The government is currently considering the future of the BBC Charter and this has provoked strong views across the political spectrum and, indeed, many residents of Brent North have written to Mr Gardiner to express their concerns about the future of the BBC and to express their support for the national broadcaster. Mr Gardiner has set out his position below:
I share your appreciation for the BBC, which I believe plays a significant role in reaching out to and engaging with communities across the UK and abroad and is one of our greatest cultural institutions.
As you know, the Government has launched a consultation on the BBC’s Charter Review, which it states will explore possible change to the BBC’s mission, purpose and values; its scale and scope; its funding; and its governance. The consultation will run until 8 October 2015.
At a time of straitened national finances, every public body must make savings, including the BBC. I believe that the BBC does need reform and I accept changes are needed to the way it is governed. However, I want the BBC to continue to contribute to our cultural life while delivering value for money. I support its impartiality and believe in a BBC that provides something for everybody. I also believe the licence fee should be maintained.
The Coalition Government put the consultation process for BBC Charter renewal on hold until the general election. I was very concerned by reports, soon after the election, that the current Government intends to go to war with the BBC and the recent actions that the Government has taken certainly indicate that the BBC is under siege.
As I am sure you are aware, the Government has already confirmed 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 disappointing these changes were agreed without transparency or consultation. I am also concerned that the advisory panel appointed by the Government for the duration of the charter review process is made up of a number of people with direct financial interests in the BBC's commercial competitors.
During the last Parliament, as Chair of the House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the Culture Secretary John Whittingdale called for the BBC to reduce provision in areas where the market could offer those services. I am concerned he believes the BBC should not be producing popular entertainment like ‘Strictly’ but should only provide what the market would fail to deliver. This would lead to a system where some of the most popular BBC services were at risk.
We must await the outcome of the consultation on Charter review but I hope the Government will recognise that the BBC delivers high-quality services and programmes for everyone in the country. I believe the BBC must be adequately funded to continue as a major source of information, education and entertainment.