BBC: Local Broadcasting

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 8th September 2020.

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Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent discussions he has had with the BBC on the effect of reduced funding on regional programming.

Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps his Department has taken to support the BBC in the production of regional and local (a) television and (b) radio programming.

Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent discussions he has had with the BBC on the production of local programmes for Cornwall in Bristol.

Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent discussion he has had with the BBC on the effect of proposed changes to local and regional programming on the quality of that output.

Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of including in the Royal Charter for the continuance of the BBC more emphasis on the need to provide local radio and television programming.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Minister of State

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.

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