Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for granting this debate tonight. I think we have five hours for the debate, so I feel a speech coming on, but I promise you I will try not to go on for more than 4 and a half hours. I called for the debate because BBC regional programmes could well be under threat. MPs across the House will be alarmed at the direction of travel.
During covid-19, valued programmes such as “Inside Out” and the regional “Sunday Politics” shows have had to be taken off air, with no return date as such at the moment, although I just learnt today that ITV’s programmes are returning by September. BBC executives have said that the cuts are to do with safety, but a review of English programming is taking place, which is looking to save costs. Many regional journalists fear that they will be cut and never return to work on those vital programmes. If that were the case, that would be a great loss to all of us and our constituents.
The “Sunday Politics” show covers 11 regions of England, from the south-west to the north-east and Cumbria. Those shows are a crucial part of our local and national democracy, holding us all to account throughout the year. All our regions have their identities. This is essential. With the Government looking towards more regional representation, such a step by the BBC would be a retrograde one.