Local radio under threat

Remember that truly amazing moment last season when Simeon Jackson scored the goal that got us promoted at Fratton Park?

Remember the tension until the end of the three minutes of stoppage time when the final whistle heralded our promotion?

If you were not there among the 3,000+ delirious supporters, you were most likely listening to Radio Norfolk and hearing the hoarse, ecstatic voices of Chris Goreham and Neil Adams as they made it possible for those of us who couldn’t be there to be part of that moment.

Now, imagine if you can how Radio Solent’s commentary team would have covered that game. I haven’t been able to track it down - so I guess it was a fairly routine description of a home loss against a team who won promotion - and whose fans invaded the pitch after the final whistle. Imagine also what it would have been like for listeners to Radio Norfolk on that day to have the Radio Solent broadcast as the only available live match commentary via BBC local radio.

That’s a lot of imagining but this could happen. Apart from my day job and supporting Norwich City, another of my interests finds me as a member of the BBC Regional Audience Council. As many of you will know, BBC local radio, like most of us, is facing hefty cuts. But do you know how this might affect our listening, particularly the coverage of sport in the Radio Norfolk region?

Some money would be saved if Chris Goreham only covered home games. This would mean that we would hear him commentating on the home games against Arsenal and QPR and his coverage would also be broadcast to Radio London listeners. Now Chris Goreham - who is one of my personal Radio Norfolk favourites - can, I am sure, be relied on to know the names and strengths of the Arsenal and QPR players. But what about the away fixtures? Can we rely on the Radio London commentary team to know the names of all our players - let alone the positions they play in.

If you think I am being unfair, how about this for a quote on the recent game at Villa Park: “a mix-up between Kyle Naughton and John Ruddy led to Agbonlahor putting Villa in front. Naughton’s back pass was slightly short...” This was by a sports journalist writing for the Press Association, and it appeared in the match report in at least one of our more prestigious Sunday newspapers. Apart from being inaccurate and annoying - particularly to Kyle Naughton - is this a glimpse of the future?

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There are other issues around the BBC cuts which will become clearer over the next few months. There will be less “local” radio and more shared programming and regional radio. Not all of these affect sports fans, but all Radio Norfolk listeners will be affected in some way.

My concern - as a member of the BBC Regional Audience Council - is that the big national consultation Delivering Quality First (DQF) which covers changes to radio and television has been almost forgotten. This is because the BBC is also running a Local Radio Review which, if you are a regular listener to Radio Norfolk you will know, has been advertised extensively on air over the past few weeks. Although the radio review consultation will feed into DQF, this “double” consultation is very confusing for most of us.

If any of what I have said worries you, have a look at the consultation documents at http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/consult/local_radio.shtml and send the BBC your response. We, the listening public are the only people who can affect this process - that could change the way we listen to our sports coverage of our team for ever.

Before the Portsmouth game, Matthew Gudgin was talking to Greg Downs in the Radio Norfolk studio about the passion Chris Goreham and Neil Adams put into their commentary. Greg Downs’ response was: “it shows that the two lads down there, they are supporters of this football club and of course it means as much to them as to the rest of us”.

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