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Governments unite to defend independence of the BBC
Ministers quiz BBC Nations Directors on charter renewal.
Ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have, together, pledged to work with the BBC Directors for each country so that it takes the opportunity offered by Charter Renewal to better represent the nations and communities of the UK.
The ministers agreed that the UK Government must honour its agreed obligation to the devolved nations on charter renewal, and that they will work together to ensure the process of BBC Charter renewal reflects and prioritises their shared interests.
Scotland’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, Northern Ireland Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín, and Welsh Deputy Minister for Culture Ken Skates met Rhys Evans, Head of Strategy and Digital, BBC Cymru Wales, Peter Johnston, Director, BBC Northern Ireland and Ken McQuarrie, Director, BBC Scotland and Phil Harrold, BBC Company Secretary to discuss the future of the BBC by video conference.
The Ministers made clear they expect more from the BBC on issues including representation, governance, commissioning of local content, funding and broadcasting in Gaelic, Welsh and Irish.
And they renewed their pledge to work together to:
- hold the UK Government and the BBC to account for the continued delivery of the public service broadcasting principles on which the BBC was founded.
- continue to ensure each devolved administration is guaranteed a formal, consultative role in developing reviewing and agreeing the new BBC Charter.
- ensure the UK Government and BBC provide for a truly representative service to all the communities, regions and nations of the UK.
- ensure the BBC’s clear obligation to provide services for all of its communities, is fully met in relation to both English and indigenous language broadcasting.
- push the BBC to take a more representative approach to commissioning, talent development and production from and for all the nations and regions.
After the meeting, Scotland’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:
“There is a growing consensus for substantial change to the way the BBC operates, as last week’s report from the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee shows.
“It’s time for the BBC to be empowered and resourced to be bold and creative for Scotland, and for all parts of these Islands.
“What is clear from our meeting is that there are many areas of consensus. Any new governance structure for the BBC must deliver improved accountability and transparency. With proper representation from the nations and regions, this can be easily achieved by capitalising on the skills and talents of the men and women of our nations.”
Wales’ Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates said:
“Since devolution we have seen a significant change in the way the nations and regions of the UK operate and as a result the needs of the people that live there, yet there has been no evaluation or assessment of how public service broadcasters have responded to these changes.
“We are all in agreement that a full review on the BBC’s public purposes is needed as a matter of urgency and should form the bases of a new Charter ‘contract’. We need a clear definition of what Wales needs and what the BBC has a duty to deliver in the decade ahead, both to audiences in Wales and about Wales to audiences across the UK and the rest of the world.
“We also fully expect that any new governance arrangements for the BBC will deliver improved accountability to all the nations and regions of the UK. It is vital that Wales and the other devolved nations are appropriately represented on whatever new governance structure is put in place. Any changes to the governance or regulatory arrangements of the BBC must fully reflect the reality of devolved government in the UK. The three nations have had trustees on every iteration of the BBC board structure since they were introduced in 1952. We would strongly oppose any move to do away with this geographic representation.”
DCAL Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: “I believe that the three jurisdictions have many areas of common interest and have jointly made a strong case for change to the BBC. For too long there has been underrepresentation in BBC broadcasting in the north of Ireland for those who consider themselves to be of Irish nationality and, just as importantly, those who speak Irish and who have the right to see and hear content in Irish. Furthermore, I agree with my counterparts in Scotland and Wales that the BBC in each area must commission more locally made and focussed content, and that the broadcaster must put in place more accountable and fit-for-purpose governance systems, which include adequate and fair representation from each jurisdiction.
“I hope that the BBC has taken on board our concerns, which reflect the views of the people we represent, and will take appropriate action to address them.”
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