More than 100 personalities across journalism, the arts, science and politics have written the to the BBC to ask it to stop proposed cuts to regional current affairs and politics.
The signatories of the letter include Stephen Fry, Sir Lenny Henry, Dominic West, Mark Knopfler, Miranda Sawyer, Alexei Sayle, Alison Steadman and Alastair Campbell.
It comes after staff on Inside Out were told to stop production on its September series as a review was carried out. There are also reports that the regional Sunday politics programmes will not return. These had already been reduced from 11 regional shows, to a single England-wide version, due to Covid-19.
The letter to Tony Hall and incoming Director-General, Tim Davie states:
“We are extremely concerned that the BBC regional current affairs programme Inside Out has had its forthcoming series cancelled and the future of all eleven regional departments in England is under review and could even be cut completely. All of those who have signed this letter have had the privilege of working or appearing on the respected, award-winning Inside Out or one of the many other documentaries the regional units make for broadcast both locally and on BBC networks. Never has in-depth investigative journalism, holding people to account and reflecting the regional diversity of England been more important.”
“If these cuts were to become permanent they risk damaging English democracy by the failure to provide an important platform for those voices in our communities who need and want to be heard. Even when faced with financial pressures we urge you not to reduce regional programmes and to defend a vital element of public service broadcasting not available anywhere else.”
Journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed, who has just started the BBC Four series Art of Persia, said:
“I was proud to be part of an Inside Out investigation for BBC Leeds that dared to tackle difficult issues around race and exploitation in the Rotherham Grooming Scandal. Now more than ever we need honest, fearless journalism that is rooted in the long-term expertise and professionalism of BBC journalists who know their local communities. The BBC’s reputation is built on journalists like these.”
Jimmy McGovern added:
“As Boris demonstrated recently when he eased the lockdown despite the virus still raging in Liverpool and Manchester, ‘whatever suits London suits the country’. It doesn’t. That’s why you need regional television.”
While Yorkshire poet, playwright and broadcaster, Ian McMillan stated:
“Inside Out does what the best regional media does; it reflects the culture of a place back to the people who live there. Without regional media we are a more threadbare society.”
A BBC Spokesperson told Prolific North:
“Local and regional broadcasting is in the BBC’s DNA and we’re especially proud of how our services have performed during recent months. The pandemic has forced us to prioritise our resources so we’ve cancelled the autumn series of Inside Out and are continuing with the single political programme for England through to the summer. The BBC does face very real financial challenges so naturally we are looking at what savings might be possible across the BBC.”