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BBC puts two regional TV programmes under threat

© red engine

8 June 2020

Two important BBC regional programmes are under threat as the corporation seeks to make savings using Covid-19 crisis as an excuse.

Filming of Inside Out, the BBC’s award winning regional current affairs programmes which goes out to 11 regions in England, has been postponed and the programme looks likely to be shelved following an internal “review” expected by the end of the month. The next series of Inside Out was due in September.

Concerns are also growing that the corporation’s regional political debate programmes which during Covid-19 have been cut to one England-wide programme, will not return to separate regional broadcasts.

The BBC has risen to the challenge of covering Covid-19, providing non-stop news, advice, information and entertainment. Viewers and listeners have flocked to watch and listen a trustworthy news source. Its local radio initiative Make a Difference co-ordinated support for the elderly, housebound and those at risk. But this has all come at a cost. Deferring the payment of TV licences by the over-75s is costing £40million a month and putting back planned cuts of £40million in news and delaying the Red Button text news and information service is leading to a financial reckoning. It is estimated the BBC will need to save an extra £125million as a direct result of Covid-19.

Jobs are expected to be lost on both and the BBC will lose award-winning programmes which tackle issues at a local and regional level and play an important role in democracy at local council and constituency level, undermining the BBC’s claim to be the premier public service broadcaster across the UK.

Inside Out is unlike any other news programme on the BBC. It is rooted in the heart of its communities, investigating and holding those in power to account and telling remarkable stories of life across England. It also represents outstanding value for the Licence Fee payer – with programme features frequently used by the main regional news programmes on BBC One, stories translated for use Online and provides additional output for the BBC’s 40 local radio stations.

Ninety journalists work on Inside Out and the National Union of Journalists is calling on people to write to their MP and/or mayor asking them to lobby the BBC to rethink the proposals to cut these vital, local current affairs programmes.

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, said:

“At a time when a global health crisis has demonstrated just how vital quality relevant journalism is in our communities and to our nation, the BBC is considering calling time two programmes that excel in doing just that. Local journalism underpins democratic societies – programmes such as Inside Out and the Sunday Politics Show provide trusted news and debate on issues that affect all our lives such as health provision, crime, social services, transport and the local economy. Journalists who live in the community can hold local politicians, public bodies and businesses to account. Sunday Politics connects people to the decision makers, so people can make informed decisions when they go to the ballot box. Inside Out shines a light on corruption and those doing wrong and harm to our communities. Make your voice heard and tell the BBC that these local programmes must not be cut.”

 Issues covered and stories broken by Inside Out include: 

  • Smart Motorways, an investigation into the number of UK deaths caused by removal of the hard shoulder.
  • County Lines, the impact on the families of young people caught up in drug dealing via so-called County Lines.
  • An investigation into working practices at Sports Direct.
  • A series of investigations into a Bristol surgeon who left hundreds of woman maimed and in pain across the country with reckless and unnecessary surgery.

Only three years ago Lord Hall, BBC director general, told Inside Out staff: “When you think your programmes collectively are now the most watched current affairs programmes on BBC One that is a huge achievement. All the work that you do reflecting England and all the bits of England – to England and to itself – is now more important almost than ever before. And all the hard work you do in investigating, in holding to account, telling stories that people maybe didn’t know. I think that’s really important too.”

Paul Siegert, NUJ broadcasting organiser, said:

“It is clear the BBC is under enormous financial strain. However, cutting award-winning content that is watched and valued by licence fee payers is not the answer. The funding of the BBC, and particularly the cost to the corporation of the Covid-19 crisis, has to be urgently addressed by the government if news and quality journalism isn’t to be a further casualty of this crisis.”

The programmes comprise: BBC Inside Out London: Inside Out East: Inside Out East Midlands: Inside Out North East & Cumbria: Inside Out North West: Inside Out West; Inside Out West Midlands; Inside Out Yorkshire & Lincolnshire; Inside Out South East; Inside Out South West; Inside Out South.

Write to your MP/mayor asking them to lobby the BBC against making these cuts to regional TV. You can use this model letter to help you. You can contact your MP or mayor via the Write to Them website.

Tweet your support of the programme using the hastag #savebbcinsideout

Tags: , broadcasting, inside out, sunday politics, bbc, tony hall, cuts, regional tv, current affairs, investigative journalism, democracy