The channel will simulcast the BBC News Channel for just under two weeks. It’s BBC Parliament’s first winter break following cuts to the service introduced earlier this year.
BBC Parliament will finish broadcasting for the year at 6pm on Thursday 23rd December 2021, before handing over to BBC News. The service is due to return at 2pm on Wednesday 5th January 2022.
Earlier this year, BBC management finally implemented long-threatened cuts to the channel. The cuts mean BBC Parliament no longer makes bespoke programmes and is off air in the weeks when the UK Parliament or the devolved parliaments and assemblies are not sitting. The cuts were first proposed in 2018, as part of wider changes to the BBC’s political output. Following a parliamentary backlash, the channel was given a reprieve. In July 2021, the BBC suddenly moved to implement the previously planned cuts. Coming just days before the summer parliamentary recess, there was no time for opposers to act.
At 10am on 26th July, BBC Parliament closed down, handing over the BBC News channel for all but one day during the summer.
During previous Christmas and New Year breaks, BBC Parliament has traditionally shown parliamentary highlights, educational programmes about how parliament works and discussion programmes. Last year, Parliament was recalled to discuss the Brexit deal, resulting in an extra day and night of live coverage.
Why doesn’t BBC Parliament close down altogether?
The BBC Parliament break doesn’t result in the channel disappearing altogether, as that could risk its slot on certain platforms. For example, channels showing a static caption or a promotional loop all day risk delisting from Sky’s channel guide. Anyone who wants a slot on its Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) must abide by its rules governing minimum programming and technical requirements. As a result, a simulcast of the BBC News channel keeps the slot active for when the channel does return.
Incidentally, the current arrangements for BBC Parliament also allow for the speedy unscheduled reactivation of the channel. This is needed should Parliament be recalled during recess, something that has already happened once in the summer.