Bishop of Southwark asks about political pressure on the BBC

The Bishop of Southwark asked a question on political pressure and the commodification of the BBC during a debate on the government’s role in the network’s impartiality on 15th March 2023:

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, political pressure on the BBC is not new. Mr Wilson, Mrs Thatcher and Mr Blair all had their problems with the BBC. As in this place, those in power there face scrutiny, but does the Minister accept two things that are now in play when it comes to impartiality: first, the long-term commodification of the BBC, which has eroded its funding and its service commitment to the nations and regions at home, to religion, to culture, to education and to our mutual flourishing through both the expression of heightened values and entertainment; and, secondly, the fact that impartiality is about fairness? Who determines what is impartial? It should not be the Government.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con): As I say, the process for the BBC’s impartiality is set out in its royal charter and framework agreement; it is for the BBC to discharge that. The Government also made Ofcom the independent regulator of the BBC in 2017, with a further independent body responsible in that process. The BBC will receive at least £3.8 billion for the remainder of the current charter period in annual licence fee funding. On their part, the Government have also provided further funding, such as the announcement this week of a £20 million uplift for the BBC World Service in recognition of the crucial role that it plays. The right reverend Prelate is right to point to the many important roles that the corporation plays in our national—and, indeed, the world’s international —life.


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