BBC decries UK government green paper

In response to a green paper issued by the Tory government concerning the future of the BBC, the pubcaster says questions asked within it may point towards "a much diminished, less popular BBC."
July 16, 2015

The UK government has released a “green paper” concerning the future of the BBC, with the pubcaster saying the questions within it point towards a “much diminished, less popular BBC” which would be “bad for Britain.”

The current royal charter, which forms the constitutional basis for the BBC, expires in December of 2016. Questions put forward in the 86-page review document tackle a range of issues, including the current license fee funding system, and the scale and scope of its operations.

The green paper also calls into question whether the BBC is “providing sufficiently distinct content,” with a passage highlighting “distinctive natural history series such as Planet Earth” while contrasting the commissioning of The Voice , a global format from producer Talpa Media, with the in-house development of another talent competition that became a global success, Strictly Come Dancing.

“This does not mean that the BBC should not be entertaining; it is about the BBC providing distinctive programming across all genre types,” reads the review. “For example, the BBC acquired the format for The Voice. This was a singing talent show developed overseas, bought by the BBC at a reported cost of around £20 million and similar to ITV’s X-Factor. This is in contrast to Strictly Come Dancing which was developed by the BBC in-house and then sold abroad.”

Further, the report states: “The BBC, as a public institution, should not have the same imperatives as commercial companies such as trying to maximize audience share. However, given the difficulty in measuring quality in an objective way, figures such as ratings can be given undue prominence by senior management. The question is, therefore, how to measure the success of programming when much depends on the BBC’s ability to deliver its public purposes through its content, and how to make sure the culture of the BBC is focused on quality and distinctiveness rather than driven by ratings.”

Concerning the pubcaster’s commercial operations, the document stated: “[The] Charter Review will consider the full range of options for reforming the BBC’s commercial operations, including full or part privatization of [BBC] Worldwide.”

The paper, presented to the UK Parliament by John Whittingdale, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, is aimed at stimulating public discussion around four key points: the BBC’s “mission, purpose and values”; its scale and scope of services and operations; the way it is funded; and structures of governance and regulation.

The consultation period runs from today (July 16) to October 8. UK citizens are being encouraged to “have their say” via an online portal, email and the post. An advisory group, including former Shine Group chief executive Alex Mahon and former Channel 5 head Dawn Airey, has been appointed to support the process.

In a statement, the BBC maintained: “The starting point for any debate should be – how can a strong BBC benefit Britain even more at home and abroad?”

It continued: “We believe that this Green Paper would appear to herald a much diminished, less popular BBC. That would be bad for Britain and would not be the BBC that the public has known and loved for over 90 years. It is important that we hear what the public want. It should be for the public to decide whether programs like Strictly or [Great British] Bake Off, or stations like Radio One or Two, should continue.”

To read the charter review document in full, click here.

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