The mothers of several knife crime victims are among former guests of the Victoria Derbyshire Show who are protesting the BBC’s decision to take it off air.
There has been an outpouring of support for the daily news and current affairs programme since it was revealed last week that it faced the axe under fresh cuts to the BBC News department.
A petition calling for the BBC to urgently reconsider its decision has been signed by more than 30,000 people in under a week.
The BBC confirmed it would take the Bafta-winning show off the air in fresh cuts to the news department as it battles to find £80m in savings by 2021/22.
Derbyshire and her colleagues said they were “devastated” by the news, which the presenter said she learned of through press reports.
Four mothers and one cousin of men killed in knife attacks in the UK have said the BBC Two show offered them a chance to change the media narrative, which tended to dismiss such incidents as gang violence.
They were among 15 women who appeared on the show in March last year.
In a joint letter to outgoing BBC director-general Tony Hall, shared online, they said the show was different because it was “interested in the impact of these killings and the utter devastation it has brought to our lives”.
“They didn’t ask us ‘was he in a gang, was he in a gang? but ‘what impact has this had on your life?’ It was a different approach and we valued it very much. Because we want to show what knife crime does to families,” they said.
The letter was signed by the mothers of knife crime victims Lamar Stewart, Alex Leonard, Jourdan Griffiths and Champion Ganda as well as the cousin of victim Dean Martindale.
Urging the BBC to reconsider its decision to axe the show, they added: “We recognise it as one of the very few – if not only – programme that is thoughtful in its approach and which treated us with the respect that we feel that we deserve.
“It would be a great loss to both us and the anti-knife crime causes we support if you were to pull it off the air. Please reconsider, Lord Hall.”
Three former footballers who appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire Show to speak out about the abuse they suffered as children at the hands of paedophile coach Barry Bennell have also backed the show.
They said more than 8,000 victims came forward following their TV interview with Derbyshire in November 2016.
“We – like thousands of others – chose to speak to Victoria because we trusted her and her programme to help tell our story and aid our campaign for justice,” the men said in a letter to Lord Hall, seen by the Guardian.
Bennell was jailed for 31 years in 2018 on 50 counts of child sexual abuse.
Among signatories to the petition to save the show is a mother who appeared on it in with her son in 2018 to talk about a rare form of autism that can result in violent behaviour.
“It was handled so carefully and brought attention to a profile of autism that is still needing more attention,” she wrote on the petition.
“Please do not take this show away. It educates and brings about empathy in a society that is becoming broken in my opinion.”
Other former guests, including a rape survivor, have taken to Twitter to call on the BBC to save the show.
This was on the @vicderbyshire show, talking about the serious issues in and around Family Court & Cafcass. The show must stay on air & carry on hi-lighting these issues that don’t get air time anywhere else! pic.twitter.com/140FKKeNfq
— Rachel Williams (@Dontlookback198) January 24, 2020
@VictoriaLIVE The only show to host a positive discussion for @56BlackMen & @vicderbyshire who gave her platform to 20 + black men on live TV is being canceled? How you gonna cancel the only women on TV genuin enough to have conversations like this?@BBCNews @BBCTwo #VictoriaLive pic.twitter.com/BDFGxDXgxT
— Cephas (@CephasWilliams) January 24, 2020
In its annual report last year, the BBC praised the programme for continuing to break a “wide range of stories” and investigate topics from the abortion pill to the mistreatment of male infertility to child suicides in a refugee camp.
A number of MPs have also written to Lord Hall to protest cuts to the show.
The BBC is planning further cuts to the news department which are expected to be revealed this week.
Derbyshire earns up to £219,000 a year at the BBC, according to annual salary figures for top-earning on-air talent published by the corporation.
The journalist has said her morning BBC show is a close rival to Newsnight in terms of TV audience figures and reaches millions online every month.
Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire