Former Welsh Secretary accuses BBC of being ‘enthusiast for devolution’ while forgetting England exists
A former Welsh Secretary has accused the BBC of being “an enthusiast for devolution” while at the same time forgetting that “England exists”.
Sir John Redwood made his comments during a Commons debate on the future of BBC local radio.
He told the house that there was engagement with English issues on BBC Radio as the corporation has a “distorted view of devolution”.
“I see behind this centralised planning at the BBC a distorted version of what our constitution should look like within the United Kingdom and a wish to impose that against the very clear majority wishes of people when they’ve ever been asked these subjects in referenda and elections,” he said.
“Because it’s not just that they wish to create phoney regional groupings instead of truly local radio, but they have a very distorted view of devolution. The BBC seems to be an enthusiast for devolution, to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
“But it doesn’t even know England exists. And it always wants lopsided devolution, one of the four important constituent parts of the United Kingdom is scarcely ever mentioned, it’s never suggested that it should have any powers or any right to self-government.
“There is no engagement with English issues on BBC Radio in the way that there’s a very clear engagement with Scottish issues or Welsh issues, or Northern Ireland issues, and this causes enormous resentment.”
The debate came after the BBC said that local radio stations in England would have a significant number of programmes cut under new plans.
All 39 networks in England will keep their current schedule from 6am to 2pm, but after that shows will be shared.
There will be one “all-England” show from 10pm across the week, and on Sunday afternoons.
Rhodri Talfan Davies, director of Nations, said at the time the cuts were announced: “These are ambitious and far-reaching proposals to grow the value we deliver to local audiences everywhere.
“The plans will help us connect with more people in more communities right across England – striking a better balance between our broadcast and online services – and ensuring we remain a cornerstone of local life for generations to come.”
But Labour shadow culture minister Stephanie Peacock said in the Commons today that there is agreement among MPs that “the BBC should review their decision to end local programming on weekdays after 2pm”.
She told the Commons: “It’s absolutely right that institutions like the BBC modernise in an increasingly digital world, keeping pace with global media giants.
“But, in doing so, we must protect the traditional yet vital services like the excellent local radio network that makes our BBC the world-leading service it is.”
She added: “There is agreement across this House that the BBC should review their decision to end local programming on weekdays after 2pm and secure the future of the local radio network.
“Given the importance local communities place on local BBC radio, and the fact it’s an intrinsic part of what their licence fee goes towards, there is concern that reducing local content will drive a wedge between the BBC and the public to its detriment.”
Elsewhere in the debate, Conservative North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker likened BBC local radio to a “cosy cardigan”, saying “you put it on, you immediately have some familiarity”.
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