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Future of the BBC — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:54 pm on 14th July 2015.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley of Knighton Lord Berkeley of Knighton Crossbench 7:54 pm, 14th July 2015

My Lords, the BBC is subjecting itself to the most stringent housekeeping. Outrageous pay-offs have stopped. Middle and upper management, for many years top-heavy, have been pruned, while on the shop floor as it were—in the studios—the programme makers, engineers, producers and presenters have been pushed to the brink by cuts. Travel for a programme is seldom possible and contributors are offered a pittance or nothing. Imagine the consequences of further amplification of this trend: output and quality will suffer.

Are the Government aware of the very considerable savings that have already been made by the corporation, as audited by the National Audit Office? As an example, I mentioned recently that I had accepted a cut of one-third of my fee for the programme that I contribute to Radio 3. I must apologise to noble Lords that this came out, and was taken up by the press, as a cut to one-third rather than by one-third. On hearing this, a colleague suggested that I should declare a disinterest rather than an interest.

However, I remain passionately interested in and devoted to the BBC for the way in which it enriches our lives. Last Saturday, having watched Wimbledon, I turned to Radio 3 to catch, from Manchester, a recording of the first performance of a major new piece by a highly gifted young composer and clarinettist, Mark Simpson, who burst on to the scene when he won the BBC Young Musician of the Year. This is the essence of public service broadcasting and it comes at a relatively cheap price. Will the Minister confirm that the Government do not wish to endanger that and other invaluable work such as the Proms, which are about to start? The Government are coming perilously close. They should not throw out the baby with the bath-water while it is, in fact, in the process of being changed.