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Future of the BBC — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:07 pm on 14th July 2015.

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Photo of Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Media and the Creative Industries) 8:07 pm, 14th July 2015

My Lords:

The BBC, because of its success … is being constantly attacked … in Parliament … in the press, and the attack is on new and dangerous lines. The aim is suppression. When suppression has been achieved, control may be attempted, but suppression is the immediate objective”.

Those are not my words but those of EM Forster in 1931. So it was ever thus. But those on the attack then did not succeed and they must not succeed in 2015.

I am the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Mexico, a country where the federal Government have just given the go-ahead for a new national TV network—it is the BBC that they wish to emulate and it is our TV content and formats they wish to purchase. In a study on soft power published today, the UK is named as global leader and the BBC is cited as central to this. I am therefore bemused by this Government being on the warpath against what is a cornerstone, as the noble Lord, Lord Grade, said, of the UK’s creative industries—the fastest-growing sector of the economy—and such a successful ambassador and disseminator of what we believe in across this troubled world.

Then there is the matter of scope and scale. Lord Reith set the rules and they were to inform, educate and entertain. How can the licence fee be justified if the BBC is not allowed to have fun?

The noble Lord, Lord Fowler, made a point about bias. When I sat on his Select Committee, we had Rupert Murdoch as a witness and he told us that he wished Sky News was more like Fox News. Well, it is not, and that is because of the BBC and because of the impartiality of the BBC.

Does the Minister not agree that the BBC is one of this country’s greatest achievements, and can she assure us that this Government will listen to the licence fee payer and what they want, and not to the eight random advisers hand-picked by the Secretary of State?