Stephen Fry and Lenny Henry among 100+ names urging BBC not to cut Inside Out

Inside Out BBC

Actor Stephen Fry and comic Lenny Henry are among more than 100 prominent people defending the BBC’s regional current affairs and politics programmes from the axe in a letter to the corporation.

Press Gazette reported last month that Inside Out and Politics England could face the chop as the BBC is forced to find further savings to plug a £125m hole in its finances caused by Covid-19.

Both programmes fall under BBC England and its regional news output, separate from BBC News, and are under review as the corporation looks to tackle its “significant financial challenges”.

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Filming for the latest series of Inside Out has been put on hold due to Covid-19 and BBC insiders fear the programme, which has 11 regional variants, will now not return at all – leading to some 30 job losses.

In a letter addressed to outgoing director general Tony Hall and his replacement Tim Davie, the 125-signatories expressed their concern over the future of the programmes.

“Never has in-depth investigative journalism, holding people to account and reflecting the regional diversity of England been more important,” the letter said.

“If these cuts were to become permanent they risk damaging English democracy by the failure to provide an important platform for those voices in our communities who need and want to be heard.

“Even when faced with financial pressures we urge you not to reduce regional programmes and to defend a vital element of public service broadcasting not available anywhere else.”

Among those to have signed the letter are journalists Gloria Hunniford, Angela Rippon and John Inverdale, as well as actor Christopher Eccleston and author Anthony Horowitz.

In recent years Inside Out has investigated deaths on Smart Motorways, the impact on families of so-called “county lines” drug dealing, and working practices at Sports Direct.

Wildlife presenter Chris Packham, who previously worked for Inside Out South, said: “Top quality impartial investigative journalism should remain a central part of the BBC’s mission and Inside Out has delivered this consistently for many years.

“And equally importantly it has played a keystone role in the BBC’s essential commitment to regional programming. To lose this would be very disappointing.”

Journalist Samira Ahmed, who works for the BBC and won an equal pay case against the corporation earlier this year, said: “I was proud to be part of an Inside Out investigation for BBC Leeds that dared to tackle difficult issues around race and exploitation in the Rotherham Grooming Scandal.

“Now more than ever we need honest, fearless journalism that is rooted in the long-term expertise and professionalism of BBC journalists who know their local communities.

“The BBC’s reputation is built on journalists like these.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “Local and regional broadcasting is in the BBC’s DNA and we’re especially proud of how our services have performed during recent months.

“The pandemic has forced us to prioritise our resources so we’ve cancelled the autumn series of Inside Out and are continuing with the single political programme for England through to the summer.

“The BBC does face very real financial challenges so naturally we are looking at what savings might be possible across the BBC.”

The full list of signatories:

  1. Michelle Ackerley           Presenter
  2. Samira Ahmed  Journalist/Broadcaster/Author
  3. Ayo Akinwolere Presenter / Broadcaster
  4. Marc Almond     Musician
  5. Imran Azam       Dentist
  6. Nick Baker          Naturalist & TV Presenter
  7. Mike Barton      Former Chief Constable, Durham Police
  8. Nikki Bedi           Presenter
  9. Rob Bell              Presenter
  10. Bev Bevan          Musician
  11. Jasmine Birtles  Journalist/Author/TV Presenter
  12. James Blake       CEO Youth Hostels Association
  13. Fern Britton      Presenter
  14. Chris Broad        Former England Cricketer
  15. Prof John Burn  Professor of Clinical Genetics
  16. Alastair Campbell           Journalist/Author/Broadcaster/Former Political Aide
  17. Lee Child (James Dover Grant CBE)          Author
  18. Sarah Ali Choudhury       Chef/ entrepreneur
  19. Terry Christian   TV Presenter/Author
  20. Jo Cooke             Hoarding Disorders Expert/Author
  21. Daisy May Cooper          This Country/Writer/Actress
  22. Paul Cooper       Actor
  23. Joe Crowley       Presenter
  24. Kevin Cummins Photographer
  25. Edwina Currie    Broadcaster /Former Politician
  26. Kit de Waal        Author
  27. Terry Deary        Author
  28. Les Dennis          Actor/Comedian/TV Presenter
  29. Mike Dilger        Ecologist/Ornithologist/Broadcaster
  30. Shaun Dooley    Actor
  31. Dr Oscar Duke   Doctor/Broadcaster
  32. Christopher Eccleston    Actor
  33. Kerrie Farrell     TV Presenter/Actress
  34. Sean Fletcher     TV Presenter/Broadcaster
  35. Shelagh Fogarty Broadcaster
  36. George Friend   Footballer, Capt Middlesbrough DC
  37. Stephen Fry       Actor/Writer/Presenter
  38. Prof Ben Garrod    Biologist/Broadcaster
  39. Dr Clare Gerada     Dr/Medical Director Practitioner Health
  40. JoAnne Good     Presenter/Actress
  41. Phillipa Gregory               Author
  42. Sir John Hall       Businessman /property developer
  43. Joanne Harris    Author
  44. Tim Healy           Actor
  45. Wayne Hemingway               Designer
  46. Sir Lenny Henry               Comedian/Actor/TV Presenter
  47. Melanie Hill       Actor
  48. Peter Hitchens Journalist/Author
  49. Anthony Horowitz           Author/Screenwriter
  50. Louise Hulland  TV/Radio Presenter/Author
  51. Conrad Humphreys        Round the world yachtsman/TV Presenter
  52. Gloria Hunniford     TV Presenter/Broadcaster
  53. John Inverdale   TV Presenter/Broadcaster
  54. Tommy Jessop   Actor/Social Activist/Peacemaker
  55. Jane Jessop        Founder, Blue Apple Theatre
  56. Sally Joynson     Chief Exec. Screen Yorkshire
  57. Soweto Kinch     Jazz musician
  58. Dr Turi King        Lead Geneticist King Richard III discovery
  59. Steven Knight    Screenwriter, Peaky Blinders
  60. Mark Knopfler   Musician
  61. Ray Laidlaw        Musician
  62. Paris Lees           Writer
  63. James Lewis       Antiques expert/TV presenter
  64. Ken Loach           Film Director
  65. Stuart Maconie     Broadcaster/Author
  66. Miriam Margolyes          Actor
  67. Brian May           Musician / Music Producer
  68. Paul Mayhew-Archer     Script writer/Producer
  69. Vicky McClure   Actor
  70. Paul McGann     Actor
  71. Debbie McGee  TV Personality and Radio host
  72. Steph McGovern             Journalist/TV Presenter
  73. Jimmy McGovern            Writer
  74. Liz McIvor           Historian/Author/TV Presenter
  75. Ian McMillan     Poet/Author/Playwright/Broadcaster
  76. Lula Mebrahtu  Musician/Presenter
  77. Kay Mellor         Actor/Scriptwriter/Director
  78. Dreda Say Mitchell          Author
  79. Blake Morrison Poet/Author
  80. David Morrissey              Actor / Filmmaker
  81. Kate Mosse            Author
  82. Chris Mullin       Author & former MP
  83. Rebecca Munro   Director of Fundraising & Comms RSPB
  84. Steve Nallon      Actor/Writer/Voice Artist
  85. Johnny Nelson   Broadcaster/former world champion boxer
  86. Kirsten O’Brien    TV & Radio presenter
  87. Mary-Ann Ochota           Anthropologist/Broadcaster
  88. Prof. Mark O’Shea          Herpetologist/Broadcaster
  89. Chris Packham   Naturalist/Author/TV Presenter
  90. Ben Parkinson        Military Veteran
  91. John Phibbs           Historian/Landscape Consultant
  92. Fiona Phillips     TV Presenter / Author
  93. Johny Pitts          Presenter / writer
  94. Tom Price           Actor/Broadcaster
  95. Mark Radcliffe   Author/Broadcaster
  96. Satnam Rana     Arts and Culture Correspondent
  97. Dame Esther Rantzen    Broadcaster/Journalist
  98. Adil Ray       Actor
  99. Angela Rippon       Broadcaster/Journalist
  100. Dr Ben Robinson             Archaeologist / TV Presenter
  101. Paul Rose           Broadcaster/Environmentalist/Explorer
  102. Jasvinder Sanghera         Campaigner for Gender Equality
  103. Miranda Sawyer              Journalist/Broadcaster
  104. Alexei Sayle        Comedian/Actor/Author
  105. Martin Shaw      Actor
  106. Wendy Shepherd            Gender Based Violence Training and Consultant
  107. Dr Ranj Singh     Doctor/TV Presenter/Author
  108. Lemn Sissay       Poet / Author / Chancellor of Manc. University
  109. Helen Skelton    TV presenter
  110. Sir Tim Smit               Founder Eden Project / Broadcaster
  111. Sue Smith           Broadcaster/former international footballer
  112. Dr Chris Smith   Doctor/Broadcaster
  113. Alison Steadman     Actor
  114. Richard Taylor-Jones      Filmmaker/Photographer/TV Presenter
  115. Stephen Tompkinson     Actor (Confirmed title)
  116. Rick Wakeman Musician/Music Producer/Broadcaster/Author
  117. Donald  Wales   Record Breaking Driver
  118. Nick Wallis         Presenter
  119. Dominic West    Actor
  120. Kevin Whately   Actor
  121. Anna Williamson             TV Presenter
  122. Shaun Williamson           Actor
  123. John Wood         Social Media Expert
  124. Yasmin Zaman   Guru
  125. Benjamin Zephaniah      Poet / Musician

Picture: Reuters/Neil Hall

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