BBC Regional Politics Coverage

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

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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 it brought the situation of workers at Sports Direct to the forefront, and hopefully much has been done to improve the situation since that was revealed. She is right to put that on the record.

The regional “Sunday Politics” shows and “Inside Out” are examples of the best of British broadcasting, and to lose or reduce them would undermine the values on which the BBC is built. At its best, properly funded local journalism engages the public, shines a spotlight on local issues and can change the country for the better. Recently, “Inside Out South West” broadcast a piece about the fate of amputees following surgery. A Mr Hopper, a vascular surgeon at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, developed sepsis and unfortunately had to have both legs amputated. Having performed thousands of amputations himself as a surgeon, he found as a patient that there was a gap in the rehabilitation care for amputees in the NHS. His story was broadcast in depth by “Inside Out” and it helped to spark a debate that led to changes in the allocation of resources by Public Health England. So again, real change can come from the programme. “Inside Out” was able to do the story justice and effect real change: it just shows how valuable properly funded local journalism can be.

Local news delivers local stories, a training ground for journalists and, importantly, a way for the BBC to demonstrate its commitment to and knowledge of the local area. A decade ago, ITV slashed its regional coverage, and MPs received assurances at the time that the BBC would not do likewise, and we want that honoured. With local newspapers struggling, the market cannot provide the depth of regional coverage the BBC is currently providing to our constituents.

As the BBC reviews its regional programmes in England, I sincerely hope that the views of MPs in this debate—we have had many great contributions tonight and I thank all Members for them, because it sends a really loud and clear message to the BBC—will be taken into account. The debate has shown how passionately we care about our communities, local journalism and local democracy. I hope that the Minister will join us today in asking the BBC to continue providing high-quality regional programmes. They are vital, valued and cherished in the south-west, as they are across all our English regions.