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Future of the BBC — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:48 pm on 14th July 2015.

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Photo of Lord Patten of Barnes Lord Patten of Barnes Conservative 7:48 pm, 14th July 2015

I declare a past interest: for three years, I was chairman of the BBC Trust, to which reference has just been made. I think the BBC is the greatest public service broadcaster in the world. It is not without its faults, and I wish I felt confident that its future was safe in the hands of the present Administration. I do not think that the Prime Minister or the Chancellor want to have as part of their legacy that they began the destruction of this great broadcaster, but I wish I could say the same about my confidence in some of their colleagues and I wish I had a little more confidence in some the adolescent ideologues who dominate so much of this debate with the encouragement of News International and Mr Murdoch’s empire.

The deal that was done last week was appalling—trying to turn the BBC into a branch office of the Department for Work and Pensions is completely ridiculous—and it has left the BBC with £400 million less each year over the next few years. There is no way in which this can be found by cutting the amount spent on digital broadcasting. That is impossible. It will have to be found by cutting services and getting out of sports. It is very important that when that happens the Government recognise that it is not the BBC’s fault, it is their fault that that is happening.

I wish I could feel a bit more confident about what is going to happen in future. The Secretary of State has appointed a team of assistant gravediggers, presumably to help him to bury the BBC that we love. The only surprise is that, despite the collection of vested interests to which my noble friend Lord Fowler referred, Mr Murdoch is not actually on the committee. That would have made the future complete.

I very much hope that we will be able to come back to this debate again and again in future. The BBC is a great international and British institution, and we should defend it à l’outrance.