Monday 22 June 2020 / 8:07 AM Jo Stevens / Media

Labour MPs urge against cuts to award-winning local BBC reporting

Labour has today issued a call for the BBC to protect local political and current affairs reporting across England. The demand comes amidst a BBC review into regional programming and reports that the award winning local investigative reporting of Inside Out is set to be scrapped.

In a letter to the BBC and Ofcom, Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens warned that local reporting is a “critical part of a functioning democracy and a transparent society”. Stevens urged the BBC to clarify when local programmes will return to air after being cut due to coronavirus.

The letter comes as over 130 Labour MPs across the country wrote jointly to regional BBC chiefs urging them to protect local programmes. Labour has also called on the BBC to protect its regional politics debate programme Sunday Politics, highlighting its important role in holding local government, councils and politicians to account and keeping communities informed.

Defending the “agenda-setting” investigative reporting of local BBC journalists, Stevens highlighted the exposure of poor working conditions at Sports Direct and livestock theft in rural areas. As recently as January 2020, the Mayor of London announced an urgent Transport for London investigation into illegal cab drivers following a BBC London Inside Out investigation.

Labour today recognised the significant challenges facing the BBC, including the Conservative Government’s cut to the free over-75s TV licences and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the party urged against cuts to local reporting, calling for programmes to return with the same number of hours output per week.

Commenting, Jo Stevens, Labour’s Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said:

“Across the country, local and regional BBC reporting is a lifeline for communities, keeping people connected and informed.

“Too often, politics and current affairs feel remote and London-centric. But local issues deserve a platform as much as those dominating at Westminster.

“The Conservative Government has repeatedly tried to undermine our BBC, and the coronavirus crisis presents huge challenges for media organisations. But local reporting is vital for democracy and transparency. Despite the challenges it faces, we urge the BBC to protect local programmes.”