Today (16th July) the Conservative Government at Westminster launched a Green Paper on renewal of the BBC’s Charter which is due in 2016. For the first time in the charter renewal process, the Scottish Parliament will have a consultative role in the process, following the Smith Report.
The BBC is one of our greatest institutions, envied the world over and treasured by many here at home. That is why today I warned against using the upcoming charter renewal process as a time to settle old scores and have it driven by political ideology or grievance.
In the lead up to last week’s budget, the Conservative Government blindsided the BBC by essentially cutting their budget. This was achieved by forcing the BBC to take control of free TV licensees for over 75s, something that was previous paid for by the Government. This week we have the announcement of a hand-picked group of advisors to report directly to the Government on charter renewal, weakening the public’s voice in the process.
This cannot be allowed to happen in Scotland.With the Scottish Parliament having a role to play in charter renewal for the first time, it is vital the public have a clear and loud voice in the whole process.
This is an important charter for the BBC as it looks to adapt to the challenges and opportunities that new technology and changing viewing habits bring. We need to make sure that these arguments are being made with the public in mind.
We must not have a situation where politicians use the renewal process to settle old scores. The public will not forgive them if they did.