Letter from my MP about attack on BBC.
As you know, I did write to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport recently about the outcome of the Government’s consultation on BBC Charter Review and I now enclose, for your information, a copy of the reply that I have received. –
The BBC is one of our most treasured institutions and the cornerstone of our creative industries. I therefore believe that its investment and scope must be maintained so that the BBC remains a great universal broadcaster that continues to inform, educate and entertain.
As you are aware, the Government’s consultation shows that a massive majority of the public agree that the BBC is serving viewers and listeners well and do not want to see a reduction in its scope or remit. The majority of respondents also believe that the BBC’s content is of a high quality and is
distinctive from other broadcasters, which is a view shared by the House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
However, I am concerned that the Government wants to cut down the size of the BBC and I believe this ideological approach not only undermines the independence of the BBC, but ignores the results of the consultation. The Government has already confirmed 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. I believe the Government’s actions are an assault on the principle of public service broadcasting.
As you may know, the Clementi Review into Governance and Regulation of the BBC has 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. However, recent reports suggest that the Government plans to directly appoint most members of the new body.
I believe the BBC does need reform and I accept changes are needed to how it is governed. However, both the Clementi report and the public consultation make clear that the independence of the BBC must be at the heart of its future. I therefore believe that the new unitary board must be underpinned by independent appointment processes, including for its Chair. It is clear that the
independence of the BBC is at real risk under the current Government. I am also concerned that the Government wants to exert more political influence by shortening the Charter period. This must be fought all the way.
The Government says it will take the consultation responses into account and bring fon/vard proposals for BBC Charter Review in a White Paper this spring.
However, I am concerned by reports that this could be delayed. I believe it would be unacceptable to create more uncertainty over the future of the BBC. I am therefore pleased that my Shadow Frontbench colleagues are pressing the Government to get on with publishing its White Paper and have committed to oppose any attempts by the Government to dismantle or downgrade the
Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views. It is clear that the public oven/vhelmingly support the BBC and I can assure you that I will continue to do all I can to defend the independence of the BBC and to save our outstanding national broadcaster.
Accompanying letter from Vaizey.
Thank you for your correspondence on behalf of a number of your constituents about the
future of the BBC. I am replying as the Minister responsible for this policy area. I am sorry
that the Department has no record of ever having received your original letter of 6 January.
I believe that the BBC is a great national institution, which makes a valuable contribution
to many people’s lives as the nation’s broadcaster. It is a maker of high quality content,
reaching 97 per cent of the population on a weekly basis and many millions more
overseas through the provision of its international services.
The BBC Charter Review is the process through which the Government can consider all
aspects of the BBC. For example, decisions about BBC funding, including the funding
model and the level of the licence fee, pending considerations of scale and scope, will be
taken through the open and consultative process of Charter Review. This gives the
opportunity to review the BBC’s service and the overarching public purposes it is required
to deliver. It is right, given the wide-reaching changes to media over the last ten years,
that we should ask some forthright questions about how the BBC operates and how it is
funded. Over the next year we will take the views of the industry and the public on what
the BBC should and should not do.
The Government’s BBC Charter Review Public Consultation closed on 8 October. The
consultation set out 19 different questions. Over 190,000 people responded to the
consultation which is the second largest response to any Government consultation.
The Government takes the responses extremely seriously and, as you are aware,
published a summary of the consultation responses on the 1 March. The results from the
consultation, along with other evidence commissioned by the Department, will be used to
inform the Government’s policies for the BBC which will be published in a White Paper.
Your constituents may be interested to know that the BBC Trust also ran a series of
public engagement seminars across the country in the autumn.
Further details, including how to view the seminars online, are available here:
l hope that this is helpful.
Ed Vaizey MP
Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy
Department for Culture, Media & Sport