The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 23rd March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government how much funding they provided for the BBC World Service in (1) 2019, (2) 2020, (3) 2021, and (4) 2022.
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con): Since 2016, the FCDO has provided over £468 million to the World Service through the World2020 programme, funding 12 language services and enhancements to services in Arabic, Russian, Thai and English, to enable digital transformation and counter disinformation.
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.
The Bishop of St Albans spoke in a debate on British-Iranian relations on 23rd February 2023, emphasising the importance of holding the Iranian regime to account, and the critical role played by media services such as BBC Persian:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for obtaining this debate, for his superb introductory talk and not least for his powerful call that we should oppose the persecution of Baha’is and Christians. I will raise just two issues in the few moments I have.
First, as we conduct British-Iranian relations, it is vital that we support loudly and clearly those who are demonstrating for their freedoms, in particular those who face the most opposition: the young and the women who are being opposed by their own Government. They are rightly demonstrating for freedom of speech and for their rights to an education and a job.
It is difficult to know exactly how many people have been caught up in the demonstrations although it is widely reported that, so far, between 600 and 800 protesters have been killed, more than 30,000 have been arrested and more than 40 have been executed. Those are probably very modest figures. I echo the question to the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Alton: what attempts are being made to record the regime’s crimes so that they can be taken to the UN Security Council? What representations have His Majesty’s Government made to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran? Does the Minister agree that Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi should be held to account?
The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 10th January 2023:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the strategic importance of the BBC World Service during the Arab Spring protests.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): The FCDO strongly values the BBC World Service’s role in bringing high quality and impartial broadcasting to global audiences, particularly where free speech is limited. The Integrated Review stated that the BBC’s foreign language services are part of what makes the UK a soft power superpower.
The Bishop of St Albans asked a question on what advice had been given on how to access the BBC World News Channel following its ban in China, during a debate on protection of media freedom on 8th December 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, following China’s banning of the BBC World News channel, what advice has been given, as has been given in countries such as Russia, on the use of VPNs and ways around the ban? The importance of broadcasting accurate reporting into China is increasing as we face so many crackdowns on minority groups.
On 1st December 2022, the House of Lords debated a motion to take note regarding the importance of the BBC World Service, and the impact of cuts to its service. The Lord Bishop of St Albans spoke in the debate, highlighting the benefits of truth in reporting and global access to information, particularly for vulnerable populations:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for tabling this debate, and for his excellent exposition of the impact and importance of the BBC World Service.
The BBC World Service is one of the most potent ways in which we can act in the world, not least to help those persecuted people who often are voiceless. I think of the debate that we had a couple of weeks ago about the hundreds of thousands of women on the streets of Iran. I think about the debates and Questions in this House about the various persecuted people in China. They need accurate reporting and, very often, knowing that something is being reported gives people hope and keeps them going when they are being crushed by their own authoritarian leaders.
On 3rd November 2022, the House of Lords held a debate on public service broadcasting to mark the centenary of the BBC. The Bishop of Leeds spoke in the debate, with specific reference to the value of UK public service broadcasting worldwide, and the future of Channel 4:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Foster, for securing this very important debate. Before saying anything further on the theme, I want to express thanks to and admiration for those who prepared the Library briefing. I have been knocking around these issues for a couple of decades, and this briefing is a model of narrative accuracy and concision.
Public service broadcasting in the UK is unique on the planet and one area in which this country is genuinely a world leader, which is why it is so important that, in the centenary year of the BBC and the day after the 40th birthday of Channel 4, we assess the value of what we have and steel ourselves against the ideologically driven impulse to diminish it. Yesterday, I asked a friend who works in public service broadcasting what she would focus on in a debate such as this. Her response was immediate: imagine a world without it. That is, imagine a world in which broadcasting serves only narrow cultural or political interests and is subject purely to commercial or transactional persuasion. I might put it like this: look at broadcasting in the United States. Price is not the same as value.
The Bishop of Leeds asked a question about support and resources for the BBC on 10th March 2022, during a debate on the provision of BBC services to Ukraine:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, no other broadcasting company could have flexed as quickly as the BBC has in this emergency, particularly in relation to HF shortwave broadcasting. Could the Minister at least give a commitment that the BBC as a public service broadcaster at home and abroad will be adequately supported and resourced and not undermined in the public discourse?
“Calm scrutiny will cause people with power, whoever and wherever they may be, whatever they may say, however loudly they may speak, one and all, to be uncomfortable. This applies as much to the Bishops of the Church of England as to anyone else”.
On 2nd December 2021 the Bishop of Liverpool, Rt Revd Paul Bayes, made his maiden speech in the House of Lords, during a debate led by Lord Bragg “That this House takes note of the BBC’s value to the United Kingdom and a wider global audience and the case for Her Majesty’s Government giving it greater support.”
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool (Maiden Speech): My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to address your Lordships for the first time and on this subject, and for the privilege of following the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for his kind words*. I thank all noble Lords for the warmth of the welcome that I have received, and, for the quality of briefing and induction from the officers and staff of your Lordships’ House, which has been exemplary and profoundly helpful.
I speak as one whose first degree was in drama and theatre arts, and who was almost employed by the BBC as a trainee script editor in what was then called “English Regions Drama”, at the Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham, in 1975. With whatever wisdom, I chose instead to enter the ordained ministry of the Church, and there have been times when I have felt that I chose the lower calling. Forty-two years of ministry in six different dioceses have culminated in the enormous privilege of my being appointed Bishop of Liverpool in 2014. I have been preferred to your Lordships’ House late in my ministry, but I am very grateful to be here and to receive wisdom for at least a few months.
Among its many dimensions, I want to speak of what the BBC does uniquely in our fragmented public square. To me, the gift and value of public service broadcasting is a matter of form before it is a matter of content: it rests on the decision to assume a tone of voice. The value of the BBC to this nation and our global position is rooted in its decision to be calm, to choose a particular volume and quality of scrutiny and to sustain it, no matter how unpopular it may be.
On 5th March 2020 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Young of Norwood Green, “That this House takes note of the role of the BBC and public service broadcasting in the United Kingdom’s economy and creative culture.” The Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, the timing of this debate could hardly be better. I also want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Young, for his introduction. The Media and Telecoms 2020 & Beyond conference and the Culture Secretary’s contribution to it inevitably inform a lot of what is to be said. I also wondered whether I need to declare an interest, having been the vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields for 16 years, given that the first religious service ever broadcast came from there, by the BBC, in January 1924. The link continues. I never made much income from it, but it is a significant relationship with considerable affection for the BBC built into it. Continue reading “Bishop of Salisbury says BBC needs to be cherished, not disrupted”
You must be logged in to post a comment.