The BBC is a great British institution which is held in high esteem by many people, and consequently the renewal of the BBC Charter has caused much interest and speculation over the preceding months.
The White paper on the future of the BBC was published last week, but prior to this there was a thorough period of consultation, two independent reviews, a public opinion study and several round table meetings between Ministers and industry representatives. There was also a public consultation which brought thousands of representations from the public. At the time there was concern that because many of these were ‘template’ responses which came via a campaigning organisation that they would not be counted, but these fears were unfounded as they were all logged as responses for consideration.
There were various rumours circulating before last week’s announcement over what the contents would be, but many of these have been proved to be false as the contents of the White Paper have been broadly welcomed by people across the industry.
There are those who feel it could have gone further and those who don’t, but it appears a well-judged and thought-out document. The media world is changing very rapidly as advances in technology make different ways of accessing BBC content more and more available. This has created a loophole whereby people can watch BBC content on catch-up without a TV Licence, and this is one of many things the White Paper addresses by closing this loophole.
There are changes to the way the BBC is to be governed, replacing the BBC Trust with a new unitary board. To avoid accusations of this board being a Government-appointed body - which in turn could lead to accusations of too much Government control of the BBC - at least half of the Board members will be appointed by the BBC.
The licence fee will rise in line with inflation to 2021-22 and there will be pilots of a more flexible payment system to help those on low incomes. The BBC receives £3.7 billion pounds from the licence fee and it is essential to ensure that such a huge amount of money is spent wisely, so to ensure that this is the case the National Audit Office will become the BBC’s financial auditor and all those working for the BBC receiving remuneration packages of over £450,000 per year will see that made public.
There are lots of technical details within the White Paper, but in essence it creates the right framework to strengthen the BBC to enable it to thrive and deliver the best possible service for licence payers in the years ahead.