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BBC WM boss Keith Beech has denied The Stirrer’s claims that the station is about to go “all speech” but acknowledged that the station is in the throes of a major re-positioning – with news at its heart.

We claimed yesterday that WM might even have new, region wide mid-morning phone-in – not true, said Beech, who said that, if anything, that part of the output would become “more local”.

Breakfast and Drive Time are also being beefed up, with a dedicated, non-music “news hour” between 5 and 6pm.

The developments follow the publication of Tuesday’s strategic review of the BBC which proposed the axing of the Birmingham-based Asian Network and 6Music.

Beech said, “Since Helen Boaden became head of news we have become much more focussed on news, and if you look at what’s happened to Phil Upton’s [breakfast] show, that’s gone all speech until 9.30.

“Local radio is going back to its roots, but we’ve seen this coming, so we’re in a good place to respond to the strategic review.

“We’re ahead of the game”.

The Beeb’s dilemma is that there’s no more cash immediately available to boost its local journalism – and certainly not enough in the coffers to drop music entirely.

Station managers will have to cut back elsewhere to ensure that Breakfast, mid-morning and Drive are consistent with the BBC brand.

Ironically, this could mean cost saving regional programming elsewhere on the schedules, although there are no plans for this at the moment at WM.

In any event, the Beeb’s new mood of seriousness heralds a significant shift of emphasis on the station, with less light-hearted banter and music, and more ground-breaking journalism – in keeping with the Corporation’s distinctive public service values – even if this risks attracting smaller audiences.



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