Comment: The BBC is under threat because it is public sector and successful

Tory ideology could end the BBC as we know it


On Monday I attended the launch of the music industry’s Let it Beeb campaign in support of the BBC’s music services.

The music industry recognises the incredibly important role the BBC plays in promoting new artists and providing exposure to songs not played on commercial radio.

Culture secretary John Whittingdale acknowledged the strength of the UK music industry when he observed at the Conservative party conference that ‘there are no French Rolling Stones, no German Beatles… no Dutch David Bowie’.

Yet it is he and his Tory government that presents a clear danger to the future of the BBC.

It could be the end of the BBC as we know it. We’ve got the government’s green paper, but with it we’ve had constant anonymous briefings to the press about how the BBC needs to be ‘cut down to size’ and the BBC’s remit changed, i.e. reduced.

Proposals include axing Radio 1 and Radio 2, stopping the broadcaster from making some of its most popular shows, potentially scrapping the licence fee, cutting the length of the charter, and reducing the BBC’s news output. Any of these moves would be a massive mistake.

Like the NHS, the BBC is one of the institutions that makes Britain great. There is nothing like it in rest of the world. And like the NHS it is public sector and successful.

Unlike the NHS it is successful in a global market, one of the world’s leading media brands, out-performing private sector companies across the globe in so many areas, from the high drama of Sherlock to the innovation of iPlayer to the popularity of the Great British Bake Off.

And that is why it under attack. Because it is public sector and successful it flies in the face of the Tories ideological dogma which says the state cannot do anything successfully and therefore must be as small as possible, slashed every year under a regime of perpetual austerity – Osbornomics.

The BBC undermines Osbornomics because it is public sector, successful and loved. Polling shows that the public view the BBC as good value for money and perceptions have been improving since the last charter was agreed.

BBC One, for example, now has the highest viewer satisfaction ratings of any channel in the world.

The BBC produces programmes for everyone and its output reaches almost the entire adult population of the UK every single week.

Now, of course the BBC is not perfect – far from it. It needs to change to become representative of 21st century Britain. I have strongly criticised the lack of diversity within the BBC and at times it can appear remote and complacent. That needs to change, but while maintaining the investment and the scope of the BBC.

Cutting down the BBC would be an assault on the very principle of public service broadcasting. It would not only be massively unpopular and a disservice to the British public – it would threaten the rest of the TV ecosystem and the UK’s entire creative sector.

The BBC doesn’t harm the wider industry. It fosters it and creates a competition for quality. A much diminished BBC would be bad for Britain. For every one pound of licence fee spent, two pounds is generated in economic activity.

According to a report, of the BBC’s £3.7 billion investment of the licence fee, £2.2 billion is invested in the creative industries.

Labour will campaigning to save the BBC. Shadow secretary Michael Dugher’s Culture, Media and Sport team will fight against any proposal by the government to weaken or cut down the BBC, and constantly highlight why certain sections of the media are so anti-BBC.

As part of this, we will work with the trade unions, like Bectu, and the creative industry such as great campaigns like Let It Beeb.

The BBC is a cornerstone of our cultural life. It is public sector, it is successful and it is under attack. Labour will fight to save it.

Chi Onwurah is MP for Newcastle and a Labour shadow minister for Culture, Media and Sport. You can follow her on Twitter @ChiOnwurah

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23 Responses to “Comment: The BBC is under threat because it is public sector and successful”

  1. NHSGP

    So let Sky operate on the same terms.

    If people don’t pay a Sky subscription, then Sky takes them to court and they get a criminal conviction.

  2. NHSGP

    BBC’s £3.7 billion investment of the licence fee, £2.2 billion

    So 1.5 bn more on the prices than in required. Why do you need to pay for non creation?

  3. NHSGP

    Why should we pay an organisation that has repeatedly failed to protect people from paedophiles like Stuart Hall and Jimmy Saville?

  4. Mike Stallard

    “And that is why it under attack. Because it is public sector and successful”


    It is because it is institutionally left wing. If you deny this you have not been watching. Did you see, to take one teeny example how Kirsty Wark treated the Conservative MP on Newsnight last night? Can you remember the Golden Jubilee reportage?

    Rather than just assuming the Beeb is excellent, why not look at this website?

    I can remember myself when the Beeb was cutting edge – Monty Python? the Goon Show? Not so any more I am afraid. I listen to LBC.

  5. Barry Hearth

    The Beeb is not under attack because it’s successful and publicly owned, it’s just because it’s publicly owned.
    The tories massively downgraded our Tv output when they “freed” it up for US stations. Mamy Americans gave us dire forewarnings of what was to come, and they all proved right. Now they want to get their hands on the last thing BEFORE the NHS to rpivatise it.
    Does anyone care? Not if those who made a submission to the consultation process, just 38,000 out of 60 million can be said to care.
    Bottom line is this, unless you’re ready to fight for what you believe in, then walk away.
    Silence gives consent.
    Just remmember those words when the Beeb has gone and the NHS is about to become American.

  6. Jai

    Er, no…when people don’t pay a Sky subscription, Sky simply ‘cut off’ their Sky TV.

    Which is exactly how the BBC should be operating in the 21st century, but instead they’re clinging to this archaic system invented for radio nearly 100 years ago that charges EVERYBODY, regardless of how much BBC they watch.

  7. Jai

    What are you babbling about?

  8. Jai

    Thank you for being one of the few voices of reason on here.

  9. Barry Hearth

    You’re probably too stupid to understand.

  10. Jai

    This article is one of the most biased and delusional articles I’ve ever read. Virtually all the sentiments expressed here are nothing but opinion, but Chi Onwurah states them as though they are fact, and we should all agree with her, lest we be idiots.

    The fact that Chi Onwurah is a Labour MP and sees no irony in how blatantly biased her anti-tory article is is laughable.

    And no, the BBC is not under attack because it is ‘Public sector and successful’ – it’s under attack because it’s morally unscrupulous, corrupt to the core, and its so-called ‘quality content’ is largely atrocious.

    As for the Licence Fee (or ‘Extortion Racket’ as it is otherwise known), it IS outdated, was invented for radio 100 years ago, and is unfairly applied to anyone who watches TV, regardless of whether they watch BBC programmes or not. This is extortion. In the 21st century, with the technology we have now, there is NO justification for it – the BBC are essentially acting like a subscription service, only they’re forcing EVERYONE to buy their subscription whether they want to watch their programmes or not.

    There is absolutely nothing preventing the BBC from acting like a proper subscription service, like Sky or Netflix or Amazon Prime, and simply BLOCKING people who don’t pay the ‘TV Licence’ from viewing their content. This would solve everything for everyone – but no, the BBC realize they can make more money with their extortion racket in place, so they see no reason to change. THIS is why people detest the BBC.

    And no, I’m not ‘Tory’, I personally think the Conservatives are usually just as asinine and moronic as Labour, but on this one issue it seems the Tories are actually making some sense.

  11. Blarg1987

    When you say same terms do you means my would have to operate under charter and produce a wide variety of programmes for minority groups including education etc?

    Good luck getting them to do that for less then the license fee and no adverts.

  12. Harold


  13. Harold

    You many not be a Tory but you are a conservative, which would explain why and how you hold the view you express. I have no problem with you hold these views, I up hold the principles of democracy and it is great we have freedom to debate. But to debate we need information/education/knowledge which if the BBC goes subscription based then some of the population will not be exposed to the wide range of views the BBC transmits.

    I have no problem with reforming and democratising the BBC I would vote for that every day, no more J Ross on £16m contracts please. But as one who does not watch the Voice or Eastenders I do not want to destroy the BBC, I wish to improve.

  14. Dave Stewart

    really? You can;t understand why an organization has running costs?

  15. Dave Stewart

    Should we dissolve parliament on the same basis?

  16. Dave Stewart

    it is not institutionally left no matter how many times you choose to repeat it. It has be shown to have an establishment bias. Usually the government of the time gets an easier ride of things than the opposition regardless of the colour rosette the government ran with. I’m tired of posting the link on this website. It is easy enough to find the research. Also in anticipation of your retort. No universities are not institutionally left wing either. Just because an organization or person does not agree with your view point doesn’t make them institutionally left wing.

  17. Cole

    Why should we have to read your boring right wing drivel?

  18. Cole

    What are you waffling on about?

  19. Robert Andersen

    Universities aren’t left wing?!?!

  20. Robert Andersen

    Typical leftie… turns a blind eye to CHILD ABUSE to make a political point.
    And that’s why the BBC should be shrunk by at least 75%… Of course it’s a failure. It had I player yet has watched your amount of internet channels spring up whose hardest task is to secure content at an affordable at price… content… something the BBC is stuffed with. It makes the stuff

  21. Riversideboy

    Well said, its right wing drivel

  22. Riversideboy

    Too many mad right wing headbangers on here.

  23. Woo11

    Although the Govt Review is now closed (16 July), which I did participate in after being sent the online questionaire by 38 Degrees, there is still time to put your views directly to the BBC in the consultation. When I completed mine, I put in all the things I liked about the BBC, its big scale dramas like Wolf Hall, its documentaries like the Storyville series, and the wildlfe programes, for instance, I also love BBC iPlayer which is so much better than the catch up services of other channels. I do find the News partisan, I dont think it gives nearly enough attention to querying the mainstream media coverage and was quite shocklingly awful covering the student protests and the violence of the police towards the students, among other things, and I said that as well. But I cant imagine more Murdoch/News International ownership of the media or the other big barons, and I’m sick to death of the frequency of 6 min (atleast) advert breaks that happen in all high viewing programmes that take place on the private channels. I like others am selective about the News I read, or watch, and I think we have to do that. But the Gvt should not be allowed to put further strictures on it of the type it wants to, it has cut it too much already. The survery is here

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