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Future of the BBC — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:10 pm on 14th July 2015.

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 8:10 pm, 14th July 2015

My Lords, it makes me proud to be part of a group of such quality that is able to address such a major issue as the BBC in tweet-length speeches. It is an amazing achievement and noble Lords have all done brilliantly. I only hope that I match them, at least in brevity.

I feel that we have delivered a charge sheet, and I look forward to the Minister responding. It seems to have four main components. First, the BBC’s future is not safe in the Government’s hands, with the two raids in the last five years and the disregard for the process of the charter. Secondly, the charter has been fixed by the establishment of a cod-advisory committee and no guarantees that proper engagement will take place with licence fee payers. Thirdly, setting off the hounds of war on the BBC means that between now and 2017—time that we should be spending improving the BBC and helping it to get better—those of us who care about the BBC will have to put all our efforts into saving it.

Fourthly, and perhaps most seriously, the charge appears to be that the Government do not understand the fundamental point of having the BBC—the cornerstone of the sort of open and accountable society that we want in this country, the gold standard for other broadcasters, the fulcrum for a competition for quality in broadcasting, and the guarantee of impartiality and fair coverage throughout the United Kingdom. As we have heard, you have only to speak to anybody from outside the UK if you disbelieve any of those points.

I hope that the Minister has some words of reassurance for us, and I wonder particularly whether she can give us an advance of what will happen when the Green Paper is announced on Thursday. But, at the very least, she now knows that the way things are going at the moment is simply unacceptable.