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Regional Broadcasting (East Midlands)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:47 pm on 30th March 2004.

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Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris Minister of State (Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts) 3:47 pm, 30th March 2004

Of course I do not believe that the east midlands is a sub-region, nor am I critical of it in any way. I used the term to discuss targets. Whether we like it or not, whether we live in the east or the west midlands, there is a midlands region, of which both areas are members. I certainly would not be happy if the news coverage all beamed out from Birmingham. My personal view is that if the news gathering from the east midlands were dropped, it would be detrimental to that area. I believe without a shadow of doubt that it would be a diminution of the present localism if all regional news from the whole of the midlands were collected and presented from Birmingham. All I can say to my hon. Friends is that that is not part of the proposal.

I cannot at this time stand up in a debate in the House of Commons and say, "I have been told by Central that its intention is to keep news collection in the east midlands and merely present the news from Birmingham, but, because I do not believe that, I shall ask Ofcom to intervene. It would not be fair to do so, because I believe what I am told by Central.

In the minute that I have left, all I can do is say again that the key thing in striking the difficult balance between having commercialism in broadcasting and protecting democracy is to hold the stations fast to their targets. My message to Ofcom is that that is what the House expects it to do. I suspect that the proposals before us will achieve that, but it will be for Ofcom to decide and to be the guardian of what all of us with seats in the midlands consider to be incredibly important targets.