The Government remains disappointed that the BBC is planning to reduce parts of its local output. Ministers have met with the BBC on several occasions since the announcement where they have expressed our shared concerns in this House about the BBC’s plans.
While it is up to the BBC to decide how it delivers its services, the Government is clear that the BBC must make sure it continues to provide distinctive and genuinely local radio services, with content that reflects and represents people and communities from all corners of the UK.
The BBC is still required to deliver its remit as set out in the Charter and Agreement. It should prioritise using its £3.8 billion annual licence fee income as necessary to deliver that remit.
Ministers met Ofcom before the publication of the BBC’s new Operating Licence to emphasise that the Government expects Ofcom, as regulator of the BBC, to ensure the BBC is robustly held to account in delivering its public service duties. In the publication of the new Licence, Ofcom sets out that it will hold the BBC to its commitments on local radio in England in relation to news and travel, breaking news and major incidents and its contribution to local democracy. Ofcom will be monitoring the BBC’s performance in this area closely and will step in if they are concerned the BBC is not delivering for audiences. Ofcom also plans to commission new research to better understand what audiences need and value from local services.