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LEADER - BBC MUST ENGAGE WITH COMMUNITIES

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Local media for local people falls by the wayside...
Local media for local people falls by the wayside

The BBC's junking of its commitment to extending local media is just the latest failure of the broadcasting behemoth to get to grips with local government's patch.

The corporation's grasp of local government is abysmal. While Local Government Association chairman Lord Bruce-Lockhart secures a reasonable amount of airtime on the flagship Today programme, the presenters are wincingly ignorant of local government's role, epitomised by John Humphrys blurting out 'the er bins or something' as he flailed around desperately trying to remember something local government does.

Question time makes a point of touring the country, but does it ever invite a local political leader to join the panel? Perhaps they fear they would be unable to soar to the same intellectual heights as recent guest Richard Madeley.

But we can't expect too much from presenter David Dimbleby. This is the man whose annual display of

ennui during the BBC's local election coverage could barely be more obvious if he put his feet on the table and went to sleep. One year, when a studio guest started to delve too deep, Mr Dimbleby interjected 'reading it all out would be too boring'.

So no surprise then that the BBC's warm words about developing its local news coverage have been quickly

forgotten now it has got the charter renewal in the bag.

Promises of local news coverage in up to 60 cities have got no further than one pilot study, while talk of 'building new civic avenues and town squares' has been exposed as empty rhetoric.

As a taxpayer-funded corporation, the BBC should regard engaging with local communities as an integral part of its philosophy. It could be an enormously powerful force in helping build a sense of community and understanding in our increasingly diverse and complex cities and towns.

And, crucially, it could do so much more to engage communities with local democracy and build

understanding for local political institutions serving local people.

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