The Government’s consultation on the BBC Charter Review closed on 8 October 2015 and over 190,000 people responded to it. The Government is currently analysing these responses and has said it will publish the results once this exercise is completed. I share your concern about the delay and hope it will not be too long before the results are published. I have already written to the Government to press them to take public opinion on the BBC Charter Review into account.
I share your appreciation for the BBC, which is the cornerstone of the UK’s creative industries and one of our greatest cultural institutions. I am proud to have the BBC in my constituency, where it employs many local people and develops world-class programming. I was therefore very concerned by reports soon after the election that the Government intends to go to war with the BBC. The recent actions taken by the Government certainly indicate that the BBC is at real risk.
I believe the investment and scope of the BBC must be maintained and the BBC must continue to be a great universal broadcaster that continues to inform, educate and entertain – and provide something for everyone.
The Government has confirmed that the BBC will take on the cost of free TV licences for over-75s. I am concerned these changes will lead to cuts in jobs, services and quality. It is also disappointing the Government has stated that the licence fee level is ‘not settled’. I believe the Government must not renege on the licence fee agreement and the licence fee should remain for the full period of the next Charter with a CPI inflation rise as promised.
Other proposals being considered by the Government include narrowing the BBC’s remit to stop it from making some of its most popular shows. I believe this would be a mistake and the Government should not try to prevent the BBC from making great entertainment programmes or force the BBC to reduce its news output.
I believe the Government’s actions are an assault on one of our most treasured institutions and upon the principle of public service broadcasting. I am also concerned the Government wants to shorten the Charter period to exert more political influence. This must be fought all the way because it is crucial the BBC remains independent of Government. I believe the Government’s attempts to cut down the BBC are not what the public wants, nor are they in the best interests of the country as they would jeopardise the future success of the UK creative industries and the wider economy.
We must await the outcome of the consultation on Charter review but I can assure you, as Labour’s Shadow Culture Minister, that I will oppose any attempts by the Government to diminish or dismantle the BBC.