MPs express concern over cuts to BBC Parliamentary unit
Slashing staff will mean less local coverage as the corporation also plans to scale down broadcast of party conferences.
An early day motion noting concern about staff cuts in the unit which supplies local BBC TV and radio stations with news and clips of their MP speaking about local issues has won cross-party backing.
The MPs believe plans to cut 40 per cent of the staff in the BBC Regional Political Unit based at Millbank will mean contributions to debates from local backbench MPs will no longer be covered in the same volume. The cuts could lead to less story spotting, fewer tip-offs and less scrutiny of Parliament on behalf of audiences around England.
It could also mean no specialist political reporter will be available to explain the key political events to a local radio audience for breakfast programmes, the most listened to programmes of the day. Reporting of Westminster Hall and adjournment debates could also be a casualty of the cuts.
Further cuts, reported on by the Financial Times, will result in less coverage of the party conferences, with staffing levels on the BBC Parliament channel set to be cut to single figures, while nearly all original programming will come to an end.
The report added: “As part of the changes, BBC Parliament’s special daily shows covering debates will also end. The Day and Week in Parliament programmes will be replaced from September with a new weekly highlights programme, called Politics UK, which will be broadcast on BBC2 on Friday lunchtimes.
“Political events beyond Westminster, such as speeches and lectures, will no longer be covered by BBC Parliament. There is also expected to be a significant reduction in the channel’s coverage of the House of Lords and select committees. The corporation hopes to mitigate the cuts with a new Friday addition of the Politics Live programme.”
John McDonnell MPJ had written to Tim Davie, BBC director general, about cuts to the Millbank unit. He is now sending another letter questioning the director general’s assertion to a select committee that the reduction of the unit by more than a third will not result in any “diminution” of the quality or range of services the team provides.
Paul Siegert, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said:
“Every MP should be worried that these cuts will result in their constituents hearing less of them and not being able to hold them to account. The BBC plays a major role in reporting national and local politics, and this is essential to the democratic process.
"Reducing the coverage of political conferences is also worrying for the same reason. Interest in politics should not be treated as a niche interest – the BBC should be boosting people’s understanding of what goes on in Parliament and party conferences. The money these proposals would save is small but the impact on the democratic process is huge.”