Dear Editor, Gisela Stuart, MP for Edgbaston is right to question the BBC’s commitment to the Midlands (Birmingham Post, July 29).
Only a handful of our local representatives before her have dared to put their head above the parapet and question the publicly funded broadcaster about its regional strategy.
I would encourage all those with any hands on the reigns of Midlands’ power to question not just the BBC, but the whole regulatory regime that in the last 20 years has allowed Birmingham to be relegated from one of the UK’s premier broadcasting centres to one with virtually no facilities in which to make many strands of programming.
When the BBC closed the studios at Pebble Mill it said that it was because they were no longer required. Yet, with more channels than ever and more broadcasting hours to fill, it stands to reason that the BBC actually needs to commission more hours of programmes now than it did ten or 20 years ago, for both radio and television. Not from the Midlands though.
The Midlands is no longer represented by the BBC. We pay a licence fee to it but we are not to be seen on it.
We are invisible. Our buildings, people and voices are relegated to local news output and on the odd occasion when a drama is filmed here, our streets are passed off as being somewhere else.
The only time you see Birmingham on the BBC is on the weather map. We are paying in more ways than one for the BBC’s decision to invest in a massive broadcasting centre in Salford. When you pay a tax you have the right to challenge how it is being spent. The BBC needs to return to a more federal structure that sees licence payers’ money being spent by the regions, not just in them.
The BBC’s funding is up for review by the Department of Culture. We should make a case for a return of our money to our region. We should argue that commissioning should be devolved from London and we should point to our lack of facilities and the disappearance of Britain’s second largest city from our television and radio to make the case.
Only one question remains: Who is going to do this?