Parliament: Media: MPs attack BBC's political coverage

MPS FROM all sides accused BBC chiefs of "dumbing down" its political coverage yesterday, urging them to reverse their decision to reduce parliamentary reports on radio.

They said the BBC had lost 3 million listeners since it moved Yesterday in Parliament from the mainstream of the Today programme on FM to Radio 4 long wave last year.

Opening a short debate on the issue, Denis MacShane, the Labour MP for Rotherham, said not a single new listener had been won for the Today programme since the change.

"I am asking the BBC today to reverse last year's disastrous decision. It's no use shunting us off to an obscure corner of the networks," he said.

David Davis, who chairs the Public Accounts Select Committee and is Tory MP for Haltemprice and Howden, warned of the dangers of "ghettoisation" of parliamentary coverage.

Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, is expected to address the matter at his annual meeting with the BBC's Board of Governors next month.

During his speech, Mr MacShane quoted a letter from the BBC chairman, Sir Christopher Bland, in which he acknowledged the loss of listeners for the Week in Westminster and Yesterday in Parliament had been much greater than expected and left an "unacceptable democratic deficit".

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