MPs urge BBC not to axe Inside Out and Politics England

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Inside Out

MPs have urged the BBC to protect its local political and current affairs programming in the face of proposed cuts.

Filming of Inside Out, which has 11 regional editions, is currently on hold and insiders say it may not return, putting 30 jobs at risk.

Regional Sunday Politics programmes have also been amalgamated into Politics England during the Covid-19 crisis.

Yesterday, BBC staff were informed of 60 job cuts in Scotland, 40 in Northern Ireland and 60 in Wales because of “unprecedented financial pressures” and “ongoing financial challenges compounded by the effects of Covid-19”.

The National Union of Journalists said that although numbers for England were not yet known, it expected them to be “substantial”. It said that the BBC’s Nations and Regions divisions had been set cost-saving targets of £24.1m in 2021 and £27.8m in 2022.

In a debate in the Commons, cross-party politicians  backed more than 100 celebrities and journalists in urging the BBC not to axe Inside Out and Politics England.

DUP MP Jim Shannon suggested the BBC should “look at renegotiating contracts with some of its higher paid broadcasting staff as well as its directors”.

Tory MP Steve Brine said: “There are presenters on the BBC’s Newsnight who earn more than the entire BBC South politics team put together, but the show they put out in our patch achieves a bigger audience than Andy Marr.”

Former BBC journalist Simon Jupp, who represents East Devon, added: “Without the BBC providing real investigative journalism, journalism in our region will be eroded greatly.”

Several MPs criticised the “London-centric” nature of the BBC’s output and of the media more generally, saying this made the need for programmes like Inside Out and Sunday Politics even stronger.

Conservative Neil Parish, the MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said: “Without being too controversial and repeating the debate we had for three years over Brexit, it could be argued that the  BBC and the media generally were very London-centric, and that is why the result was different from the one expected here in London.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “Local and regional broadcasting is in the BBC’s DNA and we’re especially proud of how our services have performed in recent months.

“The pandemic has forced us to prioritise our resources so we’ve made short-term changes to Inside Out and our political programmes for England.

“The BBC does face very real financial challenges so naturally we are looking at what savings might be possible but we absolutely recognise the importance and value of our services for English audiences.”