BBC Regional Politics Coverage

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 22nd June 2020.

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Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education) 6:12 pm, 22nd June 2020

It absolutely is. I am conscious that local media—particularly radio—are very much under threat. I have previously mentioned Peak FM, which has been a great, small local radio station in my area. It has recently been taken over by Bauer and its programming is going to go to the east midlands. We are now told that a traffic jam just outside Corby is local news; that makes no difference to people in Chesterfield. As the local dimension of the private sector media increasingly diminishes, there is an opportunity for the BBC to say, “Look, this is what we are great at. Of course we are going to compete on a national basis with national programmes on a Saturday evening, but this is what is special about the BBC.” It will lose that at its peril: if the BBC loses programmes such as “Inside Out” and “Sunday Politics”—if it loses that sense of its ability to influence things locally—it will rue the day and we will all be the poorer for it.

Other Members, particularly the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton, have mentioned the extent to which there is a sense that if something happens in London, it is national news—that if there is flooding in London or riots in London, we should all care about that. We all know that when we have flooding in different areas, it gets much more difficult to get local coverage. I entirely accept the point made by Bob Stewart about London having local news too, but for many of us who are more distant from London, there is a strong sense that what happens in London is given greater import than what happens in our areas. We are going to have the local elections in 2021, and we all know that what happens in London will be seen as national news. The London mayoralty is of course an important national post, but there are elections everywhere, and it is important that those elections are covered too. I do not think that will happen if these programmes disappear.

I could say other things, but I shall end my speech there because many other Members wish to speak. I thank the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton for securing this debate. I hope that when the Minister responds, he will give a really strong assurance that the strength of feeling in this debate will be conveyed to the BBC, and that it will be conveyed in the strongest possible terms just how crucial these programmes are to our constituents.