The BBC is one of our most treasured institutions and the cornerstone of our creative industries. I therefore believe that its investment and scope must be maintained so that the BBC remains a great universal broadcaster that continues to inform, educate and entertain.
The Government's consultation shows that a massive majority of the public agree that the BBC is serving viewers and listeners well and do not want to see a reduction in its scope or remit. The majority of respondents also believe that the BBC's content is of a high quality and is distinctive from other broadcasters, which is a view shared by the House of Commons' Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
However, I am concerned that the Government wants to cut down the size of the BBC and I believe this ideological approach not only undermines the independence of the BBC, but ignores the results of the consultation. The Government has already confirmed the BBC will take on the cost of free TV licences for over-75s. Other proposals being considered include narrowing the BBC's remit to stop it from making some of its most popular shows. I believe the Government's actions are an assault on the principle of public service broadcasting.
The Clementi Review into Governance and Regulation of the BBC has recommended replacing the BBC Trust with a unitary Board with a majority of non-executive directors, half of whom would be appointed by the Government. However, recent reports suggest that the Government plans to directly appoint most members of the new body.
I believe the BBC does need reform and I accept changes are needed to how it is governed. However, both the Clementi report and the public consultation make clear that the independence of the BBC must be at the heart of its future. I therefore believe that the new unitary board must be underpinned by independent appointment processes, including for its Chair. It is clear that the independence of the BBC is at real risk under the current Government. I am also concerned that the Government wants to exert more political influence by shortening the Charter period. This must be fought all the way.
The Government says it will take the consultation responses into account and bring forward proposals for BBC Charter Review in a White Paper this spring. However, I am concerned by reports that this could be delayed. I believe it would be unacceptable to create more uncertainty over the future of the BBC. I am therefore pleased that my Shadow Frontbench colleagues are pressing the Government to get on with publishing its White Paper and have committed to oppose any attempts by the Government to dismantle or downgrade the BBC.
It is clear that the public overwhelmingly support the BBC and I can assure you that I will continue to do all I can to defend the independence of the BBC and to save our outstanding national broadcaster.