Don't use review as excuse to beat BBC'

Dear: ‘ignore those calling for dismantling of BBC’

The NUJ has warned the Government not to use the recently announced review of the BBC “as a chance for revenge after the political embarrassment of the exposure of its false claims in the Iraq dossier”.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear urged the Government not to listen to those seeking to undermine BBC journalism to advance their own commercial interests.

Dear spoke in reaction to Media Secretary Tess Jowell’s announcement of the review of the BBC’s role as it approaches charter renewal in 2006. The news was broken on Jowell’s behalf by broadcasting minister Lord McIntosh at the Royal Television Society’s biennial Cambridge convention.

Dear called on the Government to use the opportunity of the review to place public service broadcasting at the centre of the UK’s media industry and to “pay no attention to those who clamour for the dismantling of the BBC in their own commercial interests”.

Rather, he said the review should be “a celebration of the skill, professionalism and innovation which have made the BBC one of the world’s leading broadcast organisations”.

“We welcome any review that is about building on the achievements of the BBC and ensuring we continue to have a quality publicly owned, publicly funded national broadcaster capable of groundbreaking journalism. We reject accusations that the BBC is too big, too dominant or not giving value for money.

“The Government should be wary of those voices in other parts of the media who, for their own commercial interests, seek to undermine not just BBC journalism but the very values that underpin the BBC. Values such as the concept of public good; of public service; of a media free from the domination of individual owners or subservience to the commercial interests of shareholders; the concept that public service values take precedence over the pure pursuit of audience share.” Dear questioned the motives of those who criticised the BBC’s funding and charter, asking whether they served the public interest, or their own commercial or political concerns.

“Scrapping the licence fee and forcing the BBC to adopt a more commercial stance would be against the public interest. The reality of deregulation in large parts of the media is that unprofitable programmes – like high-quality children’s, regional, minority, educational and current affairs programming – are starved of resources, marginalised or axed.”

Since the run-up to the Hutton Inquiry there has been concern at the corporation that the Government would use the charter renewal debate as a stick with which to beat the BBC. However, in addition to several attempts by the Media Secretary to allay fears so far, the speech delivered by Lord McIntosh claimed: “One certain outcome will be a strong BBC, independent of government.”

By Wale Azeez

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