The letter has landed in Tim Davie's inbox on the eve of two further days of strike action by BBC staff based at Radio Kent's Tunbridge Wells studio on 7th and 8th June.
Roger Gough says he is deeply concerned that the BBC's news strategy to focus on online content will reduce the number of weekday shows broadcast from the Radio Kent studios, stifling the ability of KCC and the Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) to connect with residents effectively, particularly in an emergency.
It would also limit the public’s ability to engage in policy decisions and effectively hold the authority to account.
The full letter is as follows;
Dear Mr Davie
As Leader of Kent County Council, I am writing to express my deep concern at proposals to significantly reduce local output from BBC Radio Kent in Tunbridge Wells. I understand your plans to share more content with other South East radio stations as part of your cost-cutting measures would reduce local output in Kent by 40%.
I am extremely concerned at the potential impact your proposals would have on Kent County Council’s ability to connect with the residents and communities that KCC represents, and who value this vital public service.
BBC Radio Kent is hugely valued by Kent County Council as a local authority. We not only welcome the scrutiny that they bring to our decision making but also the crucial role the station plays in communicating important public messaging on key matters and public policy choices. Localised news coverage and reporting is the only way the BBC can ensure a full and effective representation of our resident’s political views and interests, and inform the people of Kent on important issues that affect them. At election times in particular BBC Radio Kent is at the forefront of accurately informing the electorate and encouraging their democratic participation.
The BBC, as I am sure you are well aware, has designated duties as a communications service for Government. In times of crisis people in Kent turn to BBC local radio for trusted coverage and potentially life-saving information and advice.
“In times of crisis people in Kent turn to BBC local radio for trusted coverage and potentially life-saving information and advice.”
The Kent Resilience Forum, of which KCC is a key partner and a communications lead, has a trusted and essential relationship with BBC Radio Kent. The Forum regards BBC local radio as one of our emergency responders which plays a huge part in communicating urgent and relevant information to the people of Kent.
Kent is the largest county in the UK. It is the gateway to Europe and, as such, if there are delays at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel, we have to urgently communicate with both drivers and residents to minimise disruption and keep the county open for business. The role of BBC local radio in these events cannot be underestimated. The reactive nature of a local public service broadcaster means that we are able to reach into the very heart of communities to warn, inform and reassure our residents.
I understand and appreciate that there are budget challenges across all public services, including the BBC. However, I strongly urge you to reconsider these proposed cuts to BBC local output.
Leader of Kent County Council
Member for Sevenoaks North and Darent Valley