Bri­tish gov­ern­ment un­veils over­haul of BBC

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

LONDON—The gov­ern­ment on Thurs­day pro­posed ma­jor changes to how the BBC is run to keep it “at the very heart of Bri­tish life”, wa­ter­ing down more rad­i­cal plans that had raised fears for the broad­caster’s fu­ture.

Un­veil­ing the pro­pos­als in par­lia­ment, me­dia sec­re­tary John Whit­ting­dale said the pub­lic broad­caster should not sim­ply com­pete for rat­ings with its do­mes­tic com­mer­cial ri­vals.

And in its in­ter­na­tional ser­vices, it should re­flect Bri­tain, its cul­ture and val­ues to the world through ac­cu­rate, im­par­tial and fair news cov­er­age.

“The BBC is and must al­ways re­main at the very heart of Bri­tish life. We want the BBC to thrive, to make fan­tas­tic pro­grammes for au­di­ences and to act as an en­gine for growth and cre­ativ­ity,” said Whit­ting­dale.

“Our re­forms give the BBC much greater in­de­pen­dence from gov­ern­ment in edi­to­rial mat­ters, in its gov­er­nance, in set­ting bud­gets and through a longer char­ter pe­riod. “Th­ese re­forms will as­sist the BBC to ful­fil its own stated de­sire to be­come more dis­tinc­tive.”

Un­der the plans, the Bri­tish Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion will be reg­u­lated by an ex­ter­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion, the in­de­pen­dent me­dia watch­dog Of­com, for the first time in its 90-year his­tory.

It would also have a new board to run day-to-day mat­ters, although the BBC would name at least half the 14 mem­bers and the gov­ern­ment no more than six.

The BBC would also have to dis­close the salaries of em­ploy­ees that ex­ceed di­rec­tor-gen­eral Tony Hall’s pay of £450,000 a year. - In­form, ed­u­cate, en­ter­tain The BBC would have a new mis­sion state­ment: “To act in the pub­lic in­ter­est, serv­ing all au­di­ences with im­par­tial, high­qual­ity, and dis­tinc­tive me­dia con­tent and ser­vices that in­form, ed­u­cate and en­ter­tain.” The plans will be de­bated by MPs later this year be­fore an 11-year renewal of the cor­po­ra­tion’s gov­ern­ing char­ter is agreed.

Celebri­ties in­clud­ing James Bond star Daniel Craig and Harry Pot­ter au­thor J.K. Rowl­ing have warned against cuts at the broad­caster — nick­named “Aun­tie” due to its once-ubiq­ui­tous pres­ence and cosy im­age in Bri­tish homes.

The BBC is funded through an an­nual li­cence fee of £145.50 ($210, 184 eu­ros) which all Bri­tish house­holds have to pay to watch live tele­vi­sion.

This raises more than £3.7 bil­lion per year.

The li­cence fee would be al­lowed to rise in line with in­fla­tion. Grow­ing num­bers of do­mes­tic view­ers catch up on BBC pro­grammes on­line rather than watch live, and they too would re­quire a TV li­cence un­der the new plans.

Re­spond­ing to the pro­pos­als, Hall said they were a man­date for a “strong, cre­ative BBC” that would be “good... for Bri­tain”. The di­rec­tor-gen­eral said they en­dorse the “scale and scope” of what the BBC cur­rently does.

Re­la­tions be­tween the BBC and Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron’s gov­ern­ing cen­tre-right Con­ser­va­tive Party have long been tense, with some MPs ac­cus­ing the broad­caster of in­sti­tu­tional left-wing bias, which it de­nies.

Maria Eagle, me­dia spokes­woman for the main op­po­si­tion Labour Party, ac­cused Whit­ting­dale of “ide­o­log­i­cal­ly­driven med­dling”. His pro­pos­als were “to­tally out of step with the li­cence fee pay­ers who value and sup­port the BBC”, she said.—AFP

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