I believe that the BBC’s investment and scope must be maintained so that it remains a great universal broadcaster that continues to inform, educate and entertain – and provide something for everyone.
The government’s consultation shows a massive majority amongst the public agree for a BBC that serves viewers and listeners well. The public do not want to see a reduction in the scope or remit of the BBC. The majority of respondents to the consultation also believe that the BBC’s content is of a high quality and is distinctive from other broadcasters. This is a view shared by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
I am concerned that the government wants to cut down the size of the BBC and narrow its remit. This ideologically driven approach not only undermines the independence of the BBC, but ignores the results of the public consultation. The government has already confirmed that the BBC will take on the cost of free TV licences for over-75s. Other proposals being considered include narrowing the BBC’s remit to stop it from making some of its most popular shows. The government’s actions are an assault on the principle of public service broadcasting.
The BBC does need reform and changes are needed to how it is governed. The Clementi Review into Governance and Regulation of the BBC recommended replacing the BBC Trust with a unitary Board with a majority of non-executive directors, half of whom would be appointed by the government. I believe that the Chair of a new board must be appointed through an independent process. The independence of the BBC is at real risk, not least because the government wants to shorten the Charter period to exert more political influence. It is crucial the BBC remains independent of government.
The government says it will take into account the views from its consultation and bring forward proposals for BBC Charter Review in a White Paper this spring. This could be delayed until after the EU referendum in June. The government has already created a cloud of uncertainty over the future of the BBC. I believe it would be unacceptable to create more uncertainty by delaying the White Paper further.
Labour is pressing the government to get on with publishing its White Paper and has committed to oppose any attempts by the government to dismantle or downgrade the BBC.
The public overwhelmingly support the BBC and I will continue to do all I can to save our outstanding national broadcaster.