Dozens of broadcasters from Stephen Fry to Sir Lenny Henry signed a letter asking the BBC not to cut its English regional news programming.
The BBC canceled Inside Out’s fall series and merged its weekly regional political programs.
The BBC is now “largely underserved by regional audiences,” said the letter sent by the National Union of Journalists.
In response, the company said that the coronavirus pandemic had “forced us to prioritize our resources”.
The letter is addressed to outgoing CEO Lord Hall, who said the BBC must find savings of £ 125 million this year, and his successor Tim Davie.
Signatories also include presenter Fern Britton, actor Dominic West, naturalist Chris Packham, writer and actress Daisy May Cooper, poet Benjamin Zephaniah, director Ken Loach and the channel Gloria Hunniford.
“An essential element of public service broadcasting”
He said: “Never has investigative journalism, holding people accountable and reflecting the regional diversity of England been so important. ”
Inside Out is broadcast in 11 regions, covering a wide range of stories and issues affecting life in these regions. Meanwhile, the regional political programs of Sunday morning were replaced during the pandemic by a single broadcast.
The letter continues: “If these cuts were to become permanent, they would risk damaging English democracy by not providing an important platform for the voices of our communities who need and want to be heard.
“Even in the face of financial pressures, we urge the BBC not to cut regional programming and to defend a vital element of public service broadcasting that is not available anywhere else. “
“Very real financial challenges”
A BBC spokesperson said: “Local and regional broadcasting is part of the BBC’s DNA and we are particularly proud of the performance of our services in recent months.
“The pandemic has forced us to prioritize our resources. We have therefore canceled the fall series of Inside Out and are continuing the unique political program for England until the summer.
“The BBC is facing very real financial challenges, so of course we are looking at the savings that might be possible through the BBC. ”
In January, Lord Hall unveiled a plan to have at least two-thirds of the company’s staff based outside London by 2027.
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