Radio: Local Broadcasting

Department for Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered at on 22 June 2023.

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Photo of Stephen Morgan Stephen Morgan Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement), Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what recent discussions she has held with the BBC Board on conducting equality impact assessments on changes to BBC local radio coverage for rural communities.

Photo of Stephen Morgan Stephen Morgan Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement), Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whether she has held discussions with Ofcom on the BBC's proposals for local radio; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Stephen Morgan Stephen Morgan Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement), Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whether she has held discussions with the BBC Board on the potential impact of the BBC's proposals for Local Radio on staff.

Photo of Stephen Morgan Stephen Morgan Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement), Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whether she has had discussions with the BBC Board on the impact of BBC Local Radio proposals on working parents employed by those stations.

Photo of Stephen Morgan Stephen Morgan Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement), Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment she has made of the potential impact of the BBC's proposed changes to local radio coverage on the delivery of its equality obligations under the BBC operating licence.

Photo of Stephen Morgan Stephen Morgan Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement), Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whether she has had discussions with the BBC Board on the potential impact of BBC's proposed changes to local radio on the reporting of emergency planning incidents.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Minister of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

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 the concerns shared across the House about the BBC’s plans.

While it is up to the BBC to decide how it delivers its services, the Government has been clear with the Chair of the BBC Board and the Director General 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. These services are a key part of the BBC’s public service remit and an example of how the BBC can use its licence fee funding to provide content that is directly relevant to audiences, particularly in areas that may be underserved by the market.

The BBC is editorially and operationally independent, and the decision over whether to proceed with these changes is for them. It is also the BBC’s responsibility to consider the potential impacts for audiences and staff of these changes under their public sector equality duty.

Since its initial announcement of these cuts, the BBC has confirmed that all local radio stations will retain the ability to break out of shared programming and respond to breaking local stories including extreme weather conditions or public health emergencies.

The Government also expects Ofcom, as regulator of the BBC, to ensure the BBC is robustly held to account in delivering its public service duties. As part of this, the BBC will be required to monitor the impact of changes on audiences and publish more information about how it delivers high quality, distinctive content and services for audiences across the UK.

In the publication of the BBC’s new Operating 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.

As a public authority, the BBC is itself responsible for undertaking equality impact assessments under the Public Sector Equality Duty (as contained in the Equality Act 2010). The BBC Director General was asked whether the BBC has carried out an equality impact assessment regarding the local radio proposals at his 13 June appearance at the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, and has committed to sharing relevant information on this with the Committee.

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