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Future of the BBC — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:45 pm on 14th July 2015.

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Photo of The Bishop of Norwich The Bishop of Norwich Bishop 7:45 pm, 14th July 2015

My Lords, it seems odd that a Government so keen to promote British values in our schools appear intent on reducing the capacity of a world-renowned British institution. The BBC is increasingly referred to as though it were part of the public sector. It is not. It is an organisation financed not from the public purse but by those who use it. The fact that many of them are also taxpayers is no more relevant than the fact that those who pay their energy bills are also taxpayers. Perhaps the winter fuel allowance will now be transferred to the energy companies. The logic seems impeccable given the precedent established last week.

The BBC has plenty of the faults to be found in all large institutions, including government departments. It has a capacity to waste money on IT projects, but no more so than successive Governments. It can be complacent and bureaucratic, but so can the Church of England and the trade unions. What seems to irritate its opponents is its very success. If it inhibits commercial opportunities, it is only because the BBC is giving licence fee payers what they want.The BBC’s online presence was reduced by 25% following the last charter renewal. Now it seems that the popularity of BBC News online is its very undoing. In what other area of national life is doing something well so disliked? I believe there has been much greater animus against the BBC in successive Governments than there is in the population at large, and it is disturbing that the leadership of the BBC should have been so acquiescent earlier this month for fear of something worse, but I do not blame them.

There need to be changes in the BBC, not least in relation to the BBC Trust, which is now seen as a failed experiment, but what has been revealed of the direction of travel thus far gives little confidence that the BBC will emerge the stronger from it.