Monday 10 August 2020 12:52 pm

MPs urge watchdog to probe BBC jobs cuts amid fears over local output

A group of MPs has urged Ofcom to probe the BBC’s plans to cut hundreds of jobs in its local news division amid concerns the broadcaster is failing in its public service obligations.

In a letter to Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes, the MPs called for an urgent response to the proposed cuts before “any irreparable steps” are taken.

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The BBC has announced plans to slash 450 jobs from its regional programming in a bid to save £25m by 2022.

The broadcaster is set to axe its award-winning current affairs series Inside Out, while the plan means one in six BBC England staff members will lose their jobs.

But the MPs called on the media watchdog to examine whether the BBC was acting in accordance with its mission and purpose.

“Furthermore, we would ask that no action is taken by the BBC to implement these cuts until it can demonstrate to the satisfaction of Ofcom that it has conducted detailed audience research to determine whether or not their policy is supported by viewers and listeners,” they wrote.

The letter was signed by 22 MPs representing the BBC South East region, including former culture select committee chair Damian Collins.

The regional job cuts, which were announced last week, form part of wider redundancies planned by the embattled public service broadcaster amid declining viewing figures and the financial impact of Covid-19.

In January the BBC said it would cut 450 jobs in its news department. These cuts were put on hold due to the pandemic, but have since been increased to 520.

The letter caused fresh problems for the corporation, which is embroiled in a controversy over its decision to air a racial slur in a news report.

The BBC originally defended the use of the N-word in a report about a racially motivated attack in Bristol last month, but outgoing director general Tony Hall yesterday apologised for the decision.

Read more: BBC boss apologises over broadcast of racial slur

A BBC spokesperson said: “Given what the BBC has to save difficult decisions are being made across the BBC.

“Local and regional programming is in our DNA but new technologies and ways of working mean we can also operate more efficiently while still providing the quality service that viewers, listeners and readers have come to expect from our services.”