Labour MPs and leading councillors in East of England have today [Monday] 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 of planned cuts to Sunday Politics Live and the award-winning Inside Out.
In a letter to the BBC’s Director of Nations and Regions and the Head of BBC England local MPs and leading councillors from across the Region pledged their support to local investigative reporting and political debate programmes, highlighting their “essential role.” The letter urges the BBC to commit to the return of regional programmes in the East of England after they were taken off air due to coronavirus.
Defending the “agenda-setting” investigative reporting of local BBC journalists, the letter highlighted Inside Out’s exposé of sub-standard housing provided to homeless families and vulnerable people in Harlow by unrestricted redevelopment of businesses premises into housing units.
The call from East of England Labour MPs and Councillors comes as Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State, Jo Stevens, wrote to the Director-General of the BBC, warning that local reporting is a “critical part of a functioning democracy and a transparent society.”
Labour today recognised the significant challenges facing the BBC, including the Conservative Government’s cut to the free over-75s TV licenses 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.
Labour MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner said:
“Across East of England local BBC investigations and programmes have had a lasting impact and have helped keep our communities connected. But local issues deserve a platform as much as those dominating at Westminster.
“Despite the challenges facing the BBC, local reporting in the East of England is vital for democracy and transparency. We must not let it fall away.”