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MU statement on the BBC White Paper

The MU cautiously welcomes today’s statement on the BBC by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale MP.

Although we are disappointed that the BBC will still be losing a substantial amount of money by having to take responsibility for free licence fees for the over 75s, we are pleased that the licence fee will increase with inflation for the next charter period and that there is to be no top slicing.

We agree that measures to enshrine diversity in the charter are a good idea, as well as welcoming the separation of the charter review process from the political election cycle by increasing the charter period to eleven years.

The MU does, however, have concerns over the creation of a new unitary board for the BBC, which will replace the current method of governance. We are anxious that editorial decisions should remain the responsibility of the Director General and that the BBC should remain independent of government interference. It is also clear that Ofcom’s new role in overseeing the BBC’s governance will mean that additional resources are required in this area.

We do not agree with the Secretary of State’s assertion that the BBC is damaging to the commercial broadcasting sector and we have reservations over the new requirement for the BBC to open up all of its broadcasting to commercial bids, as we have serious doubts over the feasibility of this in less crowded areas such as radio.

We also have concerns over the new emphasis that the government has placed on the BBC’s ‘distinctiveness’. Although much of the BBC’s services are, indeed, distinct, we hope that this will not be used to limit what the BBC does.

The MU hopes that the Secretary of State’s promise that the ‘mid term review’, which will allow the government to ensure that the reforms are working properly, will not represent a mini charter review and that the BBC will be allowed to implement the changes announced over the next eleven years without the goal posts being moved again.

Published: 12/05/2016

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