During a Parliamentary Debate today (Tuesday 10th July) on The Future of the BBC, Parliamentary Rugby League Group Chairman Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland highlighted the Group’s campaign to protect BBC Local Radio sport coverage, and urged the BBC to take the further step to protect evening local broadcasts.
Welcoming the work done by BBC after executives met with Group Officers in March, Mulholland called on the BBC to go further to ensure that grassroots sports throughout the country would not lose out as a side-effect of remaining BBC radio cuts.
In November 2011, the Group held a meeting with BBC broadcasters, executives and then RFL Chairman Richard Lewis in Parliament to discuss the BBC’s proposals and sent in motion a campaign which ultimately caused BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten to instruct the Corporation to review its intitial proposals.
The Rugby League Group informed other Parliamentary Groups and worked closely with the RFL on a campaign which saw a record number of responses to the BBC’s consultations, nearly ninety percent of which came from rugby league supporters.
In May 2012, the BBC announced changes to their initial proposals, reducing the level of funding cuts from £15million to £8million with stations’ content reduced from £8.5million to £2.1million. Additionally, it announced that it would retain local radio programming during afternoons.
However, one of the key concerns raised by Mulholland during the debate is the potential loss of local evening programmes to be replaced by national broadcasts.
“The Rugby League Group recognise the challenges faced by the BBC at this time” said Mulholland, “but we must stress that by replacing local services between seven and ten o’clock will be hugely detrimental to one of the key elements of the BBC’s tenet, namely reflecting local diversity.
“It is good that the BBC has listened to the public and the concerns we raised last year and early this year, but it must go further. The loss of the evening timeslot will mean the loss of sports magazine shows, discussions or programmes about sport, as well as the significant loss of live commentary and a reduction in the number of games covered in all sorts of sports.
“We in the Group will keep working with the BBC, the RFL and other sports governing bodies to find a better solution.”
Comprising over 60 Members from both Houses of Parliament and all parties, the Parliamentary Rugby League Group works to support the sport of rugby league football and ensure the sport is represented throughout Westminster and Whitehall. More information is available on the Group’s website: www.apprlg.org.uk
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