EBU urges BBC independence
October 1, 2015
By Colin Mann
The EBU has written to the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale, to declare its support for the BBC, and its role in the UK’s creative economy, as well as society and culture, warning of the effect on the whole UK media system of a BBC that wasn’t free from political and commercial interests. The British government is currently inviting submissions for its ‘green paper’ consultation into the future scale, scope and structure of the BBC.
In the letter, the EBU expresses concern “at some of the recent discussions and developments, which risk not only a negative impact on the organisation’s ability to serve citizens, but also on the entire media system, in the UK and across Europe.” It highlights the importance of the BBC being allowed to remain “committed to putting citizens first, free from political and commercial interests.”
The EBU also emphasises that “ in order to remain relevant in the future the BBC needs to maintain a strong legal framework, which ensures its editorial independence and sustainable funding.”
As a founding Member of the EBU the BBC is praised as “one of the most trusted sources of information, not only in the UK but worldwide” and says that “importance of the BBC’s contribution to the creative economy, as well as society and culture cannot be underestimated.”
The UK’s Green Paper closes on 8 October. The full text of the letter can be read below:
Letter in support of the BBC
Dear Secretary of State,
The BBC’s mission “to inform, educate and entertain” can be found in almost all European public service media charters and the BBC continues to set the standard across Europe. No public service broadcaster has better lived up to the ambition and mantra of Huw Wheldon “to make the popular good and the good popular.” Broadcasters have greatly benefited from innovations launched by the BBC. The BBC iPlayer for example has become an international industry standard for delivering on demand content.
This is why the European Broadcasting Union would, at this important time, like to express its support and commitment to one of its founding Members which created the idea of public service broadcasting as we know it nearly 100 years ago.
The BBC, thanks to its broad and varied offer available on multiple platforms, strongly contributes to ensuring the universality of high level content and helps provide citizens with a diverse and healthy media diet, which is essential for their personal growth and enables them to play their role in a functioning democracy. It must remain committed to putting citizens first, free from political and commercial interests. Any changes to how the BBC is regulated, including its remit and funding model, must be conducted in the interests of guaranteeing the BBC’s independence.
The BBC has a strong international voice that must continue to be heard. It contributes to a well-informed democratic debate and embodies European values. In times of crisis, whether economic, political or humanitarian, the BBC continues to be one of the most trusted sources of information, not only in the UK but worldwide. Across Europe, but especially in those countries where trusted, high quality media are not available, citizens turn to the BBC to make sense of the changes the world and their countries are going through. Consequently, the BBC is a clear example of how public service media contributes to society by informing citizens and therefore strengthening democracy.
The BBC is the biggest content producer within the EBU Membership. The importance of the BBC’s contribution to the creative economy, as well as society and culture cannot be underestimated. It is a major driver of the British and European creative industries. A step back in that role would result in enormous damage not only to that specific sector but also to other associated industries.
In this ever more connected world, public service media must have the scope and scale to serve audiences wherever they are, including online. By meeting this challenge the BBC has driven up broadband use and enhanced digital skills in the UK. In the current context of offer abundance and high-pace innovation there is more information than ever and truth is frequently crowded out by lies. Trust, quality and universality therefore become issues that cannot be ignored. The BBC, embracing its public service values, plays a vital role in ensuring that the entire citizenship benefits from those changes.
However, in order to remain relevant in the future the BBC needs to maintain a strong legal framework, which ensures its editorial independence and sustainable funding. The UK has always been regarded as a model for media policy across the world. The consultation and regulatory processes that support the BBC have inspired similar ones across Europe. We are concerned by some of the recent discussions and developments, which risk not only a negative impact on the organisation’s ability to serve citizens, but also on the entire media system, in the UK and across Europe.
The BBC is a great British institution. As an instrument of soft power and influence around Europe and the world it is unrivalled. It is a source of inspiration and aspiration for all our Members. When the UK makes its decision on how to shape the BBC of the future we ask that you take into account the importance the organisation has in upholding journalistic and programme-making standards at home and abroad, and the role it plays in the lives of hundreds of millions of people not just in the UK but around the globe.
Director General, EBU