Broadcaster Sophie Little had hosted the show Treasure Quest on BBC Radio Norfolk for a decade. On the programme, presenters hunted for treasure around the county with the help of instructions from listeners.
The final edition of the show aired on Sunday (10 September), following the decision to reduce the amount of location-specific shows across the network. Local programmes now run from 6am until 2pm on weekdays, with weekends filled with sports commentaries and hourly news bulletins.
Little took the opportunity to voice her concerns about the future of local radio in a passionate speech during her final broadcast, deeming the reductions “ableist and ageist” towards listeners.
“Something that’s always bothered me is when an individual has a platform, and they don’t use that platform to speak up for others,” she began.
“Local radio is a vital public service. And it is my opinion that these drastic, sweeping cuts [that are] taking place to BBC local radio stations all across the country are not only detrimental to everyone that enjoys switching on their local station and hearing their favourite shows, and detrimental to the local communities who value and use it.
“Actually, these cuts are unbelievably unfair to those who need local public service broadcasting the most – those who are lonely and isolated, or those who are unable to leave their house, or unable to use the internet, or unable to pay for broadband or smart devices. Those who not only take joy from the company of a familiar voice coming out of their radio but who truly rely on it to keep going.”
Little continued by noting that some of the conversations she has had with local listeners about the importance of the services have reduced her to tears. She then reiterated the core intentions of the BBC.
“The BBC’s mission, as defined by Royal Charter is to act in the public interest, serving all audiences,” she said.
“I believe in the BBC. I believe in all it stands for; it’s vital, and it’s important. But I will say this as I see it. I believe the cuts are ableist, ageist and they place economic barriers for some people, too.”
After the broadcast, Little shared a post on Twitter/X that pointed out that her words had been taken out of the on-demand version available on the online service BBC Sounds.
The Independent has contacted the BBC for comment.
In response to the announcement of the cuts, a BBC spokesperson said: “Local radio is just one of the ways we reach our audiences.
“We are modernising our local services so that, however licence fee payers choose to get their local information, we’ll be there across radio, television and online for many years to come.”