Thursday, 12 May 2016

BBC White Paper

My first reaction to minister Whittingdale's statement to the House today was similar to Angela Eagle's, that not only was it not as bad as leaks to the press had suggested but also that it seemed to go against most of Mr Whittingdale's previously expressed views about the corporation. I am particularly glad that no attempt will be made to cripple the corporation's online news coverage which is remarkably even-handed and provides detail which most commercial news media find it not worthwhile to lay on. Extending the period of the current charter renewal to eleven years, taking the next general election out of the equation, is a reassuring move.

It is also good to see the National Audit Office given the right to investigate the value for money of the BBC's organisation. However, guaranteeing the BBC annual inflation-linked increases in the licence fee is not conducive to financial discipline. (One trusts that the inflation measure will be the CPI rather than the discredited RPI.) Moreover, a historic opportunity to replace the licence fee, with its narrowing base, with a tax more related to people's ability to pay has been missed.

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