The new director-general of the BBC has said the corporation’s “local and regional footprint” is “a critical part of our future”.
The broadcaster is planning a shake-up of regional TV news and local radio in England, axing 450 jobs in a bid to save £25 million by April 2022.
BBC changes will see one instead of two presenters fronting 6.30pm regional TV news bulletins.
Inside Out, the regional current affairs magazine show made in 11 different regions, will be axed and replaced with a new investigative journalism programme from six hubs.
However, Tim Davie has told MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee he hopes to see “growth and investment” in regional TV and radio.
He said: “It’s utterly appropriate and not contradictory to be able to say ‘Look, I think this is incredibly important, we need to think about even how we invest money in the localities, the regions, but that does not mean we can’t look for efficiency on delivering provision’.
“In terms of the proposals, I looked at them quite seriously when I came in, the truth is very simply when it comes to local radio stations, when it comes to our TV news, when it comes to our political programming, we are maintaining our provision to audiences.
“We are going to do it with slightly less people, there is going to be that, debate do we have two people presenting versus one, and I’ve been involved in many of these debates over my career but I am totally focused on audience value.”
Davie said the local news at 6.30pm is “the strongest programme we have in the UK”, adding: “We need to be investing in that, supporting it.”
Asked specifically about Inside Out, he said: “Inside Out has got an amazing history, it’s incredibly important to the BBC in terms of what it’s done.”
He added: “If you look at audience numbers, for some of that reporting it deserves a wider audience, my view is actually there is a very strong case for moving from 11 hubs to six hubs.”
He also said there is a “case for concentrating our current affairs resources on slightly less hours to get more audience, bigger investigations”.
Davie denied the BBC was axing all of its investigative reporting resources and said: “We have an investigative reporting fund that could be drawn down to give these hubs more impact so watch this space, I want to make sure these six regional hubs have enough resources, I think if I’m blunt it’s the area of the plan where I want to keep looking at.
“I do not want to see a step backwards on the number of people getting and seeing current affairs from the BBC and I don’t apologise for rebranding Inside Out, generating six powerful hubs, I think we should do that and I think there is areas like Birmingham where we go ‘Ok that is going to be a strong Midlands hub’.
“I do think it’s a fair question, it’s one I am asking, about making sure those teams have enough financial resources to go after the story and that is something I am reviewing.”