As the debate about the BBC license fee gathers pace, I’ve been thinking a little about Local Radio and it’s place in the community.
Local Radio is much-maligned- often seen as the poor relation to the shinier, glossier network channels and it’s true, it is the training ground from which many of the BBC’s brightest stars honed their skills before hot-footing it to recognition elsewhere.
But here’s the thing – Local Radio connects at a level which has the power to transform lives and communities. It has the honour of going into homes and having conversations with people and for many, these conversations are the only interactions they have at any level, day in, day out.
We come to know listeners by their first name and where they’re from and although it sounds cheesy, we evolve into a massive family.
And so, I thought I would let you know of a heart-breaking story, but one which I think shows the absolute value of Local Radio and how important it is to communities.
For the last few years, a lady who we’ll call “Clara from Bude” has been a regular listener…..in fact, she used to send the weekend team £5 occasionally to buy biscuits – I know this is not allowed, but when we protested she was upset and said that she couldn’t get out to bring us biscuits herself and that it gave her pleasure to do it.
Clara also called at 0810 every single Saturday and Sunday to have a chat with Jo our newsreader. She told her we were like her family and that the only other family she had was a step-son and his wife in Australia. Jo used to give her advice if she was unwell or if she had had medical letters which she couldn’t quite understand and Paul our weatherman used to give her personal forecasts. And so it went on…..proper chats which obviously meant the world to Clara.
At the end of January, Jo told Clara she was going away so would speak when she returned. However, on Jo’s first weekend back, there was no call from Clara at 0810. Jo was concerned and called her, but again no reply. Because Clara had been such a regular feature of Weekend mornings, Jo was very concerned at the lack of contact and on her day off on the Monday, she tried to call her again and when there was still no reply, she called the police and gave them Clara’s address.
Unfortunately, the police discovered Clara’s body on the floor of her home.
Clara’s body had lain undiscovered for ten days and if Jo had not called the police, it would possibly have still been there
Jo and another colleague, Jack, attended Clara’s funeral last week – they were the only people there apart from her step-son and his wife and the funeral directors.As Clara’s body was lowered into the ground on a blustery hillside in North Cornwall, Jack played Dusty Springfield on his mobile phone – Dusty had often been requested by Clara.
I wanted to send this because I think it shows how absolutely vital BBC Radio Cornwall and other local radio stations are as part of the communities which they serve. It’s easy to court listening figures and celebrity but it’s just as important – if not more important- to connect with people behind those closed doors.
Local radio is regarded as family by many people and that is an absolute privilege. Thank you for reading this,