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January 6, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 10:54am

BBC launches new regional current affairs programme replacing cancelled Inside Out

By Andrew Kersley

The BBC is launching a new current affairs programme that it said will “provide a voice to our diverse regional audiences” and cover the pressing issues in often-underserved parts of the UK.

The new weekly programme, titled We Are England, will serve as a follow-up to Inside Out, the long-running show that was cancelled by the broadcaster in 2020 in a major shake-up.

The broadcaster said the first episodes, set to air on Wednesday 26 January at 7.30pm, will include army veterans with mental health problems retraining as HGV drivers and pastors working to keep city streets safe at night.

BBC England head of TV commissioning Aisling O’Connor said: “We Are England is a new current affairs programme for our audience in England that will get to the heart of subjects that matter nationally, framed through a local lens.

“It’s so important that BBC England reflects its audiences up and down the country. This series will deliver a range and rich diversity of story and content, told from the perspective of our local communities.”

Produced from six hubs in Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham, Bristol, London and Norwich, there will be ten We Are England programmes produced from each per series, with two series aired each year.

There will be ten weekly themes per series, ranging from the housing crisis to mental health, with each regional hub delivering a different half-hour segment tailored to how that issue is impacting their region.

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The new programme is set to be led by award-winning producer Sarah Trigg, who has previously worked on factual shows for BBC Two, BBC Three and Channel 4, including Embarrassing Bodies and How to Look Good Naked.

“The brand new nationwide current affairs programme will provide a voice to our diverse regional audiences,” Trigg said.

“Our talented teams across the country have been working hard to source and discover fresh content, which explores a modern and fast-changing England and we can’t wait for viewers to see it.”

We Are England is seen to be a replacement for Inside Out, which was cancelled in 2020 after running for almost 20 years as part of wider plans to save the BBC £25m.

At the time of the programme’s controversial cancellation, the BBC’s director of policy Clare Sumner promised that it would be replaced by a new regional current affairs programme that would be more “contemporary” and “relevant” to modern audiences across the UK.

[Read More: BBC says Inside Out cancellation part of ‘long overdue’ changes to regional current affairs output]

The National Union of Journalists was critical of the decision to cancel the programme at the time, saying: “Inside Out was unlike any other news programme on the BBC.”

Commenting on the new launch, NUJ national broadcasting officer Paul Siegert said: “The NUJ hopes that We Are England lives up to its aim of providing a voice for our diverse regional audiences.

“Its predecessor, Inside Out, was a hugely popular programme staffed by a committed team of talent journalists that specialised in investigative journalism.  

“The BBC promised its replacement would deliver in-depth and higher quality documentaries and investigations and we hope they deliver on that promise.

“However, we also remain concerned that the new format now has only six regional versions instead of the previous 11 which could leave viewers feeling underserved.”

Since the appointment of Tim Davie as director-general in 2020 the broadcaster has implemented plans to become less London-centric, including by moving as many as 400 jobs outside the capital to shift its journalistic centre and get more “different voices and perspectives” from across the UK.

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