Celebrities urge BBC not to cut regional current affairs programmes

  • 17 Jun 2020

More than 100 personalities, from journalism, the arts, sciences and politics have written to BBC management in defence of Inside Out and the regional Sunday politics programmes under threat of cuts.

More than 100 personalities, from journalism, the arts, sciences and politics have written to BBC management in defence of regional currents affairs and politics programmes which are under threat.

The signatories include Stephen Fry, Sir Lenny Henry, Dominic West, Gloria Hunniford, Mark Knopfler, Miranda Sawyer, Alexei Sayle, Alison Steadman, Alastair Campbell, Peter Hitchens and Chris Mullin (full list below).

Staff on the 11 regional Inside Out programmes have been told to stop filming for September's series while a review is carried out on its future. Meanwhile, there are fears that the regional Sunday politics programmes, which have been cut from 11 to one England-wide show because of Covid-19, will not return.

The letter addressed to Tony Hall, director general, and Tim Davie, who will soon be taking over from Lord Hall, said:

"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."

Jobs are expected to be lost on both series 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.

The letter goes on to say:

"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."

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 women maimed and in pain across the country with reckless and unnecessary surgery.

Chris Packham worked for Inside Out South before going on to Inside the Animal Mind, World's Weirdest Event and the award-winning Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch. He said:

"Top quality impartial investigative journalism should remain a central part of the BBC's mission and Inside Out has delivered this consistently for many years. And equally importantly it has played a keystone role in the BBC's essential commitment to regional programming. To lose this would be very disappointing."

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."

Cracker writer Jimmy McGovern who is returning to BBC One with a drama about a Liverpool teenager murdered in a racist attack 15 years ago, said:

"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."

Naturalist and reporter Mike Dilger said:

"Over the past 15 years I've reported on well over a hundred local wildlife stories and environmental issues for most of the eleven BBC regions producing Inside Out. Covering everything from what Brexit means for conservation across the East Midlands, to the environmental impacts of London Thames airport, foxes in Bristol and urban deer in Sheffield. Inside Out doesn't just excite the licence fee payers about wildlife just beyond their doorstep, but also informs them about decisions which will directly impact their immediate environment, for better and for worse.

"These important and engaging stories, that so patently need the oxygen of publicity, will simply not be covered if this award-winning series is to be decommissioned and I implore the powers-that-be to keep serving these communities – local stories matter."


Yorkshire poet, journalist, playwright, and broadcaster Ian McMillan said:

"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."

Author Joanne Harris said:

"It's vitally important that we keep our regional services – and the fact they are at risk shows the BBC's shamefully London-centric bias!"

List of signatories:

  • Michelle Ackerley, presenter
  • Samira Ahmed, journalist/broadcaster/author
  • Ayo Akinwolere, presenter/broadcaster
  • Imran Azam, dentist
  • Nick Baker, naturalist & TV presenter
  • Mike Barton, former Chief Constable, Durham Police
  • Nikki Bedi, presenter
  • Rob Bell, presenter
  • Bev Bevan, musician
  • Jasmine Birtles, journalist/author/TV presenter
  • James Blake, CEO Youth Hostels Association
  • Fern Britton, presenter
  • Chris Broad, former England cricketer
  • Prof John Burn, Professor of Clinical Genetics
  • Alastair Campbell, journalist/author/broadcaster/former political aide
  • Lee Child (James Dover Grant CBE), author
  • Sarah Ali Choudhury, chef/entrepreneur
  • Terry Christian TV presenter/author
  • Jo Cooke, hoarding disorders expert/author
  • Daisy May Cooper, This Country writer/actress
  • Paul Cooper, actor
  • Joe Crowley, presenter
  • Kevin Cummins, photographer
  • Edwina Currie, broadcaster/former politician
  • Kit de Waal, author
  • Terry Deary, author
  • Les Dennis, actor/Comedian/TV presenter
  • Mike Dilger Ecologist/Ornithologist/broadcaster
  • Shaun Dooley, actor
  • Dr Oscar Duke, doctor/broadcaster
  • Christopher Eccleston, actor
  • Kerrie Farrell TV presenter/actress
  • Sean Fletcher TV presenter/broadcaster
  • Shelagh Fogarty, broadcaster
  • George Friend, footballer, capt Middlesbrough DC
  • Stephen Fry, actor/writer/presenter
  • Prof Ben Garrod, biologist/broadcaster
  • Dr Clare Gerada, Dr/medical director practitioner health
  • JoAnne Good, presenter/actress
  • Phillipa Gregory, author
  • Sir John Hall Businessman /property developer
  • Joanne Harris, author
  • Tim Healy, actor
  • Wayne Hemingway, designer
  • Sir Lenny Henry, comedian/actor/TV presenter
  • Melanie Hill, actor
  • Peter Hitchens, journalist/author
  • Anthony Horowitz, author/Screenwriter
  • Louise Hulland, TV/radio presenter/author
  • Conrad Humphreys, Round the World yachtsman/TV presenter
  • Gloria Hunniford, TV presenter/broadcaster
  • John Inverdale, TV presenter/broadcaster
  • Tommy Jessop, actor/social activist/peacemaker
  • Jane Jessop, Founder, Blue Apple Theatre
  • Sally Joynson, Chief Exec. Screen Yorkshire
  • Soweto Kinch, jazz musician
  • Dr Turi King, lead geneticist King Richard III discovery
  • Steven Knight, screenwriter, Peaky Blinders
  • Mark Knopfler, musician
  • Ray Laidlaw, musician
  • Paris Lees, writer
  • James Lewis, antiques expert/TV presenter
  • Ken Loach, film director
  • Stuart Maconie, broadcaster/author
  • Miriam Margolyes, actor
  • Paul Mayhew-Archer, scriptwriter/producer
  • Vicky McClure, actor
  • Paul McGann, actor
  • Debbie McGee, TV personality and radio host
  • Steph McGovern, journalist/TV presenter
  • Jimmy McGovern, writer
  • Liz McIvor, historian/author/TV presenter
  • Ian McMillan, poet/author/playwright/broadcaster
  • Lula Mebrahtu, musician/presenter
  • Kay Mellor, actor/scriptwriter/director
  • Dreda Say Mitchell, author
  • Blake Morrison, poet/author
  • David Morrissey, actor/filmmaker
  • Kate Mosse, author
  • Chris Mullin, author/former MP
  • Rebecca Munro, director of Fundraising & Comms RSPB
  • Steve Nallon, actor/writer/voice Artist
  • Johnny Nelson, broadcaster/former world champion boxer
  • Kirsten O'Brien, TV & radio, presenter
  • Mary-Ann Ochota, anthropologist/broadcaster
  • Prof. Mark O'Shea, herpetologist/broadcaster
  • Chris Packham, naturalist/author/TV presenter
  • Ben Parkinson, military veteran
  • John Phibbs, historian/landscape consultant
  • Fiona Phillips, TV presenter/author
  • Johny Pitts, presenter/writer
  • Tom Price, actor/broadcaster
  • Mark Radcliffe, author/broadcaster
  • Satnam Rana, arts and culture correspondent
  • Dame Esther Rantzen, broadcaster/journalist
  • Adil Ray, actor
  • Angela Rippon, broadcaster/journalist
  • Dr Ben Robinson, archaeologist / TV presenter
  • Paul Rose, broadcaster/Environmentalist/Explorer
  • Jasvinder Sanghera, campaigner for gender equality
  • Miranda Sawyer, journalist/broadcaster
  • Alexei Sayle, comedian/actor/author
  • Martin Shaw, actor
  • Wendy Shepherd, gender based violence training and consultant
  • Dr Ranj Singh, doctor/TV presenter/author
  • Lemn Sissay, poet/author/Chancellor of Manc. University
  • Helen Skelton, TV presenter
  • Sir Tim Smit, founder Eden Project/broadcaster
  • Sue Smith, broadcaster/former international footballer
  • Dr Chris Smith, doctor/broadcaster
  • Alison Steadman, actor
  • Richard Taylor-Jones, filmmaker/photographer/TV presenter
  • Stephen Tompkinson, actor
  • Rick Wakeman, musician/music producer/broadcaster/author
  • Donald Wales, record breaking driver
  • Nick Wallis, presenter
  • Dominic West, actor
  • Kevin Whately, actor
  • Anna Williamson, TV presenter
  • Shaun Williamson, actor
  • John Wood, social media expert
  • Yasmin Zaman, guru
  • Benjamin Zephaniah, poet/musician

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