BBC Regional Politics Coverage

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:36 pm on 22nd June 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee 5:36 pm, 22nd June 2020

I think what my hon. Friend means is that on BBC national news, the moment you open your mouth you are interrupted, whereas on our regional programmes we often have a chance to make a point before we are stopped. I have probably put a few words into my hon. Friend’s mouth, but I think he is absolutely right. I should probably make a little progress now, or I will be on my feet for four hours.

This weekend, “Politics England” has Hilary Benn and my hon. Friend Jackie Doyle-Price on the show to discuss freight travel and Brexit. Leeds and Essex are a long way apart. England is clearly too large to be a region that can be covered in one show. There are 533 English MPs in the House of Commons, and political issues differ from Yorkshire to Cornwall, from Essex to the west midlands. Brexit, as many interpreted it, was a statement against over-centralisation and a demand for more control over decision making. As more power is devolved away from Whitehall through greater local authority powers and new regional Mayors, the BBC should prioritise more investment in regional programmes, not less. It is vital that local politicians are scrutinised fairly, impartially and specifically on the matters that affect those regions.

Like the “Sunday Politics” show, “Inside Out” broadcasts across 11 English regions; it was due to return in September, but the autumn series has now been cancelled. As I said earlier, ITV is bringing its programmes back in September, and I think the BBC should do the same. Shall we send the message loud and clear from this House tonight that that is what we want the BBC to do? “Inside Out” has consistently won awards for its investigations and in-depth coverage, despite being made on a relatively small budget. It is the BBC’s most popular current affairs programme, outperforming “Panorama” and “Newsnight”, as hon. Members have said.

On 26 March, before “Inside Out” was taken off air, it had 3.29 million viewers across England. Premier League football, which was broadcast live for the first time on the BBC this weekend, had 3.9 million viewers. Surely the Government and the BBC should be funding local journalism, rather than intervening in the already lucrative market for live sport? The regional “Sunday Politics” shows and “Inside Out” are examples of the best of British broadcasting, and to lose or reduce them is to undermine the values on which the BBC is built.