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Future of the BBC — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:06 pm on 14th July 2015.

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Photo of Lord Patten Lord Patten Conservative 8:06 pm, 14th July 2015

I am concerned about crowding out. Any corporation with a lot of highly intelligent, sparky, creative and commercial types—I speak not just of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross—is likely to be under continuous pressure to expand into adjacent white spaces. Any corporation with critical strategic foresight, capacity and grip has this under watchful control.

Yet some reasonable complaints about perceived crowding out are coming from various quarters, whether the exalted or the struggling. The Chancellor of the Exchequer—surely in the exalted quarter—says that he has spotted a bit of empire building by the BBC website into “newspaper land” and away from its core mission. Of the more struggling, secondly, there are local and regional news-gatherers who sometimes complain of onerous competition bearing down on them from above, as do some in the internet new media start-up space.

Thirdly, UK independent producers would like to see more independently produced material going into the BBC and not vice versa. This was most vividly illustrated by the BBC announcement on 2 March of its new division, BBC Studios, to which the noble Viscount has just referred, which apparently aims—and it has been said by the director-general, so it must be true—at an eventually unfettered ability to offer productions to anyone, local or worldwide. That is a change that surely will then need change to the royal charter—the ultimate vehicle for the ultimate crowding out, for sure, of this proposal.

Therefore, I urge that any forthcoming review should seek better for the future to draw some boundaries and define what corporate strategy has not perhaps so clearly done of late.