Daily Express: BBC ordered to justify huge cut backs amid fears it's failing the public

Daily Express: BBC ordered to justify huge cut backs amid fears it's failing the public

Article by Bill McLoughlin for the Daily Express - published 17 August 2020

Concerns were raised over the future funding for regional news funding by Tory MP for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins. The BBC announced 450 job cuts in regional TV news, current affairs, local radio and online in July. The broadcaster also announced a further 70 job cuts from its news division, with Radio 4 and any political programming to be hit the hardest.

Amid those vast cuts, Mr Collins called on the media and telecommunications to intervene in matters.

He said: “Following our letter raising concerns about BBC South East and regional news funding, Ofcom confirms they're intervening and asking the BBC to justify the cuts.”

Publishing a letter online today, he confirmed Ofcom will now step in to demand the BBC justify the cuts in relation to providing two of its public purposes.

Under the BBC’s Charter, the broadcaster must provide impartial news and information to help the public “understand and engage with the world around them”.

The fourth principle states: “The reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities of all of the United Kingdom’s nations and regions and, in doing so, support the creative economy across the United Kingdom.”

The BBC has made the cuts in order to save £25million by 2022.

The corporation has previously said it must save £125million by the end of this year due to the financial pressures suffered from the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the announcement of cuts, Labour’s shadow minister for media, Chris Matheson expressed concern over the damaged the cuts may do to local news.

Referencing the broadcaster’s commitment to representing local journalism, Julian Knight, chairman of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee drew attention to a BBC statement which said it was strongly committed to local and regional journalism.

He said: “This decision is a strange way of demonstrating that commitment.”

Explaining the decision, however, the director of BBC England Helen Thomas said the news services needed to be rejuvenated.

She said: “That has meant taking some difficult decisions.

"We are in the age of the Facebook community group and the WhatsApp neighbourhood chat.

“We must adapt to better reflect how people live their lives, how they get their news and what content they want.

"We're going to modernise our offer to audiences in England by making digital a central part of everything we do.

“We'll take forward lessons from Covid-19 that will make us more agile and more in touch with communities while also ensuring we're as efficient as we can be.

"I'm confident we can evolve our local and regional services while improving our impact and better serving our audiences."

The BBC has also faced scrutiny for the cancellation of the free TV licence for over-75s.

From August 1, the group must now pay the £157.50 a year fee to access the broadcaster’s programming.

This had initially been planned for the beginning of June but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some households can still access a free TV licence if they receive pension credit.

Copyright 2019 Damian Collins. All rights reserved

Promoted by Russell Tillson for and on behalf of Damian Collins, both of Folkestone & Hythe Conservative Association both at 4 West Cliff Gardens, Folkestone, Kent CT20 1SP

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