The BBC stands for an international broadcasting organisation which furthers the public interest in providing news, current affairs programmes and entertainment. Established by Charter in 1922, the BBC has faced many challenges throughout its history, but none as great as it does now. I believe that it is vital that we maintain an independent broadcaster, free from any commercial interests which has the power to scrutinise and report on the events of the day. While, like any institution, it has not always been perfect, and has justly been criticised, the overall verdict from the public has been positive.
The current consultation on the future of the BBC is therefore vital in gathering public opinion.
As a domestic broadcaster, the BBC provides a strong variety of radio and television programmes, and seeks to make all its services accessible to a broad range of audiences, including through iPlayer, so that the public can engage with their broadcasting choices at a time that suits them. Overseas, the BBC is a strong brand, and is frequently the port of call for citizens and even world leaders to hear an independent assessment on current affairs.
The unique position of having a commercial free broadcaster removes the rampant consumerism culture from being brought into our front rooms, and means that the BBC is only beholden to its license holders, the public. It is this principle which must be hard fought for to sustain its reputation in the future.
In maintaining the standards set by the BBC, it is important that it is adequately funded in future years. Accessibility of broadcasts over the internet, and through iPlayer, has meant that the public can access services without a license, and, of course the radio license was abolished in 1971. It is therefore right that the BBC determines how programmes are accessed in the future in order to secure the revenue necessary to run the service.
The Labour Party recognised the importance of the BBC for the elderly in introducing a free license to ensure that the public could still have access to services. It is important that this principle is not lost in the current debate for the future of the BBC.
While the BBC must have space to develop in the future, and must find a way that captures all its users to contribute to the service, I will strongly advocate for an independent BBC, one that is accountable and one that is free from the interest of business, the commercial world and government.