The BBC was accused of decimating its operations in the West Midlands as MPs demanded it think again about cuts which could cost the region 150 jobs.
Birmingham MP Steve McCabe (Lab Selly Oak) demanded to know why viewers in the region should have to pay the same licence fee as those in other parts of the country when the broadcaster is axing jobs here.
And MP Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) accused BBC Director General Mark Thompson of breaking the promise he made in 2004, when he declared: “Great cities such as Birmingham are central to our vision of a new BBC”.
The House of Commons passed a motion referring to cuts across the country which urged the broadcaster “to reconsider the scale and timing of its proposed cuts so as better to safeguard BBC local radio, regional television news and programmes”.
The BBC is to lose around 150 jobs based in Birmingham under plans which include moving The Factual Unit to Bristol as well as cutting posts from radio, current affairs and news operations.
Programmes that will no longer be made in Birmingham include Countryfile, Gardeners’ World and all other Royal Horticultural Society programmes, such as the Chelsea Flower Show, Coast, Hairy Bikers, See Hear and the Sky At Night.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr McCabe asked: “Is it fair that viewers in the West Midlands should have to pay the same licence fee as viewers in Cardiff, Bristol or Salford when the former get such a limited return for their investment compared with the latter?”
Valerie Vaz (Lab Walsall South) said: “What concerns me most as a West Midlands MP is the proposed decimation of BBC West Midlands, which has a unique 90-year history of both factual and drama programme making.”
London MP Harriet Harman, Labour’s Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, paid tribute to local broadcasting legend Ed Doolan.
She said: “I should like to add my view of the quality of local radio and to mention Ed Doolan of BBC West Midlands - he is not from my region and I am not trying to get on his programme; he is retired - who spoke out for the whole of the West Midlands and was as high a quality of broadcaster as can be found anywhere in the world.”
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Government could not tell the BBC what to do, but added: “It is wrong for the Government to compromise BBC independence, however, it is equally wrong for the BBC not to listen to, and take heed of, the views expressed by Honourable Members today.”
A BBC spokeswoman said: “The BBC Trust consultation on the BBC’s Delivering Quality First proposals is on-going and no decisions have been made.
“The BBC remains committed to Birmingham. There is a substantial BBC production core in England’s second city.
“BBC Drama sustains a home at the Drama Village to the successful daytime drama Doctors.
"Network radio’s The Archers and the Asian Network remain in Birmingham, and local and regional services including Midlands Today and BBC WM are all located there, alongside the English Regions HQ.”