BBC Regional Politics Coverage

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:12 pm on 22nd June 2020.

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Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Opposition Whip (Commons) 7:12 pm, 22nd June 2020

I agree entirely with the hon. Member. One of the great strengths of this country is its creativity and its media output. We are a huge exporter, as she will know very well from her own background, which she was describing earlier. She will know not only how valuable that export is, but how influential and how powerful it is in terms of the soft power that we project, or have projected perhaps until recently. It is something that we need to hold on to.

Just to go a little bit further into “Inside Out”, it is an extremely valuable strand because of how much it feeds into other programming. The story about Sports Direct and the investigation that was undertaken were mentioned earlier. That programme investigated that issue in the old-fashioned way. Its team realised that there had been 50 or 60 emergencies where ambulances had been called to a warehouse. They undertook that investigation to understand what had been going on, because so many workers were working in such shocking conditions in terms of the hours they were working, having too few breaks and so on. That is why these sorts of programmes are so important.

I understand that there is huge financial pressure on the BBC. The fact that households are paying 43p a day, I think, is quite ridiculous for such a fantastic service. One cannot even get half a chocolate bar for that kind of money. If we compare that with the cost of a pint or a coffee, I think that 43p is a very low cost for impartial, quality news programming and proper investigative journalism to ensure that politicians are held to account. That is why this issue is so important.

The future will be challenging for all sectors, including for the BBC. I understand the challenge with this particular programming—with the “Sunday Politics”, for example—because live programming is expensive. On the one hand, it is unaffordable, but then the recorded programming is unacceptable when we are so used to having immediate live content. With the changes in technology and how we have managed to adapt in recent months, I urge the BBC to think about finding ways to ensure that those in power are still held to account and are able to try to make their case for whatever is being debated that day.

With charter renewal coming up and future funding debates looming, the BBC must be careful that the issue does not play into the hands of its detractors, because it is vital that the case is made on the BBC’s behalf. The BBC provides an incredibly valuable service. The public want political news, whether that is Brexit, covid-19 or other things, and they want visibility and accountability.

To conclude, the BBC is a great asset and the regionality it provides has been so important for many decades. It is an incredibly valuable thing that we have in this country. We are one of the most centralised nations in the world—certainly in Europe—and the devolution of power that I think many of us are seeking needs to be held to account, and that is why the programming of “Sunday Politics” and of “Inside Out” should be retained and is so important to us all.