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IPPR - Future of the BBC: ‘Auntie’ is valued but needs to improve service amid Charter Review, say leading media figures

IPPR have published a collection of essays from leading media commentators on the future of the BBC, amid the Charter Review into the licence fee and remit of the public service broadcaster.
Notable experts have suggested the BBC Trust be abolished and replaced with regulation by Ofcom or a new ‘OfBeeb’.
There is general agreement that the BBC is a valued and trusted broadcaster that is doing a lot right, and that the licence fee should be retained.
However there are concerns that the BBC is insufficiently distinctive, particularly in peak times, relying on endless repeats and recommissioned hardy-annuals.
Several contributors argue that the Government’s view, in their White Paper, about the extent to which the BBC crowds out commercial broadcasters is exaggerated. But there is some crowding-out, particularly BBC radio 1 and 2.
A summary of the key points discussed by contributors:
• Tessa Jowell (former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport): The BBC is not politicians’ property, it is public property. The BBC is of special importance but needs to face up to challenges in today’s hyper-competitive media environment.
• Peter Salmon (director of BBC Studios): BBC are proposing a new ‘BBC Studios’ production house to boost talent development across all genres.
• Lord (David) Puttnam: BBC’s investment in education programmes has been slashed in recent years and needs a renewed focus.
• John McVay (CEO of Pact): The BBC is vitally important to the UK production sector, but its BBC studios proposals have a high potential to distort the market without rigorous safeguards to ensure it is on a level playing field with the wider production sector.
• Patrick Barwise (London Business School): The overall public value of popular entertainment programmes on the BBC is massively popular.
• Magnus Brooke (ITV Director of Policy): BBC too formulaic. Current peak time scheduling indistinguishable from the market. It needs to do things differently and live dangerously, not gravitate to the middle ground. New Charter should make explicit the obligations on each channel to be distinctive.
• Siobhan Kenny (RadioCentre): BBC radio 1 and 2 do crowd out the commercial market, especially at peak times and often feels like a commercial rival.
• Steve Morrison (All3Media): Government appears to be fretting that the BBC is distressingly popular. But the BBC is a universal service and should decide programming, not politicians. Take the licence fee decisions out of Government hands and give it to an independent body.
• Richard Hooper (former deputy chairman of Ofcom) and Jon Zeff (former Director of the BBC Trust): debate the options for reforming or replacing the BBC Trust with a new regulator.
This collection of 20 essays on the future of the BBC gives a range of views, including from many of the BBC’s prominent critical friends. They make a number of suggestions about how the BBC can be better regulated and better serve up distinctive content to the viewer and listener.
Mat Lawrence, IPPR Research Fellow for democratic reform said:
"The BBC is a valued part of the broadcast media but as it approaches the Charter Review it is clear that the BBC needs to face up to new challenges if it is to remain relevant and able to justify the licence fee.
“The BBC is far from broken and helps shape our national conversation, but the status quo is not an option. In a fast-changing media environment, with digital and online proliferation, the BBC needs to be clearer about its core purpose.
“We need a BBC that remains popular but is also more distinctive from the commercial sector, and is bolder about nurturing talent and serving the whole of the United Kingdom.
“There is reason for optimism, and we hope this collection of essays will be an important contribution to the debate on the future of the BBC.”
Danny Wright – 07887 422 789
Sofie Jenkinson – 07981 023 031
Lester Holloway – 07585 772 633
Notes to Editors
The collection of essays on the future of the BBC is published here:
Peter Salmon, director of BBC Studios, has an edited version of his essay published on BBC blogs. See:
Putting the Scottish voice into BBC Scotland, an article by Gerry Hassan for IPPR’s journal of ideas Juncture, is published here:
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