“It’s never been more important to listen to people and the local issues which affect them,” says the Director of BBC England as she launches a new weekly politics show in the South West.
Local stories have the power to shape the national picture and that was proved like never before in the 2019 General Election, believes Helen Thomas, who says Politics South West will “put local democracy at the top of the agenda“.
Politics South West is a new look for the BBC’s regional political programming that will reinforce BBC England’s commitment to local politics. The half-hour programme will be shown on BBC One immediately after the Andrew Marr Show at 10am on Sundays and will be more than a translation of Westminster politics.
“What was clear from the general election is that while people are interested in Brexit, they’re also passionate about local issues,” Mrs Thomas said.
Guests each week will include local politicians, industry leaders and experts. “But it’s people who will be at the heart of this programme. What is firing up the audience, what are their concerns and what stories do they want to hear about how local services are delivered?” Ms Thomas said.
Over time, the programme will be exploiting as many digital tools as possible to engage the audience in conversations and offer longer form interviews and debates on platforms such as BBC iPlayer.
Politics South West’s first programme will air this Sunday (12 January). It will be conversational, fresh looking, exciting, fast-paced and accessible, using humour and critical friendliness. The aim is to make sure the programme also covers the non-Westminster politics that happen in the villages, towns and cities across England.
“The audience is well served by coverage of national politics on the BBC - but it’s our job to make sure we delve into what is happening on the ground in the South West, discussing issues that really matter to local viewers," Ms Thomas said.
“It will be packed full of interesting interviews, stories from the area and have a lightness of touch to make sure it’s engaging as many people as possible.”
The new programme will feature the best local talent: from local radio political journalists to regional political editors and the growing network of local democracy reporters.
Tim Burke, Editor of Politics England, said: “We should be a champion of truly local politics that affects so much of our audience and the population in general every day.
“The programme should be cheeky without being rude, with penetrating but polite interviews and segments which engage in new, refreshing and fun ways.
“At the same time we should challenge the audience and broaden understanding of how local politics functions.”