Defending the BBC: Bectu engages with MPs and industry leaders

1 April 2022

As part of Bectu’s campaigning efforts, we have recently engaged in several meetings with key political figures and industry leaders that share our aim to protect the BBC and retain the licence fee, a funding model that is critical to the BBC’s success as a world-leading national public service broadcaster.

BBC Broadcasting House

We also recently submitted a response to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee’s inquiry on BBC future funding, in which we argued to retain the licence fee and demonstrated the incredible work that it allows the BBC to do, on a national and local level. You can read our submission here.

MSP Angus Robertson

Earlier this month, Head of Bectu Philippa Childs met with MSP Angus Robertson, the Cabinet Secretary for Consultation, External affairs and Culture, who previously worked for the BBC World Service before entering politics. We provided his office with a Bectu BBC briefing beforehand and upon reading this and hearing our opinions, Angus Robertson confirmed his full agreement with Bectu that the BBC is a necessary state-funded broadcaster, and the licence fee model is the best way to fund it.

Later that week, Angus Robertson conveyed our shared views in a Scottish parliament debate on the BBC, providing a voice for our campaign in parliament. We also plan to team up to work on skills training within the creative industries, establishing a good working relationship not only for the BBC, but to address issues in the wider sector.

MP Chris Matheson, Vice-chair of the BBC APPG

Philippa also met with Chris Matheson, MP for Chester and Vice-chair of the BBC All Party Parliamentary Group to discuss how we could work together to promote the BBC and public service broadcasting. As the largest union in the BBC, Chris Matheson was interested in how our members have been impacted by budget cuts to the BBC in their day to day lives. We discussed how this has led to a skills shortage, and how thousands of freelancers have not been adequately supported throughout the pandemic.

Following our meeting, we provided Mr Matheson’s office with further information about the long-term impact that a change in the BBC funding model would have on our members, and he encouraged Bectu to send across relevant information and written questions on the BBC and wider creative industries that he could use when speaking in Parliament.

Baroness Gillian Merron, member of House of Lords

Last week, Philippa and Andrew Pakes, Prospect’s Director of Communications and Research, visited Parliament for a face-to-face meeting with Baroness Merron, to discuss the BBC. Baroness Merron shared our opinions on the licence fee, and was particularly interested in promoting the BBC’s local radio services, an issue that we discussed at length in our submission to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee’s inquiry on BBC future funding, which we sent to her office following our meeting.

Baroness Merron offered to submit written questions to the House of Lords based on our inquiry submission and any other work that we had on the BBC, including information on BBC training and skills. The meeting established a link for Bectu in Parliament, allowing us much closer scrutiny of the Government’s plans regarding the licence fee.

Claire Enders, founder of Enders Analysis

Philippa and National Secretary Noel McClean had an in-person meeting with Claire Enders, founder of Enders Analysis, the leading British independent research company for the creative industries and broadcast economy. Claire expressed her full agreement with Bectu’s campaign, and her expertise provided a deeper insight into the BBC within the wider political context.

As a result of this meeting, Claire invited Philippa to Enders Analysis’ annual Media and Telecoms conference, at which key media figures will be speaking, such as BBC Director General Tim Davie, Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon and Chief Executive of Ofcom, Dame Melanie Dawes. The conference will serve as a great opportunity to speak to leading industry officials about our campaign and establish more working relationships that will help us work towards our goal.

Upcoming events

  • Bectu to host a Parliamentary event to celebrate the BBC’s centenary year. Chris Matheson and Gilly Merron both offered to help the event in any way that they can, either through sponsoring or attending and encouraging attendance amongst other MPs and Lords.

Despite numerous attempts to undermine the licence fee, no one has yet proposed a different funding model that would safeguard the BBC’s critical contribution to the country’s economy and cultural landscape. There are no compelling arguments that make clear that the BBC will be able to fulfil its mission of impartially informing, entertaining and educating the nation if it is made reliant on subscription or advertising revenue.

The BBC has been the bedrock of British culture for a century. Any changes to a funding model that has created and sustained this great British success story must be properly tested against the existing licence fee model – and shown to be better placed to support the next century of broadcasting by the world’s leading public service broadcaster.