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BBC commits to better equipment, more staff and a Managing Editor for Dorset
Sun 27 Jan 2008

Andy Griffee, the Head of BBC English Regions held a meeting in Dorchester last Wednesday 23rd January, 2008 with his three Regional managers (John Lilley – South West), Mike Hapgood (BBC South) and Lucio Mesquita (BBC West), plus a number of technical people, to discuss Dorset.   This was, we are sure, brought about by the cancellation of BBC Radio Dorset, and the pressure from DorBAG and others regarding the shoddy treatment this county receives from the BBC (Andy, once again, admitted freely that Dorset is underserved!).

Interestingly, a small handful of individuals were invited to join the BBC management after their own internal meeting.    

Two DorBAG invitees were allowed to visit the Dorchester office/studio beforehand.   The staff who were there, (there should be 7), were very open about the short-comings of the equipment, external lines etc.   We were already concerned about the dramatic turnover in, & shortage of, staff with much of the work apparently being done from Southampton, or by Southampton staff!

At the meeting, it was made clear by Andy and his team that the Dorchester Studio issues were recognised, and that equipment upgrades would be put in place.  The invitees, including four DorBAG members, made a strong case for Dorset to be better served, and especially to be treated as a whole county with the Dorchester studio/offices properly & fully manned by staff living in Dorset, & importantly, managed by a senior member of staff based in Dorchester.  

The outcome was that Andy Griffee, whilst still not making any concessions on Radio Dorset (he said it would have cost £2.5 million per annum to run after set up), committed to install a Managing Editor in Dorchester this spring!  Andy said "This new full time post will manage the Dorset operation, focusing on giving Dorset the profile it deserves.  It will mean better links for the county to our regional programmes as well as being a point of contact for viewers and listeners. We hope to have the Dorset Editor in place by the spring."

This is a breakthrough - it is a first to have a manager responsible for the editorial (all media: radio, TV, internet) for the whole county, and based in the County town!   They also stated they were planning to launch a new service in Dorset called “BBC Local” which will mean five additional staff in the county, although they could be home-based (but one of which will be the Managing Editor).   No timing is yet known when the others will be in place.   

So they have given us something very important but, of course, we still press for local radio and local TV coverage OF THE COUNTY as a whole!   We emphasised we don’t want bits of news of Dorset that are transmitted in one part of Dorset but not everywhere else!   We want a consolidated county news that is seen right across the county.  The BBC did say that digital television might be a platform in which they could merge news for one county.

It was said that BBC FreeSat is now scheduled for end April, 2008.

In the meantime, County Councillor Ron Coatsworth’s motion to the County Council deploring the BBC's decision to cancel Radio Dorset and strongly supporting DorBAG will be considered on 14th February! (see Dorset Echo item on this below.)

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