BBC Regional Politics Coverage

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:24 pm on 22nd June 2020.

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Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Conservative, Broadland 7:24 pm, 22nd June 2020

There have been many good contributions this evening in which hon. Members have raised all the broad issues relating to the decision the BBC has to make. I will not follow those; instead, I will focus on a single specific issue, which is the nature of political discourse and the contribution that local and regional BBC coverage makes to supporting good-quality political discourse. That is a very important issue for our time.

Perhaps it is because of the rise of social media, but there is an amplification of anger, which we all experience in our political lives and in the political life of the nation. Anger and confrontation, the virtue-signalling “gotcha” moment, the classification of the opponent as the “other”, the near-dehumanisation of political opponents —all these things are corrosive of our national political life. In my view, the BBC’s national political output is running very close to following that negative development.

One has only to look at “Newsnight” to start thinking of it as the telecast equivalent of the “gotcha” tweet, with constant interruptions and the imposition of the journalist’s viewpoint over that of the politician, regardless of their party or political viewpoint, who is being asked to express their view and is then prevented physically from doing so. Compare that with “Sunday Politics” and the regional coverage of the BBC, where we see time being given to politicians to make their political point and then to be challenged on it—not shouted at or interrupted, but respectfully challenged in a hard-hitting manner in a discourse that is polite, where the nuances can be seen, rather than the black versus white that the “Newsnight” type of environment encourages. It is discursive, not abusive, and it can focus on local issues which, as I mentioned in an intervention, are becoming more, not less, important as time goes on. As we devolve power to the regions, as we get more elected metropolitan mayors, as the impact of the actions of our county and second-tier councils is more apparent in the lives and the quality of life of our constituents, so we should focus more, not less, on local issues.

I regard the national political focus of the BBC as being more equivalent to PMQs, and “The Politics Show” and the time that is given to it as being more equivalent to the quality of this debate. I leave it to the House to decide which is the most edifying.