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MPs lobby for BBC World News to be preserved

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7 June 2016

MPs are calling on the BBC's management to re-think proposals to close down the BBC News Channel or merge it with the commercially-operated BBC World News TV Channel.

An early day motion sponsored by Helen Goodman, chair of the cross-party NUJ Parliamentary Group, says it "hopes that BBC management avoid any merger between BBC News Channel and BBC World News, which would blur the lines between the licence fee and the pursuit of profit" and would leave Sky with a domestic monopoly on continuous UK television news.

The BBC News Channel has a weekly audience of 8 to 10 million, reaching more than a third of all households and includes Victoria Derbyshire's daily news and current affairs programme.

As part of a cost-cutting exercise, the BBC is considering closing the BBC News Channel and broadcasting the BBC World News TV in the UK instead. Or, closing both channels and creating a new one, with a foreign emphasis, which would air in Britain and globally.

Insiders say joint output would be tricky because of competing domestic and international agendas. How could a merged channel justify rolling coverage of, say,  the 2015 Cumbrian floods when, at the same time, more than 500 people were killed and nearly two million people displaced by flooding in southern India?

helen goodman parliamentary group
Helen Goodman

Helen Goodman said:

"BBC News is an extremely important public resource. Polling consistently shows that the public trust BBC News more than any other news organisation. Any attempts to water down its role should be firmly resisted. The public value and pay for the news through the licence fee – the BBC should not be forced to cut coverage as a result of political pressure and the desire of some politicians to hamstring the BBC.”

Sue Harris, NUJ broadcasting organiser, said:

"The NUJ believes both channels play important and different roles and therefore must be retained; the union has submitted ideas that could save millions of pounds across the newsroom by reducing waste and duplication, while safeguarding jobs and services. We are asking those who support the BBC and its news service to ask their MP to sign the EDM and to write to BBC management asking them not to go ahead with this disastrous proposal."

John Whittingdale, the Culture Secretary, has warned the corporation not to cut news budgets or close a channel. The Government’s White Paper called instead for the BBC to save money by becoming a more "efficient, lean organisation". In February, the Best Report from the Lords Communications Committee recommended "the continuation of a dedicated UK news channel".

The proposal goes before the BBC News executive board in July.

NUJ briefing: Future of BBC News Channel

You can contact your MP via the Write to Them website 

Or write to Tony Hall, the BBC's director general.

Sign the 38Degrees Preserve the News Channel petition

EDM: 128 FUTURE OF THE BBC NEWS CHANNEL  
That this House is concerned by reports that BBC management are considering plans to close the BBC News Channel altogether, or to significantly alter its character; does not believe that the commercially-operated BBC World News TV Channel, funded through advertising, offers anything like an adequate replacement for the UK news service; notes that despite the march of online and mobile content, television remains by far the UK's main source of news; recognises that if the BBC News Channel were to disappear, Sky would be left with a domestic monopoly on continuous UK television news; hopes that BBC management avoid any merger between BBC News Channel and BBC World News, which would blur the lines between the licence fee and the pursuit of profit; and calls for any future plan for BBC News to avoid undermining the integrity and impartiality of public service broadcasting through the introduction of commercial funding arrangements.

Tags: , broadcasting, bbc, bbc news channel, BBC World News, love it or lose it, helen goodman, NUJ parliamentary group, cut, merger