BBC 'censorship' row after presenter's attack on local cuts edited out of final show

Sophie Little, who presented the Treasure Quest programme, which was aired on BBC Radio Norfolk for 15 years, spoke out against the controversial cuts on her final show on Sunday.

  • BBC presenter Sophie Little said its local radio cuts are "abelist" and "ageist".

  • The corporation has announced drastic cuts to its local radio output.

  • Presenter told Yahoo News UK that lonely and isolated people will "lose a vital lifeline".

A BBC presenter has accused the corporation of "censorship" after her attack on cuts to local radio was edited out of her final axed show.

Sophie Little, who presented the Treasure Quest programme, which was aired on BBC Radio Norfolk for 15 years, spoke out against the controversial cuts on her final show on Sunday.

However, her criticism - delivered in a speech that lasted more than two minutes - was later edited out of the show by her BBC bosses.

Instead, Sunday's show on the BBC Sounds streaming service now begins just after her statement, starting off with her saying: "Thank you for letting me have my moment."

Speaking to Yahoo News UK on Monday, Little said: "I was surprised to see that my speech has seemingly been censored on BBC Sounds.

"I've had no contact or explanation from the BBC about this. I think it's really important that they clarify this decision."

A BBC spokesperson told Yahoo News UK: “Part of this programme has been edited since broadcast for editorial reasons and this is made clear on the programme’s BBC Sounds page.”

Read more: Why are BBC journalists striking over local radio cuts? (Evening Standard)

BBC presenter Sophie Little attacked the corporation's cuts to local radio. (BBC)
Sophie Little was a presenter on the BBC Radio Norfolk programme Treasure Quest. (BBC)

Read more: Final episode of cult BBC Radio Norfolk show airs today (Eastern Daily Press)

Little told Yahoo News UK she made her speech because "I don't believe the people most negatively affected by these cuts are being heard".

She said: "I think the cuts to BBC Local Radio are sad and unfair.

"The BBC as a public service broadcaster, and according to their mission, has a duty to all audiences - and those who still rely on local, linear radio services matter just as much as those who listen to podcasts and read their news online."

She added: "These cuts affect thousands of people in every local area across the UK. Some people will lose beloved programmes and presenters, and others will lose a vital lifeline that connects them to their community and reduces loneliness and isolation."

Treasure Quest is one of many shows across England that have been shut down as a result of the corporation's nationwide cuts to programming.

Its weekly format asked listeners to call in to give answers to cryptic clues, which then sent presenters across Norfolk in search of treasure.

Read more: Radio Norfolk presenter's attack on BBC at start of final show (Eastern Daily Press)

Sophie Little pictured during the last ever episode of Treasure Quest. (BBC)
Treasure Quest presenter Sophie Little, left, and clue-hunter Julie Reinger, right. (BBC)

Little, from Norwich, started her programme on Sunday morning by saying: "I hope you don't mind me taking a moment to say something.

"Something that has always bothered me is when an individual has any kind of platform and they don't use it to speak up for others at a time when they should.

"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 anyone that enjoys switching on their local station and hearing their favourite shows, and detrimental to the local communities who value it and use it.

Read more: BBC journalists to strike over plans to make cuts to local radio (PA Media)

"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."

Little added: "I feel the cuts are ableist, ageist, and they place economic barriers for some people too."

What is happening to BBC local radio stations?

In October 2022, the BBC announced that a number of programmes on its local radio stations would be axed under wider plans to cut services.

The money-saving plan is for all 39 regional BBC stations in England to share more shows during weekday afternoons and evenings and at the weekend.

The changes left 48 jobs under threat and meant £19m being "reprioritised from broadcast services towards online and multimedia production”.

Presenters, producers and journalists were all asked to go through a recruitment process to effectively reapply for their jobs for the reduced number of programmes.

Staff at BBC radio stations walked out on strike in protest against the changes.

Why is the BBC cutting local radio?

In June of this year, BBC director general Tim Davie said the cuts to local radio were "the right thing" but that they were "very difficult and unpopular".

He told MPs in a House of Commons committee that it was a "painful choice" for radio stations to share programmes in the afternoons.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 05: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Tim Davie, Director-General of the BBC, attends a service to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NHS at Westminster Abbey on July 5, 2023 in London, England.  The NHS was founded in 1948, introduced by Labour's Health Minister Aneurin 'Nye' Bevan, and was the first universal health system free at the point of delivery to be available to all. Currently, the NHS has over 1.6 million interactions with people across the UK per day. Nine in 10 people agree that healthcare should be free of charge, more than four in five agree that care should be available to everyone and that the NHS makes them most proud to be British. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Tim Davie, director general of the BBC, has defended the cuts to local radio. (Getty Images)

"You can’t avoid that. That is where you cut, and then you are able to invest in digital," he said.

Davie said BBC radio's audience of five million people represented 13% of the population, adding that the local radio market had decline by 20% in recent years.

A BBC spokesperson told Yahoo News UK: “All 39 BBC local radio stations, including Radio Norfolk, will continue to provide local programming throughout the week.

"We are passionate about serving local communities but local radio is just one of the ways we reach our audiences."

What have BBC presenters said?

Little isn't the first BBC presenter to use their programme to hit out at the cuts to local radio.

In July, BBC Radio Gloucestershire presenter Faye Hatcher played a recorded statement on her final Saturday morning show in which she criticised the cuts and redundancies.

She told listeners: “Being a radio presenter is the best job in the world, and it breaks my heart to leave a job I am passionate about, a job that I love.

"But BBC local radio is changing into something I don’t recognise anymore. The changes to local programming, I believe, will be detrimental to you, the listener."