The Government recognises the vital role that regional news and local current affairs play in bringing communities together and reflecting experiences across the UK. The BBC’s proposed cuts to English regional television were debated in the chamber on 22 June 2020, where the government set out its support for regional broadcasting and its concern about the BBC’s decision.
The BBC is editorially and operationally independent of government, and regional programming is a matter for the BBC. The BBC’s Royal Charter requires the BBC to represent, reflect and serve audiences, taking into account the needs of diverse communities of all the UK nations and regions. Under the new regulatory system introduced by the government in 2017, the BBC Board must ensure the BBC complies with its Charter duties, and Ofcom was established as the BBC regulator to ensure the BBC is robustly held to account.
Ofcom is aware of the changes to the BBC’s regional news and current affairs, and has said it will require the BBC to set out how the proposed cuts are consistent with the delivery of the BBC’s public purposes.
The government has no plans to reopen the BBC Charter or conduct a public consultation on this issue. The Charter will next be considered at the mid-term review. This is the appropriate milestone to consider whether the current regulatory arrangements for the BBC are working effectively. The Charter specifies that the review must take place between 2022 and 2024.