Emma warns against cuts to BBC local services

May 3, 2016


In Culture, Media and Sport Questions on Thursday, Emma raised a question about BBC funding cuts and the possible impact on local services.

The Government has again raised the prospect of further top slicing of the licence fee, which the Secretary of State recently described as “not necessarily entirely the property of the BBC”.

In last year’s agreement between the Government and the BBC, the Chancellor bullied the BBC into agreeing to pay for free TV licenses for Over 75s in exchange for a promise – which has yet to be fulfilled – that there might be an increase in the license fee from 2017.

There was also an understanding that there would be no more top slicing of licence fee money but reports surfaced recently of another top slicing of the licence fee to fund children’s progammes, revealing just how much pressure the BBC is under to meet the BBC’s demands at a time they fear the Government’s plans over the next Charter Review as the current deal expires at the end of this year.  

Last month, the BBC was warned by the BBC Trust following a report, against making further cuts to its local radio services, which said budgets had been left “very tight” by previous rounds of cost-cutting.

The last time BBC local radio faced big cuts, four years ago, proposed savings of £15m were halved to £8m following protests from listeners and MPs, and opposition from the then-BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten.

The trust has asked local radio bosses to come back in six months’ time with how they plan to address the challenges in the report.

You can read Emma’s Question and the Minister’s response here

Speaking afterwards Emma said,

“The Culture Secretary’s response completely ignored the reality of the situation his Government have created. The BBC is struggling to meet the Government’s latest demands and something has to give. Regional broadcasting has suffered in the past and now must be fiercely protected from further budget cuts due to its high public value and unique contribution to communitiesIt provides a vital and distinctive service for people in our region, covering events,issues and news stories that are important and relevant to them – stories that would never be covered in the London-centric national news broadcasts. Local news is a precious part of our democracy and must be cherished as such.

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