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Fresh BBC row kicks off after the Today programme ‘refuses’ to discuss Labour policy

Today programme studio
Kerry-anne Mendoza

The BBC is in hot water after excluding the launch of a popular new Labour Party policy from discussion on the Today programme. In a rare public criticism, the Labour press team took to social media to criticise the BBC‘s decision to overlook the policy.

The policy

The Labour Party plans to reverse the bus service cuts made by Conservative-led governments since 2010. Analysis by the Campaign for Better Transport reveals that over 3,000 bus routes have been withdrawn, altered, or cut back in that time. Labour has promised £1.3bn of funding to re-establish these routes. This comes as part of a broader move by Labour to restore and expand Britain’s public transport networks.

Writing for the Times‘s Red Box, shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald states:

Our high streets, our small businesses and our jobs depend on buses. They allow our towns and cities to flourish and connect people living in rural areas. But nine years of austerity have left buses in crisis, with the Conservatives cutting funding by £645 million a year in real terms since 2010.

For many people, buses are the only form of public transport they can afford or the only kind anywhere near their home or workplace.…

A warm reception

The announcement met with approval across the media. Even conservative and centrist commentators were positive about the policy news coming from the left:

There was also lots of buzz about the policy on social media. The public and campaigners seem to be engaging with the proposed solution to the national bus crisis.

The BBC row

The mis-step by the Today programme appears at odds with other sections of the BBC. BBC News online featured the story in the politics section, and BBC News political editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted that it was one of the day’s top stories to watch.

https://twitter.com/bbclaurak/status/1121337012735311872

So why would Today, BBC Radio 4‘s flagship morning politics programme, disagree?

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald told The Canary:

Buses are the most popular form of public transport, with more than twice as many people travelling by bus than by train. For many, they are the only available public transport. Yet bus services are ignored by much of the national media. This is because our media is London-centric and contains too few working class voices, so fails to appreciate how important and how poor bus services are across the country.

The Canary contacted the BBC to request a justification for the decision. The BBC press office replied:

The BBC has covered the story.

Those six short words seem a distinctly inadequate response. Millions of people around the country are battling an underfunded, austerity-ravaged transport system. But their London-focused public broadcaster is behaving like it couldn’t care less.

Featured image via BBC / Ulster University / Twitter

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  • Show Comments
    1. Does anyone still listen to The Today Program? Listening to some minor council official getting a verbal kicking over a non story followed by a government minister whose policies have killed 30,000 getting an easy ride, just made it impossible to listen to.

      Our local BBC station does a much better job of easing us into the day and I’ll get my news online thanks.

    2. As part of their policy to expand bus services Labour should consider putting conductors back on buses outside London which would immediately create many thousands of jobs. This would free-up the drivers to drive, enabling the buses to run closer to schedule because the driver won’t be doing both jobs.

      As well as improving quality of life for passengers who could actually go places again, the job creation potential for bus drivers and mechanics is exciting. Here in small town East Anglia we don’t even have Sunday buses. Strange! We had them eighty years ago, so as capitalism progresses society regresses.

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