Cuts to regional BBC services must not go ahead, says Tees MP

Tees Business Digital Media Pack

Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has written to Helen Thomas, the director of BBC England, to persuade her to reconsider the devastating cuts proposed for regional BBC services.

As a public service broadcaster, the BBC has a responsibility to provide quality programming across the country.

The proposed cuts of 450 staff, around 15% of the current regional work force across the country, cannot be done without a significant change in the quality of services being offered.

Cutting programmes like Inside Out by almost half, from 11 regions to just six will see the loss of pin-point localised reporting and will see many viewers switch off as what is being screened becomes no longer relevant to them.

Inside Out provides essential investigative journalism and highlights issue that may have otherwise gone unexplored, for example one episode of the show uncovered serious issues with drugs at a hostel in Alex’s constituency.

Local BBC services are wide-reaching and essential to our communities. BBC Tees serves a population of over 750,000 and currently has reach of over 100,000, which is around 14%.

The National Union of Journalists said the cuts – which will affect presenters, journalists, technical and operation staff and will see a sixth of BBC England staff losing their jobs – “could have a serious impact’ on the BBC’s ‘ability to represent all parts of the country”.

Urging the BBC to reconsider their decision, Alex says: “I have written to Helen Thomas at the BBC to make clear that I am entirely opposed to these cuts. They must not be allowed to go ahead.

“The breadth of these cuts is deeply concerning. To state that these deep cuts will improve the service offered seems far-fetched to me.

“Worthwhile programming and content needs proper resources and proper staffing. While that inevitably costs money, a television or radio station without it is cutting off the nose to spite the face.

“Recent months have seen an uptick in listeners to BBC Radio Tees – through these troubling and uncertain times local people have turned to our local and trusted source for their news and entertainment.

“Local radio will be hit by these cuts particularly hard. With shows with two presenters being slashed to one, the region will lose some of its well-loved duos.

“There is no one else providing these services locally. Regional political reporting is essential to democracy.

“Without it, there is no one to offer proper scrutiny of our local politicians and councillors. It’s disappointing to see these cuts coming to hardworking frontline journalists while the same considerations do not seem to be made of their management.

“It is now, more than ever, that people need access to good quality, trusted journalism.”