When the Culture Secretary gave his statement on the future of the BBC, I spoke for England. I asked if we could have a BBC England to match BBC Scotland? I pointed out that many of us do not want a BBC seeking to split up our country and trying to foster artificial senses of regional identity. As we move towards more England only decision making at Westminster, we need a BBC England news to cover it.
I will submit further evidence to the review to show the need for BBC England. My area is lumped into BBC South, so we see a lot of news stories about seaside resorts all along the south coast that have nothing to do with inland Wokingham. Meanwhile, we have to switch to BBC London to see things going on 20 miles down the road that are of more relevance to us. My part of the world is variously called Thames Valley, Rest of the south east, the south, London and the south east, the home counties, the three counties (Bucks,Berks and Oxon), and mid Berkshire. No wonder there is no great sense of regional loyalty, when there are so many differing boundaries and descriptions, and when none of these places have sports teams, Councils or representative figures to speak for them. There is no Head of the Thames Valley (apart from the Chief Constable)or First Minister of the south – I am pleased to say – and no Mayor of the three counties or Lord Lieutenant of the Home Counties.
In my area people relate to the UK, to England, and to Wokingham Borough or West Berkshire. There is also a loyalty to the royal county even though it has no Council. The County does have sports teams, ceremonial events and various dignitaries and its own historic sense of identity.
The BBC needs to work with the senses of identity that people feel. England is increasingly aware of itself and of its needs and abilities. The BBC is not even struggling to catch up. The BBC seems determined to cling to old twentieth century ideas of balkanising England and helping the EU split us into regions which mean nothing to us.