Politicians urge BBC to protect Politics Live from Covid-19 cuts

BBC

More than 100 MPs and peers have united to demand the BBC protect its Politics Live programme from the axe as it looks to make savings following the Covid-19 shutdown.

The cross-party band of 106 politicians have written to the publicly-owned broadcaster warning that dropping the topical issues show would “seriously harm the ability of the BBC to scrutinise and explain the consequences of policy announcements”.

Among those to sign the letter calling for a “firm commitment be made to the future of Politics Live” is former Labour culture secretary Ben Bradshaw, Tory ex-Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers and acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey.

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Others giving it their backing include Green MP Caroline Lucas, Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts and former Conservative Party vice-chairman Ben Bradley MP.

The broadcaster announced a raft of cuts to its English TV and radio output this month, declaring that BBC England must save £25m by April 2022.

As part of the cost-cutting measures, the corporation plans to shed 450 jobs – and reports have swirled that the future of Politics Live “hangs in the balance” as a result of the shake-up.

The show has recently returned once a week after production was paused during the Covid-19 crisis.

It was revamped in 2018 and given a new title, having previously been known as Daily Politics, with the new-look format inspiring more punchy exchanges between guests.

If it were to be given the chop, it would be the second high profile BBC programme fronted by a woman to be cancelled this year after it was announced in January that the Victoria Derbyshire show is to be taken off the air.

Lib Dem MP Daisy Cooper coordinated the letter, seen by PA news agency and addressed to director general Tony Hall and his successor Tim Davie, in a bid to protect Politics Live, which is presented chiefly by Jo Coburn (pictured).

The letter said: “We are writing concerning reports that the future of BBC Politics Live remains uncertain.

“Politics Live has played a critical, daily role in holding the Government and politicians in Westminster to account.

“The loss of this programme, particularly given the context of the coronavirus pandemic, would seriously harm the ability of the BBC to scrutinise and explain the consequences of policy announcements.

“Moreover, it is deeply concerning that the consequences of cutting this programme would see the loss of yet another show fronted by a woman at a time when the BBC should be doing more to promote diversity.

“With the BBC‘s obligations as a public service broadcaster, we believe these cuts should be reviewed and a firm commitment be made to the future of Politics Live.”

Politics Live co-host Andrew Neil told the Radio Times this week he had didn’t know what the plan is for the programme’s return to five days a week.

“There’s no clarity at the moment, so I’m just waiting for the BBC to make up its mind,” he said.

The BBC has not officially set out its plans on what will happen to programmes like Politics Live once the worst of the Covid-19 crisis is over.

But a BBC source told Press Gazette earlier this week: “Of course BBC News needs to make savings but some of the recent speculation about changes to our political programmes has been way off the mark, so people should wait to hear what we have to say.”

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