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Thompson Rethinks BBC Local Radio Cutbacks

While it had been feared that BBC radio programming was likely to be cut back, with some aspects syndicated between stations instead, the top executive at the BBC has now indicated a possible U-turn.
BBC local radio was to be hit hard by the imminent round of cost cutting at the corporation as much of the broadcaster's output beyond peaktime programming was expected to be divided between neighbouring stations with such savings as sharing football commentaries.
The BBC's Delivering Quality First Initiative, (DQFI) aimed at finding 20% of cost savings across the corporation, was expected to significantly extend the amount of syndicated programming shared by regions.
BBC Director General Mark Thompson's strategy review in 2010 proposed the changes but he has now indicated the corporation could rethink DQFI plans to cut local radio services.
The BBC Trust has already met several times to discuss Thompson's proposals and are understood to have agreed the broad principles of the original proposal, but are still in a consultancy process.
At the end of November, Mark Thompson told MPs during a meeting that he didn't, after all "want to preside over the decline of local radio".
He was originally planning deep cutbacks at the BBC's 40 local stations in England, with about 20% of the corporation's total workforce involved, as part of the DQFI's £700m cost-saving plan.
The crux meeting was held on 21 November with the Commons Public Accounts Committee hearing evidence from the BBC on its efficiency savings programme.
The hearing took place in Committee Room at Westminster and involved evidence from Mark Thompson, Director General, BBC, Zarin Patel, Chief Financial Officer, BBC and Anthony Fry, of the watchdog body, the BBC Trust.
The BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten meanwhile has been touring the UK over "concerns on proposed reductions in output or sharing of output in local radio".
As part of his tour, it has been reported that he said BBC Northern Ireland would escape some of the toughest budget cuts made by the corporation - despite plans for 50-70 job losses and a proposal to close Radio Ulster at midnight.
"Northern Ireland is doing better than a lot of other parts of the United Kingdom," he told BBC NI.
"The changes in the budget here are smaller than elsewhere. Now that partly reflects what Northern Ireland has already done with efficiencies and productivity.
"It has been a very good story over the past few years.
"So to some extent Northern Ireland has been sheltered from some of the toughest choices," he said.

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