An MP has said he wants to see the decision to axe Oxford’s regional TV news programme reversed as soon as possible.

From November, South Today will merge with the regional programme from Southampton.

The corporation needs to save an additional £285 million after the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced the licence fee will be frozen for the next two years.

The local bulletins, currently presented by Geraldine Peers and Jerome Sale, have been a mainstay on TV schedules since 2000.

Conservative MP for Witney and West Oxfordshire Robert Courts said the government was right to freeze the TV licence fee.

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And he said the merging of programming reflects poor budgeting at the BBC. 

He said: "Local news services are important to local communities and my view is that they should be prioritised by the BBC. Sadly the BBC leadership has taken a different view and, while the BBC is operationally independent, I join with those asking them to reconsider."

He added: "It is right that the Government took the decision to freeze the licence fee to help households with the cost of living during this difficult time.

"The BBC will still receive £23 billion over the course of this settlement period, which is clearly more than enough funding to operate high-quality local news services."

He said the BBC must "manage its budget responsibly and, rather than looking for yet more money from hard-working licence fee payers, I would ask them to re-evaluate the corporation's priorities".

"Can a public service broadcaster reasonably justify paying salaries of over £1 million a year to the likes of Gary Lineker while failing to maintain an Oxfordshire bulletin?"

The Oxford programme employs 18 staff and is broadcast on weekdays from its Summertown studios.

In an email to staff, BBC Nations director Rhodri Talfan Davies said the decision was made “against the backdrop of a licence fee settlement that is frozen over the next two years”.

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A BBC spokesperson said: “We’re proud of our Oxford service, which has served viewers well and produced some great journalism.

"Our local news service has played an incredibly important and dedicated role during the coronavirus pandemic, and I am saddened to see it is now facing withdrawal."

But she added: "We need to make tough choices as we change our services in line with audience needs. The Oxford service is one of our lowest performing programmes and viewers already get news broadcast from Southampton at other times of the day.

"We’ll maintain a presence in Oxford.”