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Tuesday, August 31, 1999 Published at 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK


BBC hopes for capital gains

Gwenan Edwards presenting Newsroom South East

New TV, radio and online services are to be created for London and the south-east of England under plans unveiled by the BBC.

The region is currently served by two BBC local areas, but this will become four under the scheme unveiled by controller of regional broadcasting, Mark Thompson.

The area is currently split into two - BBC South and BBC South East.

The South East region, which stretches from Banbury in Oxfordshire to Dover in Kent, is served by the one local news programme on BBC One, Newsroom South East. It has to compete with a number of regional services from ITV broadcasters such as Carlton, Meridian and Central.

Now four separate services will be provided for London, Oxfordshire, the South, and Kent and East Sussex together.

Mr Thompson said the changes would help the BBC cover the workings of London's new mayor and elected assembly better.

[ image: In the spotlight: The proposed Greater London Assembly headquarters]
In the spotlight: The proposed Greater London Assembly headquarters
He said: "The BBC believes it is time that the 10 million people living and working in London - a major would city with its own powerful identity and unique demographic mix - should have their own distinctive services.

"The creation of an assembly for London means we will need to enhance our focus on news and information across London, whilst ensuring that we provide relevant, informative and more local programming for those who live elsewhere in the South East."

Regions outside London will still receive relevant London news - such as transport and commuting issues - but viewers will not have to sit through a string of stories solely relating to the capital, he said.

Mr Thompson added that in London, Newsroom South East beats Carlton and LWT's London Tonight in the ratings - but suffers against other ITV local programmes in other parts of the region.

[ image: The BBC hope areas like Oxford will benefit from dedicated services]
The BBC hope areas like Oxford will benefit from dedicated services
Much of the 5.5m investment will go into a new BBC multi-media centre in Tunbridge Wells to serve Kent and East Sussex.

Also due for a change is the BBC's award-winning London radio station, GLR.

The music, talk and news service performs poorly in the audience ratings, and it will now be "refocused" as a mainly speech station.

A BBC spokesman said it did not necessarily mean that the station's music programming - much of which cannot be found on other London stations - would be for the chop.

He explained: "We feel it will have a better future with a stronger speech content, which will evolve over a period of time. We haven't taken a decision to take all music content out of GLR.

"Currently it has a 60% speech content while other BBC local stations have a 70% speech content, and we may well move it to something more like that."

London will also be given its own online news services under the proposals.

The name BBC Radio Oxford will be restored under the changes.

BBC services have already been revamped in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to cope with the demands of devolution.

The changes will be put out to public consultation and are expected to be implemented by autumn 2000. Viewers and listeners can call 08700 100 160 for an information pack.

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