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BBC urged not to carry out planned cuts to Inside Out programme

The cuts are part of wider cost-cutting measures for BBC England.

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BBC Broadcasting House (Ian West/PA)

BBC Broadcasting House (Ian West/PA)

BBC Broadcasting House (Ian West/PA)

The BBC has been urged to rethink its plans to axe the investigative journalism programme Inside Out as part of wider cuts to its English TV and radio output.

The broadcaster announced the shake-up this month, saying BBC England must save £25 million by April 2022.

As part of the cost-cutting measures, the corporation plans to shed 450 jobs.

And Inside Out, the regional current affairs magazine show made in 11 different regions, will be axed and replaced with a new investigative journalism programme from six hubs.

However, 91 workers who have contributed to the broadcaster’s regional factual/current affairs output have written a letter to the BBC’s board, urging a U-turn.

They wrote: “At a time of national crisis, and with so many issues surrounding Covid-19, Brexit, climate change and the shape of our economy and society needing to be addressed at a local and regional level, we strongly believe that the BBC needs to deepen its commitments to the regions, not reduce it.”

Losing Inside Out will “undermine the very values on which the BBC is built,” the letter states, arguing it would be “foolhardy to throw away the breadth of programmes that are genuinely unique”.

The proposed changes mean weekly current affairs programmes on Inside Out will no longer be made in Plymouth, Southampton, Tunbridge Wells, Nottingham and Salford.

In their letter, critics say the plans would leave parts of the country under served.

They say: “We hardly need remind you that Inside Out has been the BBC’s most popular current affairs show, with viewing figures outstripping both Panorama and Newsnight.

“The proposed replacement will simply be unable to cover anywhere near the number of important stories that Inside Out gives air-time to each series.

“Put simply, real regional programming must be able to cover regional issues from Land’s End to Berwick-upon-Tweed.”

Announcing the plans earlier this month, Helen Thomas, director of BBC England, said “difficult decisions” had to be made on local and regional services “created more than 50 years ago”.

Responding to the letter, a BBC spokeswoman said: “The BBC has set out plans to transform its local services in England as it seeks to serve audiences better, respond to lessons learnt during the Covid-19 crisis and make savings to tackle its financial challenges.

“That has meant taking some difficult decisions.

“The new investigative programme will consist of 30-minute single films giving us the opportunity to explore in greater depth issues that matter to our audiences.

“We have chosen to make it from six production hubs that are spread across the country but they will still serve every region of England.”

The BBC has already announced plans to cut around 450 jobs in BBC News, to take place at a later date.

The broadcaster has also launched a programme of voluntary redundancy as it attempts to make £125 million in savings this year, on top of the previous £800 million savings target, due to the pandemic.

PA Media