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UK Lords: BBC funding responses show lack of urgency

October 27, 2022

By Colin Mann

The Communications and Digital Committee of the House of Lords, UK parliament’s upper legislative chamber, has published responses from the Government and BBC to its report, Licence to change: BBC future funding.

The Committee’s original report, which was published in July 2022, called on the BBC to publish a new vision for delivering value for audiences, driven by a clear purpose for the corporation in a rapidly changing media landscape. The committee also called on the BBC to develop costed proposals for alternatives to the licence fee system. The report concluded that decisions must not be left until the end of the Charter review period and recommended that the Government should commit to national consultations ahead of taking any decision to change the funding model.

The Government’s response acknowledged the committee’s assessments of alternative funding models but declined to commit to national public engagement. The Government said it expected the independent review to engage with “stakeholders and to consider public interests and attitudes”. Decisions are to be finalised in the Charter Review process.

The BBC’s response welcomed “the challenge for the BBC to lead the debate on the future” and committed to bringing forward a strategy review. It did not provide further details on the extent of this review, or when it would be delivered, says the Committee.

“Our report made clear there was no time to waste in planning for the future funding of the BBC,” commented Baroness Stowell, Chair of the House of Lords. “The corporation faces major strategic challenges over the next decade. The responses from the Government and BBC show a disappointing lack of urgency in preparing for the future.”

“The Charter Review is due to conclude by 2027. If the Government proposes to change the funding model, it must undertake independent market impact assessments and, crucially, extensive public consultation in advance of taking a decision. We are pleased the Government has committed to an independent review. But this must start soon. The final decision about how the BBC is funded cannot be left to the last minute in 2027.”

“The BBC must recognise the importance of bringing forward a compelling future vision that sets out what it is for in the 21st century, and how it will deliver value in the context of rising costs, restricted funding, and a competitive future marketplace. This is essential to informing decisions about the BBC’s future funding.”

“It is disappointing that the BBC’s response does not engage more directly with the challenges highlighted in our report. I welcome the corporation’s commitment to a strategy review, but they have not set out how this is any different to previous reviews. As the Committee said in its report, we need a step change in how the BBC approaches the funding debate. It must use this opportunity as a catalyst to drive much needed change.”

“I have written to the BBC to emphasise the urgency of this task, and to request further details which were not forthcoming in their initial response.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC’s existing Charter runs until 2027 and securing the long-term future of the BBC is a priority. It is essential there is a well-informed public debate about this and how we continue to deliver for UK audiences, in an increasingly digital and globally competitive market.”

“The committee produced an important report, with detailed recommendations to be considered, and we will continue to keep them updated on our plans.”


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