The BBC is changing how it offers regional programmes in England on TV and radio as part of another round of cost-cutting for the corporation.
BBC England needs to save £25 million by March 2022. 450 jobs will be cut. The announcement follows months of speculation that some of the changes made to regional BBC News at the beginning of the lockdown would be made permanent.
Primetime BBC One England show Inside Out is the most prominent casualty of the cuts and will be replaced by a new investigative show. But the regional politics slot will return, as will regional TV news at breakfast.
Ahead of the announcement, there has been a massive outpouring of support for the BBC’s regional output – leading even to Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg to voice his support of the regional politics programme serving his region, the West of England.
Despite the cuts, the BBC has promised that money would be found to modernise the BBC’s regional TV centres with investment in the latest technology and introducing a new, consistent operating model for each newsroom. While London, Manchester and Plymouth already enjoy modern facilities, many other regional news centres are using outdated equipment, which has acted as a barrier to offering HD output. There has, however, been no confirmation as to whether there will be any movement towards offering BBC viewers in England a fully regionalised service on BBC One HD.
- All 6:30pm news programmes will have a single presenter on a permanent basis.
- Regional news bulletins during Breakfast will be reinstated this year.
Regional current affairs:
- Inside Out is no more: its autumn series had already been axed as part of the changes to BBC News due to the pandemic.
- A new programme (as yet unnamed) will launch in its place. It will feature a single 30 minute investigation per programme, with editions being produced in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, London, Newcastle and Norwich.
- The regional politics slot, which was replaced by a single edition for all of England, will be reinstated in a new format to reach a wider audience.
- The new simplified schedule introduced at the beginning of the lockdown, which features generic blocks of programmes will be made permanent. So for daytime, each station will have three standardised programme blocks with a total of three presenters.
What does BBC management say?
The BBC’s management has emphasised the need to make cuts in England as part of wider changes to the corporation across the UK, as the BBC faces an extra squeeze by delaying changes to over 75s TV licences that were originally due to have come in back at the beginning of June and incorporating the remaining cost of covering the cost of TV licences to those claiming Pension Credit once all the changes are implemented.
“I’m proud people have turned to us for trusted news and information in huge numbers during COVID-19, proving the importance of our local and regional services. But those services were created more than 50 years ago, have changed very little and need significant reinvention. 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.”HELEN THOMAS, DIRECTOR BBC ENGLAND