The BBC has confirmed rumours that it is to cut back its slate of BBC Introducing programmes, the nationwide regional radio arm of its platform dedicated to unearthing emerging musicians.
Previously, 32 of the BBC’s 39 local radio stations helmed their own Introducing show. This will be cut to 20 shows, although the frequency of broadcasts will double to twice a week, “giving up-and-coming musicians a bigger platform and audience than ever before”, the broadcaster said in a statement.
Each of the 39 stations will “retain music expertise on site to support the production of the programmes and bring in new talent”, it said, as well as hiring new roles and supporting 11 regional BBC Music apprentices. No date was given for the new changes.
Artists such as Ed Sheeran, Florence + the Machine, George Ezra, Little Simz and Holly Humberstone received support from BBC Introducing – which also hosts stages at various UK festivals – early in their careers. Musicians can upload demos to the BBC Uploader tool in order to share tracks with the broadcaster without needing to pay for a radio plugger.
The rumours were first reported in January, when Introducing presenters were reportedly put on notice of redundancy, and many of them shared identical messages on social media urging listeners to share their positive experiences of the network – led by BBC Radio 6 Music presenter Tom Robinson, who also hosts the BBC Introducing Mixtape podcast.
At the time, the BBC confirmed that it was making a forthcoming change that would “not compromise the essence of BBC Introducing”.
The cuts are part of a wider plan for the BBC’s 39 regional stations to share more shows during afternoons, evenings and at weekends, in order to “modernise” local services as well as save money: 48 jobs are under threat, and £19m is to be “reprioritised from broadcast services towards online and multimedia production”. Local news bulletins and live sports coverage will be maintained.
Eighty-three per cent of National Union of Journalists members working for the BBC’s regional services have voted in favour of strike action over the plans. In January, NUJ national broadcasting organiser Paul Siegert said the plans would “completely undermine the BBC’s public service remit and take the ‘local’ out of local radio”.
The new BBC Introducing setup will ensure an Introducing artist of the week receives peak-time airplay across all 39 local radio stations. New artists will also be featured in the “local to me” section of BBC Sounds.
Chris Burns, BBC controller of local audio commissioning, said: “The Introducing shows on local BBC stations play an important part in supporting new talent – and will continue to do so – but we know more people are turning to BBC Sounds to listen and we want to do more on there and in our peak daytime schedules to showcase new talent.”
• This article was updated on 28 February with a correction: 32 out of 39 local stations hosted Introducing shows, rather than all 39.