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Drastic cuts to the BBC's political coverage "a disservice to viewers"

© nuj

18 July 2018

The BBC is proposing drastic cuts to its political coverage, with the loss of journalists' jobs.

The Sunday Politics programme is to be axed and the Daily Politics replaced by a shorter programme. This represents around two hours of network politics coverage being lost on BBC1 and BBC2 every week, as well as the loss of eight journalism jobs.

The BBC Parliament channel is to lose all of its original programme-making and a third of its small editorial team. The channel will concentrate solely on live and recorded broadcasts of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, some select committees and the proceedings in the devolved parliaments and assemblies of the UK.

Currently, these broadcasts are accompanied by on-screen information captions explaining to the audience how parliamentary procedure and legislation works, in line with audience feedback calling for more information.  These cuts will result in the channel being unable to provide much of this information, making Parliament less accessible to voters.

Politics staff at the corporation say these cuts are not in spirit of the BBC's public service obligations and will be a disservice to viewers.

Programmes to be cut include:

  • The Day in Parliament and the Week in Parliament, roundups and explanations of the day's/week's events across the Palace of Westminster.
  • Conversations, a series of long-form interviews with senior political figures about the lives and careers, which was also shown on BBC2 and BBC4
  • BOOKtalk - a book review programme
  • Speaker’s Lectures - a series of historical lectures by senior politicians which help to explain the current state of politics
  • Short films and explainers about parliamentary procedure

These programmes are made on a shoestring budget and are well-received by audiences.

BBC Parliament's annual budget is £1.6m, compared to nearly £50m for the BBC News channel and over £1bn for BBC1. Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said:

"The BBC as a public-service broadcaster plays a vital role in the UK's democracy. We need to be able to see the work of Parliament and the expert analysis and explanations provided by BBC journalists. In the context of Brexit and the current political landscape viewers and listeners need knowledgeable, non-partisan coverage. The suggestion that political coverage should be undermined at this time suggests a lack of appreciation of the vital role played by the BBC on the part of senior decision makers within the organisation. That, in itself, is deeply troubling. The union will, as ever, contest any compulsory redundancies."

Tags: , bbc, Sunday Politics, Daily Politics, BBC Parliament channel, BBC Parliament, The Day in Parliament, The Week in Parliament, cuts, public-service broadcasting, broadcasting