Thank you for contacting me about public service broadcasting/the BBC.
The Government is committed to ensuring that the BBC and the wider public service broadcasting system adapt to a fast-changing market, remaining at the heart of our world class TV sector.
In November, the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, announced the launch of the Public Service Broadcasting Advisory Panel, which has been appointed to provide independent expertise and advice as part of the Government’s strategic review of public service broadcasting. In particular, the Panel shall advise Ministers on key policy issues relevant to the future of public service broadcasting, including whether the concept is still needed, how it should be delivered in an increasingly digital age, whether the legislative and regulatory framework requires change, and whether the current funding model is sustainable.
I also understand that Ofcom, the UK’s independent communications regulator, has launched a consultation on the future of public service media. This follows the findings of the organisation’s ‘Small Screen: Big Debate’, which examined how to strengthen and maintain public service broadcasting for the next decade and beyond, in the face of unprecedented changes to technology, financing and viewer behaviour. I am aware that Ofcom will make recommendations to the Government in Summer 2021, following the conclusion of the consultation.
So far as the BBC is concerned, some constituents tell me that the BBC should be reformed and lacks impartiality and others do not want it to change. The BBC is operationally, editorially and managerially independent of Government. However, the BBC and other broadcasters must ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and due impartiality in news or other content dealing with public policy or matters of political or industrial controversy. It is this issue which appears the most contentious with competing views. The BBC’s Charter embeds the core principle of impartiality in the BBC’s overall mission and enshrines the principle of editorial independence for the BBC’s Director-General. I also wish to echo the words of the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, who rightly highlighted that the broadcaster must "guard its unique selling point of impartiality in all of its output".
I hope this will make sure the BBC remains a trusted provider of high-quality news for audiences in the UK and abroad and that it will continue to educate and entertain in the way that it has in the past.
However, my personal view on the BBC licence fee is that its time has passed. Payments for television services should be voluntary not compulsory and I would wish to see the BBC move to a subscription service, with people able to opt out should they wish so to do.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Richard Fuller MP