Dowden’s comments reveal lack of understanding of the BBC beyond news, says Bectu

5 March 2020

The government’s failure to acknowledge the BBC’s work beyond news will hamper its ability to assess the right approach to funding and public service broadcasting, Bectu has warned.

Oliver Dowden has been speaking about the BBC at the Deloitte/Enders Media and Telecoms 2020 & Beyond conference.

He said that it would be ‘crazy’ to throw the BBC away in reference to the BBC’s role in public service broadcasting. But, he also highlighted concerns about news impartiality and that the BBC needs to avoid a “narrow urban outlook”.

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said in response to these comments: “It is reassuring that Oliver Dowden has on some levels acknowledged the value of the BBC in the context of public service broadcasting.

“The current coronavirus outbreak is a clear example of the public service role the BBC plays in sharing trusted information. The government has relied on the BBC, even outlets it has been boycotting such as Radio 4’s Today programme, to communicate with the public.

“However, in many respects his comments reveal a deep lack of understanding of the BBC and the role it plays in broadcasting beyond news.

“The BBC’s remit to inform, educate and entertain means that it provides lots of valuable and cherished content which does serve audiences across the country.

“If the government genuinely wants to have a discussion about the shape of the BBC in the future it needs to look at it in the round rather than focussing on news and getting stuck in an ideological rut.

“Bectu will continue to highlight the work of our members working across all departments of the BBC and also the value of having secure funding to ensure their work continues.”

A recent survey of members working across Bectu’s parent union, Prospect, found that BBC News is the most popular and trusted for political news. Nearly 70% (68%) of the people who took part said that they mostly got their political news from BBC TV among the places from which they mostly got their political news – higher than any other source.

Bectu is has submitted its response to the government’s licence fee decriminalisation consultation and is encouraging people to use it as template for their response.