The House of Lords communications committee on BBC charter renewal

Ritchie Cogan
Ritchie Cogan 1st October 2015

The panel: (left to right) Simon Murphy, Tracy McVeigh, Tim Singleton, Sara Pantuliano, Patrick Gathara, Halima Begum and Mark Galloway.

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Executive Summary

1. IBT’s primary interest is in the existing global purpose of the BBC, To bring the UK to the world and the world to the UK.  Television plays a vital role in engaging us with the wider world because, despite the growth of the internet, it remains the main source of information for people in the UK about what is happening in the world.

2. IBT supports the public purposes as a framework for the BBC to deliver its mission: they help focus the BBC strategically and provide a basis upon which to analyse the BBC’s performance.

3. IBT’s most recent research demonstrates that while international content is in decline on the other main UK channels, the BBC’s delivery of it plays a hugely important role in engaging us with the wider world.

4. While we would like to see both aspects of the existing global purpose retained in the next Charter, IBT would recommend that there should be a separation of the two aspects of this purpose because the existing purpose is confusing; it involves two completely different tasks and two completely different audiences which are fulfilled by different commissioning teams within the BBC.

5. We warmly welcome the BBC Trust’s work in creating a framework to assess delivery of the BBC’s mission which has included consultation with the licence fee payers who fund the BBC.

6. It is our view that the BBC needs to remain of a scale to be able to effectively deliver its mission. IBT is concerned that if the BBC’s income, currently provided by the licence fee, is undermined further beyond the existing cuts it is seeing, that it will not be able to produce a sufficient diversity of such high quality content which engages us as a nation, for a mass audience across a range of platforms and genres, bringing us together and helping to create a national identity.

7. We question the suggestion in the DCMS Green Paper that audiences might be better served by a more narrowly-focused BBC.

8. IBT believes that market failure does not simply refer to whether or not there are other providers in the marketplace; it refers to a situation where regardless of the number of providers in the market, there isn’t a wide range of high quality, diverse and informative programming, especially in genres which may not be considered commercially attractive, such as content which tells us about the wider world.

9. While it can be argued that there is international content which tells us about the wider world on commercial channels and platforms, it is less reliably accurate, and it is not commissioned with public interest as its motivation, therefore its public value is often less apparent than that produced by the BBC.

10. If the BBC does not provide a universal service with a diverse range of content this would increase the democratic divide so that only those who are able or prepared to pay for high quality content about the wider world will do so.

11. IBT opposes the process whereby the licence fee settlements of December 2010 and July 2015 which were conducted hastily, without any public or Parliamentary scrutiny. Both settlements have diverted money from BBC budgets, and have undermined the BBC’s independence from government and its ability to deliver its mission.

12. IBT opposes the move to spend licence fee income on projects which do not directly support the delivery of the BBC’s public purposes. IBT therefore urges that, whatever the outcome of this Charter Review, there should be no more top slicing of the licence fee as part of this Charter Review.

13. IBT believes that the licence fee is the best way to fund the BBC for the coming Charter period although it should include catch up TV. We would welcome further research to be conducted by DCMS on the household fee as a model to fund the BBC.

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