Barry Gardiner

Working Hard for Brent North

Future of the BBC

The government have now published the results of the consultation on the BBC Charter Review, which received 192,000 responses. Many Brent North residents have written in expressing their real concern about the future of the BBC under this government. Barry has set out his position below:

The BBC is one 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 - and provide something for everyone.

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 narrow its remit. I believe 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. I believe that 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. I believe that all organisations including the BBC need periodic reform But I consider that any changes to how the BBC is governed should see the Chair of a new board appointed through an independent process. I am concerned 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. This must be fought all the way because 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. However, I am concerned by reports which suggest 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 and I believe it would be unacceptable to create more uncertainty by delaying the White Paper further. 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 BBC.

It is clear that the public overwhelmingly support the BBC and I can assure you I will continue to do all I can to save our outstanding national broadcaster.

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