Goodbye BBC South Today Oxford

Updated: May 28


Today is a sad day in British broadcasting as the BBC announced plans to axe its regional TV news programme in Oxford and Cambridge from November 2022.


I have worked for this station as a regular freelance cameraman since January 2016 and it employs 18 staff.


The bulletins are currently presented mainly by Geraldine Peers and Jerome Sale. They have been a mainstay on TV schedules since 2000.


From November this year news for the Oxfordshire area will be broadcast from Southampton as part of their main 30 minute programme that mainly covers the South of England.


WHY HAS THIS HAPPENED?

This is how the programme broadcast the news.

BBC Nations director Rhodri Talfan Davies said it was a "difficult decision" but he wanted to "strengthen" local online news services.


Mr Talfan Davies said while the Oxford programme had "delivered some fine journalism over recent years, it attracts a smaller audience than other regional news shows in England".


In an email Mr Talfan Davies wrote that the decision was made "against the backdrop of a licence fee settlement that is frozen over the next two years".


He said there would be "greater focus on the development of local online news and audio content which many of our audiences increasingly rely on".


He added: "We would also retain a strong reporting team in Oxford to contribute to the merged South Today service."

He said while roles were not "at risk of redundancy today", further clarity on the impact of jobs would be provided by mid-July.

REACTION TO THE PROPOSED CLOSURE

Paul Siegert, the NUJ's national broadcasting organiser, called the announcement a "direct consequence of the government's decision to refuse to fund the BBC adequately".


He added: "The two year freeze on the licence fee has left the BBC with some tough decisions to make.

"It's the second restructuring for BBC England in the past two years, and a clear sign that the first process was ill-thought through and poorly implemented."


He said the changes also left the corporation with a "post code lottery when it comes to regional news" and was a "backwards move".


Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said South Today Oxford was "greatly treasured by Oxfordshire residents" and a "vital trustworthy news source in a time where fake news and disinformation are on the rise".

She added: "Expecting residents in Oxfordshire and Hampshire to share the same news bulletin is impractical, and I am worried that Oxfordshire news may get squeezed out, meaning we lose out coverage for important local stories."


Speaking to the Oxford Mail, Conservative MP for Witney and West Oxfordshire Robert Courts said the government was right to freeze the TV licence fee.


And he said the merging of programming reflects poor budgeting at the BBC.


He said: "Local news services are important to local communities and my view is that they should be prioritised by the BBC. Sadly the BBC leadership has taken a different view and, while the BBC is operationally independent, I join with those asking them to reconsider."


He added: "It is right that the Government took the decision to freeze the licence fee to help households with the cost of living during this difficult time.


"The BBC will still receive £23 billion over the course of this settlement period, which is clearly more than enough funding to operate high-quality local news services."

He said the BBC must "manage its budget responsibly and, rather than looking for yet more money from hard-working licence fee payers, I would ask them to re-evaluate the corporation's priorities".

"Can a public service broadcaster reasonably justify paying salaries of over £1 million a year to the likes of Gary Lineker while failing to maintain an Oxfordshire bulletin?"


Katharine Da Costa's tweet shortly before going on air.

A comment from Twitter.

PROGRAMME'S HISTORY

Heather McCarthy (Edwards)

Oxford's first BBC South Today bulletin was broadcast on 16 October 2000. Heather McCarthy was the first presenter, with Geraldine Peers taking over in May 2001.


Previously, the area was covered by Newsroom South East, which also served Greater London and the south east.


As part of a three-tier restructure of regional coverage, the Oxford transmitter area was transferred to the BBC South region and began dedicated opt-out bulletins within South Today.


Originally, South Today Oxford was broadcast from BBC South's Studio B in Southampton.



Studio production of the bulletins was transferred in 2004 to the reception area (above) at Radio Oxford while a new television studio and production gallery was built. The programme has been produced and broadcast from Oxford since October 2005.


Check out one of the early broadcasts below.

The launch video shows more behind the scenes footage featuring many faces still at the channel when I write this blog.

On 21 April 2008, the South Today Oxford opt-out service was renamed as BBC Oxford News (referred to on-screen as BBC Oxford). New titles and graphics were introduced as part of an on-screen overhaul across the BBC's national, international and regional news services. From 29 October 2012, this has been re-branded back to South Today.


The Oxford sub-opt covers the first 10–15 minutes of the main evening South Today at 18:30, before joining Sally Taylor for the latter part of the Southampton edition of the programme. Until April 2013, a full 30-minute Oxford edition was produced every Friday evening, but this has since been scaled back to 10–15 minutes. Special half-hour Oxford editions are very rarely still broadcast.


In 2014 the studio set was given a new look and David was again there to capture the action with this great time-lapse.

The BBC's political correspondents Alex Forsyth and Helen Catt, Ireland correspondent Emma Vardy, and community affairs correspondent Adina Campbell are among journalists who got their big breaks on the programme.


AN OUTSIDE BROADCAST

In May 2018 I worked on a thirty minute special at RAF Brize Norton.

Setting up before we went on air.

I provided my camera, camera crane and a lot of lighting. You can read more about this event here. and watch it below.

A LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES

In October 2019 David Croxson, one of the show's regular Directors, filmed this behind the scenes tour. We will forgive him for not holding the phone round the right way!!

In March 2014 David Croxson filmed this behind the scenes look at how the programme is broadcast.

A FEW MEMORABLE STORIES

I have filmed many stories for the programme.


Being Royal rota filming HRH The Duchess of Cambridge was fairly special. Read more here and see the film below.


The demolition of the Didcot cooling towers was fun. Filming from the air with my drone. Read more on that story here.


In September 2019 we broadcast a special from the reception of the BBC Oxford studio. This involved lugging one of the studio cameras outside and back inside so the presenter could have an autocue.

And finally, I was interviewed on camera in 2009, long before I worked for them. I was talking about a WW2 research group that I founded. Not many of people will have seen this, there is a reason for that....!!

THE FUTURE FOR BBC TELEVISION NEWS IN THE OXFORD AREA

Talfan Davies said today "We would also retain a strong reporting team in Oxford to contribute to the merged South Today service."


It is not clear how many journalists at this stage will be retained.


I suspect my cameraman shifts will come to an end between now and November this year. I've had a great time filming such a variety of stories for the programme and worked with some amazingly talented people.


RELATED LINKS AND SOURCES

Some stills over the years. Screen caps of various presenters,


[ARTICLE SOURCES: BBC News (26/5/22), Wikipedia, David Croxson, Tom Sykes, Heather Edwards, Oxford Mail]




#BBCSouthToday #BBCSouthTodayOxford #BBCOxford #Oxford #SouthTodayClosure #BBCCutbacks #TalfanDavies



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