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Wed, 28 October 2020

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Scrapping Politics Live TV show would ‘seriously harm’ chance to grill politicians, MPs warn BBC bosses

Scrapping Politics Live TV show would ‘seriously harm’ chance to grill politicians, MPs warn BBC bosses

The BBC’s daytime political show could be facing the axe, MPs fear.

3 min read

A cross-party group of MPs is calling on the BBC not to scrap the Politics Live show.

A letter coordinated by Liberal Democrat Daisy Cooper — and signed by Conservative, Labour and SNP MPs — says the daytime programme plays a “critical, daily role in holding the Government and politicians in Westminster to account”.

And they call for a “firm commitment” from bosses at the broadcaster over the show’s future amid reports it “hangs in the balance”.

Politics Live, hosted by presented Jo Coburn and featuring four panelists drawn from different political parties, is now aired once a week before Prime Minister’s Questions.

That is down from its usual daily airing, and it was reported this week that BBC bosses have yet to commit to bringing it back as a regular show after the summer parliamentary recess.

In a letter to the outgoing and incoming directors general of the BBC, the group of 106 MPs and peers also call on the broadcaster not to axe a swathe of jobs in its regional news teams.

“Politics Live has played a critical, daily role in holding the Government and politicians in Westminster to account,” the group says.
 
And they add: “The loss of this programme, particularly given the context of the Coronavirus pandemic, would seriously harm the ability of the BBC to scrutinise and explain the consequences of policy announcements.
 
“Moreover, it is deeply concerning that the consequences of cutting this programme would see the loss of yet another show fronted by a woman at a time when the BBC should be doing more to promote diversity.
 
“We note that these reports come on the back of a decision by the BBC to make 450 staff working on its regional programmes in England redundant, weakening the BBC’s ability to produce high-quality investigative journalism across all parts of the country.
 
“With the BBC’s obligations as a public service broadcaster, we believe these cuts should be reviewed and a firm commitment be made to the future of Politics Live.”

Those putting their names to the letter include Conservative former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers, Tory MP Peter Gibson — part of the 2019 intake of MPs — and Conservatives grandee Sir David Amess.

Labour politicians including Chris Bryant, Rosie Duffield, Debbie Abrahams, former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw, and former Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband adviser Lord Wood have also signed the letter.

And there is backing from the leaders of the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, as well as SNP, DUP and Green MPs.

Ms Cooper, the Lib Dem MP who organised the missive, said: “Public trust during pandemics is absolutely vital. 

“At a time when many people are worried about their future and a possible second wave, we need proper media scrutiny, from Britain's number one public broadcaster, on the decisions being taken at the very top of government.
 
“The loss of Politics Live would seriously harm the ability of the BBC to scrutinise and explain the consequences of policy announcements.
 
“Given the BBC’s obligations as a public service broadcaster, I urge the BBC to think carefully and make a firm commitment to protecting Politics Live.”

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