News of cuts at BBC Birmingham have sent shockwaves through a region braced for huge Covid19 job losses.
The plans mean axing 1 in 6 posts with the Mailbox at the forefront where 33 of 36 hub jobs are going, raising questions about its future.
Award-winning shows like Inside Out will be scrapped and regional programmes like Sunday Politics are in doubt. Familiar items and well-loved presenters will disappear and all this at a time when the licence fee has risen to £157.50. We contribute nearly £1billion but less than 15% is recycled through jobs and production in our region.
The well-paid London execs have never had much time for Birmingham. They decided years back to spend on one substantial base outside London, at Salford, and they’ve treated us like a cash cow since.
In 2015, incoming Director General, Lord Tony Hall admitted that it wasn’t good enough and announced a £23million investment. We were promised resources for BBC3 and the Daily Drop and a new youth team with the creation of a host of apprenticeship and training opportunities but those plans are now in tatters as Hall departs and the new management shows contempt for Birmingham.
The BBC blames the cuts on a funding crisis and its inability to afford free TV licences for over 75s. They should never have agreed to such a stupid deal with George Osborne but isn’t the answer to demand that government take back responsibility for licences for over 75s. Otherwise, we’ll face the worst of both worlds; services will be gutted here in the Midlands and 50,000 pensioners will still lose their free licence.
We’ve shown that we can make hugely popular daytime drama like Doctors or Father Brown and outstanding radio, including the Archers. We have the talent and capacity to produce many more quality programmes; our local drama village could double its output.
Perhaps the time has come when what we pay in licence fees should be commensurate with what we get in the number of jobs and production opportunities. Why should we pay for the London and Salford Broadcasting Corporation?
Steve McCabe MP writes a weekly column for the Birmingham Mail every Wednesday