Thursday, 19 January 2012

BBC

In difficult times, every organisation needs to think carefully about how much money it is spending and where it might be able to make savings. It is why last year the government made clear to the BBC that it expected it to freeze the TV Licence Fee for the next few years. I think this is important because families have a lot of pressures on their incomes and, in the current environment, it would not be fair to expect people to pay an even higher TV Licence Fee.

I have always been a supporter of the BBC. I actually think it is an important British institution. Sure, there are times when I can disagree with its coverage of certain political issues but I do think that BBC journalists make a genuine attempt to be impartial and the BBC certainly devotes time and resources to giving coverage to political issues and informing public debate in a way that is the envy of the rest of the world and which we should cherish. Our broadcasters, including the BBC, have an important role to play alongside a robust and questioning newspaper industry. Without the mass media providing a platform for local and national debate, public engagement would decline and democracy itself would be severely weakened.

But it is important that any savings are made in the right areas and that the BBC does not just pick on soft targets and cut services in areas which have less clout within the organisation and so struggle to get their voices heard. Last summer, the BBC published some draft proposals for the savings it would make and has been consulting on them ever since. I have been very concerned that local radio was being unfairly singled out for more than its fair share of cuts and have made this case to several senior policy makers within the BBC. The further you get from London, the more important both local newspapers and local radio become and Radio Cornwall has one of the strongest and most loyal audiences of any local radio station in the country.

The BBC is the largest broadcaster in the world. It employs 23,000 people and has a budget of over £3.5 billion. Of that budget, around £2.5 billion is spent of TV and just £600m on radio. Of that £600 million on radio, little more than £150 million is actually spent on all the local radio stations in the whole country. Radio Cornwall costs a fraction of the amount spent on Radio Wales. I think the BBC needs to find a way of putting money back in to the budget of local radio and instead find additional savings from its vast national TV budget. They could possibly start with some of the huge salaries paid to celebrity TV presenters.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.