Watchdog to quiz BBC on cuts to regional news
17 August 2020
The broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has confirmed it will be requiring the BBC to prove its proposed cuts in news and current affairs will allow it to carry out its legal remit as a public service broadcaster.
In reply to a letter, sent by Damian Collins and other MPs from the south east, Ofcom said Dame Melanie Dawes, chief executive, is monitoring the situation and “will be requiring the BBC to set out to Ofcom how the proposed cuts to regional news and current affairs are consistent with delivery of Public Purpose 1 of providing impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them, and Public Purpose 4: to reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities of all of the United Kingdom’s nations and regions”.
The letter said that as part of the watchdog’s in-depth review of the BBC’s news and current affairs, published last year, audiences said they wanted to see “more news about their communities, reported by people with a deeper understanding of the area, this was a particular issue for audiences from minority ethnic backgrounds. There was also a consistent message from viewers outside London, who thought the BBC could improve how it reflected and reported on their lives”.
The NUJ’s cross-party Parliamentary Group also received a reply from Ofcom after voicing concerns about the cuts to regional news and current affairs. Under the BBC’s proposals the English regions will be hardest hit, where 450 posts are to be cut and savings of £25m will have to be made by 2022. BBC News had already announced 450 job cuts, but that figure has risen to 520 because of extra costs incurred during Covid-19. Scotland could lose the equivalent of 60 posts, Wales 60 and Northern Ireland between 30 and 40. Ofcom said it would be raising the issues raised by the Parliamentary Group with the BBC.
Paul Siegert, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said:
“It is vital that Ofcom not only speaks to the BBC about any planned changes to its regional news and current affairs output but also consults with viewers, listeners and trade unions. The BBC belongs to all of us and any changes of this nature must not be allowed to happen without proper scrutiny.”