BBC Regional Politics Coverage

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:49 pm on 22nd June 2020.

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Photo of Andy Carter Andy Carter Conservative, Warrington South 6:49 pm, 22nd June 2020

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I know only too well the challenges that local media, and local radio in particular, are facing. As chair of the all-party group that deals with commercial radio, I have seen some of the figures from local radio stations around the country, whose revenue has been hit by more than 90% in the past three months. Their ability to deliver those programmes is incredibly challenged. The BBC’s delivery of local services provides for demographics of audiences that no other commercial operators will be able to service; I am thinking, in particular, of older members of the community who are not served well by other commercial operators. That is where the BBC plays an incredibly important role.

I congratulate BBC local radio on the vital role it has played in explaining what is happening locally on an hourly basis to audiences around the country. With BBC local radio it is not about high-falutin presenters being brought in; it is about local personalities. It is about people such as Mike Sweeney in Manchester, who has been on the radio for 40 years and is now in his 70s, delivering fantastic local content in the middle of the morning. He is able to interview with real precision because he knows his local area. It is about people such as Roger Phillips in Merseyside. Christian Matheson will have doubtless have been interviewed by Roger, as I have. He is a fearsome interviewer, but he will say that he is not a political reporter; he is a great local broadcaster who understands the area and recognises the value of delivering great local content to that area.

What covid-19 has shown us is just how interconnected every part of our society is and how important local media is for delivering messages to people living in local areas. It is crucial that we decentralise media and ensure that local broadcasting is allowed to be at the forefront of what the BBC does. As a proud northern MP representing Warrington, I know that the issues we face in Warrington are split three ways. Part of the constituency looks south to BBC Stoke, part looks east to BBC Merseyside and part looks to Manchester. One thing I would really like to see the BBC do is invest in areas such as that and put more content into them. It is time that the BBC recognised that local content is crucial to the lives we live today. I urge the BBC to think again, as it sends completely the wrong message to communities in the regions and about the stories that need to be heard if it is cutting regional content.