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The BBC is one of our shining assets – we must support it

The BBC is one of our shining assets – we must support it
3 min read

If it were not serious, we could be amused at the suggestion that freezing the BBC fee for two years will make a significant difference to household budgets.

Neither the process nor the proposal is impressive and the squeeze on BBC funding will not necessarily lead to progress.

Government should publish its assessment of alternatives; they could let Parliament know if there was Cabinet sub-committee consideration.

Has full Cabinet considered together all the cost increases that may press households hard in the coming years? How many private sector and publicly set costs, charges and prices can change in line with inflation, whether RPI, CPI with or without the H?

Has the Transport Secretary stopped rail fares changing? Has the Education Secretary abandoned inflation linked fees or charges?

The conservative approach is to keep what is good, what works - and to improve whenever possible

The House was told the wallets of hard-working people had to be protected from the household licence fee approaching 50 pence a day in five years’ time. BTBA is our household acronym for “believe that, believe anything”.

Reductions in spending power for households in my constituency can be the result of changes in earnings, in taxation or national insurance deductions, in the costs of food and other goods, in energy and fuel costs, in rail fares . . . and possibly under £10 a year, less than 20 pence a week or not quite 3 pence a day for the BBC.

A retired person from Shropshire, the county of my birth, wrote that it is clear that the UK public has huge respect for the BBC, using its services far more than they realise, including Radio 2 or 4 or 5 Live. It is one of the best-known names in the world, one of our shining assets.

Initiatives like baking cakes and ballroom dancing have become international institutions. There are so many more programmes that bring arts, education, discussion, wildlife and others to viewers and listeners.

“I wish more of your colleagues in the Commons realised the worth of an organisation that gives so much more back to the UK than it takes.”

I shall do all I can to support the role, achievements and distinctive future of the BBC in each way I can. 

Two years ago, on 12 February 2020, the then BBC chair Sir David Clementi spoke to the University of Salford. He said the BBC has significant strengths and contributes a great deal to national life. These strengths should not be overlooked in the current debate.

Do not believe the BBC needs saving from digital alternatives. Even then, there were over four billion requests to iPlayer, three million users of BBC Sounds a week, the numbers using BBC News online up over 25 per cent year-on-year. It reaches 90 per cent of adults and 80 per cent of young people each week.

The BBC will continue to adapt to the evolving digital landscape. We can see its strategy is bearing fruit.

The BBC is vital to UK creative industries and culture; it contributes to communities around our nations and regions; it does great good for Britain around the world. Simply, Britain is a world leader in creativity and the BBC is at the heart of the creative ecosystem.

The BBC has rightly been described as a public contract between the broadcaster and those paying the licence fee, gaining a universal service committed to distinctiveness, impartiality, serving the nations and regions – meeting the public purposes in the 2017 Charter.

The conservative approach is to keep what is good, what works - and to improve whenever possible.

 

Sir Peter Bottomley is the Conservative MP for Worthing West and Father of the House. 

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