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MPs cite newspapers’ campaign in report on BBC future

MPs have used a campaign by two city newspapers to highlight apparent inequalities in regional coverage at the BBC.

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee cited the campaign, jointly run by the Birmingham Mail and Birmingham Post, as an example of West Midlands licence fee payers getting less value for money than those in other areas of the country.

The Mail and the Post say they want more of the £942m of licence fee revenue raised in the region to be spent there.

The Committee’s four-month inquiry into the future of the BBC. called on the BBC to create a base for commissioning programmes in every region of the country.

How the campaign was launched by the Post in February 2015

How the campaign was launched by the Post in February 2015

The report reads: “Every region has the right to see itself represented accurately by the national broadcaster.”

It highlights a report in the Post by journalist Graeme Brown in February 2015 which pointed out that West Midlands licence fee payers contribute £942 million to the BBC, yet the corporation invested just £80 million across the region in the previous year.

The BBC has pledged to end its focus on London and in 2011 moved staff to MediaCityUK in Salford, where it now employs more than 2,500 full time-equivalent employees.

But MPs said other regions continue to be neglected.

The report adds: “The BBC has made considerable efforts to meet the criticisms that it is too focused on London. Unfortunately, although the move to Salford has been very successful in terms of that area, to many people outside London and Salford it now appears that two centres dominate the BBC landscape, and paradoxically other regions have lost facilities, jobs and the profile that they used to have when the BBC was more dominated by London.

“The recent concentration of production and back office facilities was argued to have diminished the representation of some areas (the West Midlands, Northern Ireland, the South West, the North and North East).

“In addition, financial comparisons show that some areas, in particular the West Midlands, receive far less investment in relative terms than they contribute to the BBC in licence fee payments.”

Following the report’s release, a BBC spokesman said: “We are working on a range of proposals that will best meet the aspirations of our audiences but we need to recognise the licence fee settlement means the BBC faces a tough financial challenge.”