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My Lords, I am speaking in this debate because I want to stand up and be counted as someone who feels that the BBC is a crucially important organisation, not just within this country but internationally. I remember, too many years ago, my father assembling with me a small crystal set. I put my earphones on when I went to bed and, although unfortunately it did not get Radio Luxembourg at the time, it got the Home Service and the Light Service— just. From that point, sad to say, as time went on I became an addict to the “Today” programme, both as it was then and later.
As the right reverend Prelate said, the sad and ironic situation is that the BBC has become the victim of its own success. As a parliamentarian, but also as a citizen, I rely hugely on its website, particularly the news website; it is a fantastic resource, nationally and internationally. The World Service, as well as the BBC’s reputation for its other services, really increases the soft power of this country.
The over-75 smash and grab, as it has been described, was something that I found quite shocking. It is a reaction by the Government in Treasury management that should never have happened and is a very bad omen for the future. The BBC is a great institution. It is of great service to us in the UK but is also one of the greatest gifts from the UK to world society.