Gone in five minutes: Martin Kelner sounds off at '˜gutless, brainless' Radio Leeds bosses

A VETERAN BBC Radio Leeds presenter has launched an attack on the corporation after he was suddenly fired in 'less than five minutes' on Friday.

Martin Kelner. Picture by Simon Hulme
Martin Kelner. Picture by Simon Hulme

Writing on his blog, presenter and journalist Martin Kelner, said he had “no inkling” of his impending sacking when he was called in for “a word” with the station’s managing editor Sanjiv Buttoo on Friday.

He claims he was told the station was “moving in a different direction, and you’re Martin Kelner, it wouldn’t be fair to ask you to do something different.”

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Mr Kelner wrote: “The meeting lasted less than five minutes. My contract runs out mid-May. I was told I would be given my money for April and half of May, and not required to appear on the station again.”

Meanwhile, he claims, all other staff were gathered in another room for a meeting, “so that no-one was around when I left after my show, and I had no chance for farewells with any of my colleagues,” he said. “So I had the delightful experience of slinking out of the building alone and unseen.”

On his blog, Mr Kelner writes that he chose to tell listeners about his sacking as they “rarely get to hear exact detail” of presenters departures.

He wrote: “We suddenly become non-people, like dissidents in former East Germany, disappeared in the middle of the night.”

Mr Kelner, of Wakefield, has presented the lunchtime show on BBC Radio Leeds since November 2012, when he was moved from the breakfast show.

He claimed the move was a “cost-cutting measure” by the station, and that as a freelance journalist, he could be “dispensed with cheaply”. He also went into detail about his salary, and the pay cut he received when moved out of the breakfast slot.

“With me out of the door, that’s 40 grand off the annual budget in a stroke,” he wrote.

“Some of you will be interested to know what freelance radio presenters earn in BBC local radio. I don’t know. I suspect it can be as low as about £100 a show, and as high as £350, but that’s a guess. When I did breakfast at BBC Radio Leeds, I got £210 a show, and did four shows a week.

“When they moved me to lunchtimes I voluntarily took a pay cut to £190 a show and began to do five shows a week. For a radio presenter of my vintage, experience etc., working as a freelance, looking after his own tax, national insurance, and so on, with no holidays, staff benefits, sick pay (more on that shortly), etc., that’s probably on the low side.

“I don’t want to get too Partridge about this, but it was never about the money for me. I was genuinely having fun (I think you could hear that, on air), I really enjoyed broadcasting (another danger in local radio), and got a kick from the fact that the audience seemed to be having fun too.”

He also went into detail of how when on sick leave with an abdominal tumour in 2013 and 2014, the BBC paid him for some of his shows - if he paid it all back on his return to work, by cutting his show fee by £20 a day.

“The really sweet thing is they didn’t sack me until I had paid back every penny I owed from when I was busy dying,” he wrote. “I finished paying them back about a month ago, just in time for the heave-ho.

“This, of course, is probably only right and proper on behalf of the licence payers. But contrast it with the way management is treated. “

Mr Kelner also gave his thoughts on the future of local radio at the BBC, claiming scandals such as that involving Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand had impacted on local stations, and the corporation “salami slicing” local radio.

He has received support on social media, with fellow victim of BBC local radio, Danny Baker, tweeting a link to Mr Kelner’s blog, and writing: “The HORDES of bloodless suits who run local radio are pests, vampires, ghouls.”

Sports presenter Des Kelly posted: “Lousy way for local Beeb apparatchiks to treat one of the business’s good guys. Their loss.”

Mr Kelner, who published the blog yesterday, tweeted today: “Lots of talent @BBCLeeds. Do listen. Clueless, spineless, charmless, gutless, brainless, pointless management the problem.”

A spokesperson for BBC Radio Leeds said: “All radio stations need to change their schedules from time to time to meet changing audience needs. Martin’s made a great contribution and we wish him well for the future.”