Council opposing possible BBC Oxford closure
Councillors in West Oxfordshire have unanimously agreed to write a letter in support of BBC Oxford after fears were raised about a reduction in local television news coverage and radio programming.
The Council will send letters to the head of the local station, the Chairman and Director General of the BBC, expressing the Council’s strong opposition to reported restructuring plans by the corporation that may see its offices in Banbury Road, Oxford, closed and moved to Southampton.
Currently, the local television broadcast from the Oxford office is aired for 10 minutes as part of the BBC South Today programme at 6.30pm Monday to Thursday, with the rest of the programme coming from Southampton and covering a wider part of the region. The entire 6.30pm programme comes from Oxford on Fridays, along with the late-night daily bulletin at 10.25pm.
It is reported that the move to Southampton would mean removal of the Oxford slot, with a large reduction in local staffing and the Oxford and District Branch of the National Union of Journalists warning that this would result in loss of local news coverage.
Cllr Barry Norton, Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, raised the issue of a possible closure at the Council’s Annual General Meeting on Wednesday (May 18 2011).
He said: “Closure of the Oxford station would be a bad move for Oxfordshire – it would no longer be local news, but regional news. We know from when ITV did the same thing and closed Abingdon and moved to Meridian that there is an emphasis on coverage from the southern part of the region, with Oxfordshire rarely getting a mention.
“We will write to the BBC authorities to inform them of our deep concern that they are reportedly considering closing down the local office and, further to this, raise our concerns that BBC Radio Oxford has been taking on other holistic programming, particularly in the evening, with no local content at all. This seems to be creeping in and our Council will take an active stance in opposing what we believe could lead to a reduced public service for the people of Oxfordshire.”
The Council agreed to send letters to the BBC locally and nationally, and to the Rt Hon David Cameron, MP for Witney.
The BBC has said that no decisions about BBC Oxford had yet been made and that reports were speculation. Any decisions would be subject to approval by the BBC Trust.
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