The BBC remains a cornerstone of British life, says the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications, in its new report, published today. The Committee has found no need for fundamental changes to the BBC's core mission – to 'inform, educate and entertain' - which was set out by the BBC's founder Director General, Lord Reith, around 50 years ago.
Chairman of the Committee, Lord Best says:
"The BBC is, indeed, a national treasure. It is the envy of countries all over the world and the Select Committee endorsed its role, as it has been since the days of Lord Reith, 'to inform, educate and entertain'.
"We received no compelling evidence for a reduction in the BBC's scale and scope. Rather, the Committee sees merit in the universality of the BBC, underlining its special role of reflecting and bringing together the nations, regions and diverse communities of the UK.
"However, while we are not advocating radical change to the BBC, we do see benefit in its independent regulator, whoever that may be, holding the BBC to account through a clearer, simplified framework. The regulator should also take a lead in recommending the level of the licence fee to the Culture Secretary, and we want to see a new, more open and transparent process replacing the highly unsatisfactory 'behind closed doors' practice that has previously surrounded the licence fee settlement.
"The Select Committee has no disagreement with the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee's recommendations for new governance structures (which were not part of the Lords' inquiry). Our inquiry found evidence for the BBC’s next Charter to be for a longer term, to decouple it from the General Election cycle. This would provide stability for the BBC to allow for long-term planning, as well as protecting its impartiality and independence, which the Charter Renewal process so desperately needs."
Other conclusions and recommendations
- The BBC’s regulator should conduct a root and branch review of its accountability framework, with a view to clarifying and simplifying it
- The Committee has higher expectations of the BBC than of other public broadcasters, and expects it to set the gold standard amongst other Public Service Broadcasters
- The Committee’s proposed process for setting the licence fee should take the following form: the level should be initially suggested by the BBC’s independent regulator to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. If the Culture Secretary were to disagree with the proposed figure, a full list of objections should be published to create an open and transparent process that has been lacking in the Charter Renewals to date