More than 100 actors, presenters and writers have written to the BBC warning the corporation against bringing the ax down on tent-pole regional programming. The letter landed on the doorstep of the BBC on the same day it announced a voluntary redundancy scheme for its 19,000 public service staff in a bid to help it save £125M ($157M).
Filming has been canceled on the autumn series of BBC regional journalism show Inside Out as its future is reviewed, while the corporation has also shrunk its Sunday Politics program from 11 regional broadcasts to just a single England-wide show during the coronavirus lockdown.
Peaky Blinders writer Steven Knight, director Ken Loach, Line Of Duty actress Vicky McClure were among those who signed the National Union Of Journalists-organized letter urging the BBC to rethink cuts. Other signatories included Stephen Fry, Sir Lenny Henry, Dominic West, David Morrissey and Miriam Margolyes.
“We are extremely concerned that the BBC regional current affairs programme Inside Out has had its forthcoming series cancelled and the future of all eleven regional departments in England is under review and could even be cut completely,” said the letter, which was addressed to outgoing and incoming director Tony Hall and Tim Davie respectively.
“All of those who have signed this letter have had the privilege of working or appearing on the respected, award-winning Inside Out or one of the many other documentaries the regional units make for broadcast both locally and on BBC networks. Never has in-depth investigative journalism, holding people to account and reflecting the regional diversity of England been more important.”
In response to the letter, a BBC spokeswoman said coronavirus has “forced us to prioritize our resources.” She added: “The BBC does face very real financial challenges so naturally we are looking at what savings might be possible across the BBC.”
Separately on Wednesday, the BBC announced the opening of a voluntary redundancy scheme. A spokeswoman said: “The impact of the coronavirus pandemic means the BBC needs to make £125 million of savings this financial year, in addition to the considerable efficiency savings the corporation had previously committed to and planned for. The BBC’s challenge is to keep delivering programmes and services for the whole country while continuing to adapt and change.
“The BBC is therefore inviting public service staff to express an interest in voluntary redundancy. This is a necessary process to ensure the BBC meets the challenges of a fast-changing media environment within its financial perimeters.”
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