Naked Politics Blogger
From the lack of commercial adverts, to reminiscing about what the 2s did when you still had to watch kids TV at a designated time, most of us have a soft spot for the BBC, purveyor of world class period dramas, grandiose natural history programmes and good old fashioned, non-biased journalism. However, recently the great British public have been as nervous as Kim K about the rise of Blac Chyna, concerning the beeb’s Charter Review. Fears have ranged from the Strictly Come Dancing timeslot being messed with, to overblown paranoid worries that we are moving towards a threatening, soviet style, state run media.
Regardless, we have to have a Charter Review, as the Royal Charter which governs and funds the BBC only last for ten years, with the current one expiring at the end of 2016. The government have now actually published their White Paper on this and while some feel that Ministers have once again been all mouth and no trousers about a broadcasting shake up, others remain outraged at their vision for the future of the British Broadcasting Corporation. So let’s have a look at what’s being proposed!
Though many have grumbled about it, the License Fee is here to stay, at least for another 11 years and it will increase in line with inflation from 2017 for 5 years. Plus the so called ‘IPlayer loophole’, which allows people to watch BBC content on catchup services without paying for a TV license will be closed.
Many have got their knickers in a twist about the idea of a new Unitary Board, which is replacing the existing BBC Trust. However, it’s been guaranteed that no more than half of its members will be government appointed and the BBC themselves will be responsible for assigning half of them. For those anxious about the interference of those nosy politicians in the media, it’s been stated that editorial decisions will continue to be under the exclusive remit of the Director General. The scary sounding Unitary Board will only get to deliberate on problems once something has been broadcast. Big bad Ofcom will also be the external, independent regulator of the BBC, responsible for keeping Auntie in check.
Our beloved national broadcaster will now have to place a more profound emphasis on ensuring it creates output that caters to minority audiences, whether that refers to ethnicity or regionality. So, perhaps we can look forward to soap operas set in Cornwall starring an exclusively Asian cast (actually that’s something I would totally watch…).
The beeb will also have to create a new ‘mission statement’ which stresses that their output should be both distinctive and impartial. No more copying those big bucks ITV formats then (cough *The Voice* cough, but at least they’ve already flogged that one.)
Upsetting some in their expensive shoes behind their fancy desks was the announcement that all who earn more than £450k at the institution will be named (and assumingly shamed for their megabucks, as is the culture we have created.) On a similar note, the National Audit Office will also have a sturdier part to play in how the BBC splashes its cash around, hopefully no more jumbo salaries for megalomaniacs like Jeremy Clarkson in the future then.
The BBC is also supposed to become more transparent and less bureaucratic than it currently is, as now it looks something like the media version of the EU combined with an exploded stationary warehouse. Fingers crossed the NAO are able to make some headway on this by making everyone share staplers or something…
Those concerned about the future of the BBC World Service, cherished by expats and those who are fans of decent news worldwide can breathe easy as its annual funding will be protected and it will actually receive £289m extra of government funding over this parliament.
The BBC will also have to pick up the slack being left behind by the decline of local news outlets and will now fund 150 journalists from next year to cover the riveting stuff that happens near you, like local authority updates and public service information. My local news is pretty sufficient thanks, I’m down in the South West but last night half of it was just about how pleasant a local cycle path is.
So there we are, after all the kerfuffle and speculation it doesn’t seem so bad does it? I wouldn’t want to see the BBC’s finances or independence compromised but it does need to be accountable to license payers. I would say this charter strikes a balance we should all find agreeable so let’s put it to bed, for another 11 years anyway.