It's sadly indicative of BBC 'reflex thinking' that the proposed solution to saving money on evening programming for Local Radio is to create a new network: 'Radio England', which they plan to roll out across all English stations from 1900-2200 each weekday, and for big chunks of the weekend.
Except when it isn't.
Stations will opt out from 'Radio England' when there's sport on involving a local team. When it's snowing. Whenever any local manager who cares for his or her service can think of a reason. Or even half a reason.
If anyone ever asks me to run a station (highly unlikely; even more so after writing this) the very last thing I'd ever want to do is close down from Sunday afternoon to Monday breakfast.
Evenings and weekends on BBC Local Radio should be the testbed where the corporation grows its new radio talent. Presenters, yes, and also providing an outlet for new music that gives exposure to local bands. Offpeak can also boost the BBC's oft-repeated aim to increase diversity by developing talent from under-represented communities, giving them the confidence to make the leap into mainstream roles.
It would make much more sense, if there's an immediate need to be seen to be saving money, to use the BBC's existing digital-only stations to fill any gaps in the schedule; for example, giving FM exposure to the Asian Network or 1Xtra in areas with appropriate populations. It might mean schedule changes for those existing networks, but would boost awareness of them to new audiences.
Or what about highlighting new music from the English regions on a national platform as part of the 6Music evening schedule? That would help justify the hit Local Radio has taken to save 6Music, the darling of the iPhone generation. It would also expose 6Music to listeners without the means to access DAB.
Wake up. The Beeb doesn't need another quasi-national network.
Clapped-out B-list telly celebs will be revising their CVs as I write this, hoping for a comeback gig. It's the easy option, if you're setting up a big show, to go for the name that will at least attract a glimmer of recognition from Cornwall to Tyneside. Big talent needs producing (Russell Brand, anyone?). Managing. Engineering. All of which starts gobbling up any savings.
If the BBC's going to survive its latest crisis it needs to start thinking and working smarter.
Get rid of the reflex to set up something new and shiny to solve a problem. Start making better use of the resources they have. And think really hard about the purpose of Local Radio, not least (as I argue in the post below) with regard to training the next generation of talent.