Radio Foyle ‘death by 1000 cuts’ warning issued by Derry & Strabane reps

Derry & Strabane Council is to invite BBC interim director Adam Smyth to the chamber to explain cuts to jobs and programming at Radio Foyle.

Following news that the BBC Radio Foyle staff face cuts and the Breakfast Show will be axed, councillor Rory Farrell declared it was ‘death by 1000 cuts which will ultimately lead to the complete closure of a local institution, which must be resisted at every opportunity’.

Addressing the Governance and Strategic Planning Committee, the SDLP councillor saw his proposal calling for BBC interim director Adam Smyth to come to the chamber and explain his decision to the people of Derry City and Strabane, pass unanimously. Council will also write to Mr Smyth asking that the cuts be reversed immediately.

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Councillor Farrell said: “This is an absolutely disgraceful decision from the BBC and its going to result in widespread job losses and the loss of much loved news programmes.

Organiser Davy McCauley speaking at a protest outside BBC Radio Foyle, on Northland Avenue, on Wednesday afternoon against proposed cuts to jobs and services by BBC Northern Ireland as part of a cost-cutting and restructuring project. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2248GS – 32

“The argument that Radio Ulster is going to fill this void is just nonsense. Local people deserve local programming and local content and the BBC should focus its attention on the exorbitant wages of celebrity broadcasters instead of implementing job cuts and service cuts in Derry.”

People Before Profit councillor Shaun Harkin said: “It’s not a surprise to me that people are full of outrage and united in their outrage about this. These cuts will bring into question the future viability of Radio Foyle so this is not just trimming round the edges, this is going at the core of what Radio Foyle provides for Derry and the North West.”

“It is very important our council is leading on this and standing up for our local radio station. This is about democracy, this is about jobs and it’s about saying we shouldn’t pay the price for a crisis created in London.”

DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney added: “We have seen this in the past where they have tried cuts and had issues with Radio Foyle which delivers a local news, local issues and they do that very effectively. If this does happen and they get off with this I think it is the beginning of the end for Radio Foyle.”

Trade unionists, politicians and supporters gather outside BBC Radio Foyle, on Northland Avenue, on Wednesday afternoon protesting against proposed cuts to jobs and services by BBC Northern Ireland as part of a cost-cutting and restructuring project. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2248GS – 41

Pointing out that there are ‘hundreds and thousands in this area who pay their TV licence to contribute to the upkeep of local services’, Aontu councillor Emmet Doyle stated: “This idea that Belfast will suddenly make decisions that will cut services in the north west while still paying, as Rory pointed out, some celebrities the vast majority of the money that goes in terms of wages is disgraceful.”

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With the consensus of opinion that the cuts were another step to the closure of Radio Foyle, Sinn Féin councillor Conor Heaney said: “I was also listening to Adam Smyth being interviewed about this and the telling remark was when he was asked if he envisaged any further cuts to Radio Foyle he said he didn’t in this licence fee period.

“We know there was an attempt in the past to close it and that was resisted so we need to resist this cut also to ensure that agenda isn’t fulfilled.”

UUP Alderman Derek Hussey proposed an amendment that Adam Smyth is invited to the chamber before adding: “BBC Radio Ulster tends to be Belfast centric.”

Councillor Farrell confirmed he had no issue with the amendment saying he was ‘happy to issue an invitation to the interim director.’

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As the proposal passed unanimously committee chairperson, councillor Emma McGinley said: “It’s disgraceful that there are cuts coming to Radio Foyle, our constituents rely on it heavily, particularly the Breakfast Show for their daily local news.”

"Never mind the potential of eight job losses and what that means for those staff and their families. I know our Mayor, Sandra Duffy has written to the BBC and has sent solidarity.”

Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter