11 Saxholm Way Southampton SO16 7HB The Head of Programme Complaints BBC Broadcasting House London W1A 1AA 11th November 2004 Dear Sir/Madam I am writing to complain about your coverage of the North East of England, Regional Assembly, referendum. I wish to complain about two aspects of your coverage. (1) Youhave consistently and incorrectly reported that the 'No' referendum result spells the end of 'regionalisation'. For example, the Radio 4 6pm News on Friday stated that the 'assembly' would not now be created but then, ten minutes later, it said 'The East of England regional assembly has authorised the building of 1/2 a million new homes...'. !! Then again on the 6pm News on Monday you reported that John Prescott was announcing the end of the regionalisation programme. When in fact he was just announcing that there would be no more referenda on elected assemblies. These assemblies are up and running in all the English regions as your Friday broadcast indicates (planning control being just one power they have), the point is that they are unelected bodies. There must be a very poor level of research going on within the BBC to have missed this point. The reality is that over the last few years this government has progressively stripped all sorts of powers from local government and given them to the Regions and in Prescott's speech on Monday he indicated that this will continue regardless of the 'no' vote. There is a very good reason why he has to progress with all this (why, you should ask, is the process of taking powers from democratic institutions and giving them to an unelected QUANGO, still continuing?) and this is the basis of my second complaint. (2) Youhave totally failed to report or do any journalistic research into the claim that the regionalisation programme is, in fact, a result of EU legislation that has been forced onto the government. You have singly failed to report and/or investigate the claim by the 'no' campaigners that the regions are being foisted on us by EU legislation. The story of the EU and the regions is quite complicated, I grant you, but that should be a journalistic challenge. Where matters involve the E.U. our government tends to play down E.U. involvement. Indeed John Prescott himself tends to gloss over the fact that he himself was once an MEP. There is, however, plenty evidence available on the internet and quotes from EU politicians that highlight what is going on. I have included some below and there are some well researched publications available on the issue (e.g. 'A Democracy By-pass' by Richard North) In the run up to the referendum on the EU Constitution it is very important that you, the BBC, shakes off what looks to be an obvious pro-EU stance. Your credibility on this issue is very low. The debate will be complex and allegations and smears (on both sides I am sure) will have to be investigated and questioned by well briefed journalists. You still allow pro-EU politicians to get away with total rubbish. For example, their dismissal of allegations that the EU makes rules about how much fruit can bend (so-called Euro 'myths') can be sorted out with two minutes on the Google search engine (look here for the EU Regulation defining how much cucumbers are allowed to bend http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/consleg/pdf/1988/en_1988R1677_do_001.pdf Section II, B, (I), ). Similarly Tony Blair's claim that 'three million jobs depend on membership of the EU' (as he did on election day on last June on prime time BBC News) is obviously untrue. Even Neil Kinnock on the BBC 'Today' program admitted that not one job would be lost if we left the EU, yet government ministers are never questioned by your journalists when they repeat that mantra. Yours faithfully Michael Wigley Background The EU forced John Major to set up the first regional structures by make structural funding Region based . Regulation 1260/1999 'Structural Funds' (http://europa.eu.int/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexapi!prod!CELEXnumdoc&lg=EN&n umdoc=31999R1260&model=guichett ) details this process (this was in 1999). Article 198 of the Maastricht treaty (http://europa.eu.int/en/record/mt/title2.html) provided the basis of the EU's regionalisation policy. It introduced the Committee of the Regions and specified how representatives from each region across the EU would sit on that committee (and our current Regional Assemblies send these now). The geographical layout of the regions was defined by Eurostat maps often referred to as 'NUTS' (“Nomenclature Des Unités Territoriales Statistiques" ). http://europa.eu.int/comm/eurostat/ramon/nuts/overview_maps_en.cfm?list=nuts. The individual member countries are NUTS 0 regions and the next subdivision describes the NUTS 1 regions. (which are the UK regions). These maps were produced in March 1999 (the first versions appeared in 1996).
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