The BBC has confirmed it will axe a volunteer-run programme on its Manchester station, the only LGBT-interest programme on its national radio network.
LGBT Citizen Manchester along with Jewish and Irish Citizen Manchester programmes will be taken off the air by December and replaced with a syndicated programme called All Around England.
The BBC confirmed to PinkNews.co.uk that the All Around England programme will take the place of the three one-hour minority-interest programmes currently broadcast on Monday evenings in Manchester.
It said “limited flexibility” in the schedule meant the programmes, including the Corporation’s only gay-interest radio production, would cease transmission by the end of the year and the 39-station show taking their place would offer “significant savings”.
It said issues affecting the Jewish, Irish, gay and transgender communities in Manchester would be covered by mainstream local programming.
Known to many under its former name, The Gay Hour, the LGBT Citizen Manchester programme has been on the air in some form since 1996.
It has been reported that the BBC contributes £70 a week to the show, but the Corporation would not disclose production costs to PinkNews.co.uk.
Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington John Leech was part of a successful effort to stop The Gay Hour being taken off the air six years ago.
Now re-branded LGBT Citizen Manchester, Mr Leech is again defending the programme, saying the BBC should be working to promote it, not take it off the schedule.
When known as The Gay Hour in 2007, former Archbishop Desmond Tutu told the programme he was sorry for the “un-Christ like” persecution of gay people by the Anglican Church.
Mr Leech has now tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament saying the removal of such programming undermines the government’s commitment to localism and the future of local BBC radio itself.
He told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s shocking that the BBC would want to make cuts to local community radio shows such as LGBT Citizen as they provide a celebrated outlet for the local communities in the Greater Manchester area.
“These volunteer-based programmes bring unity and representation to local communities, something that the BBC should be heralding.”
Ahead of the centenary of gay computer pioneer and Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing’s birth on Saturday, Mr Leech also tabled an Early Day Motion this week for the government to pardon Turing or disregard his conviction for homosexuality, a Downing Street petition for which has been signed by 34,000 people.
In 2009, LGBT Citizen Manchester was one of the first media outlets to cover the campaign to issue a pardon to Turing posthumously.
Kate Squire, Managing Editor, BBC Radio Manchester, told PinkNews.co.uk: “BBC Radio Manchester knows how important the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities are in Gtr Manchester. We will be reflecting those communities and the issues they are concerned about but in future in our mainstream output, confirming just how important all communities are in regular life in our area.
“The hour-long programme has played an important part in our output over the years but now is the time to make this output a fully integrated part of our station and we’ll look to include the experience of the current programme team to help us do that. I’m excited about the challenge.”