empowered by Transition Brixton’s Agenda 21 team, a proposal to redevelop the market into luxury flats was thrown out and small local business start ups and self employed traders have made it the destination for South Londoners, not only on Saturdays and Sundays but in the evenings throughout the week. Franco Manca’s Pizza is prasied as the best pizza joint in London. He’s now expanded and opened shops in Chiswick and Westfield Stratford. If you want a coffee at Federation Coffee, expect to wait up to 30 minutes on a Saturday (you’ll queue out the door, way out the door – the Starbucks on the high street will be empty though). Need I mention Little Miss CupCake, she’s a local celebrity now! With the Brixton Pound (yes that’s also from Transition Brixton Agenda 21) more money spent is staying in the community. A community which boasts London’s only remaining independent department store (and the centre of the Brixton Pound exchange) Morley’s. Brixton is booming.
One show, more than any others highlighted the fight to save Brixton Market. The Robert Elms Show on BBC London. It’s the Afternoon Show. Would the issues surrounding Brixton have been releveant to the people of Whitstable or Chelmsford, of course not.
Mary Portas the Government’s high street Tsar, is leading the charge to regenerate our high streets across the country. The Brixton experience is the blueprint. In the age of mass global communications, Local is going to be the driving force out of this recession. One man had the foresight to understand the importance of thinking Global and Acting Local way back in 1989. He still understands it today. Stand Up Lord Patten.