The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s latest report on the future of the BBC has been welcomed by commercial radio body RadioCentre and Radio Independents Group.
It recommends that the BBC Trust should be abolished and new arrangements made for both the regulation of the BBC and its governance, and challenges the claim that the BBC needs to provide “something for everyone”.
“We recommend that a new Public Service Broadcasting Commission (PSBC) be established with the role of scrutinising the BBC’s strategic plan, assessing the BBC’s overall performance, and determining the level of public funding allocated to the BBC and to others,” MPs say.
The 166 page document has a focus on television and online consumption of iPlayer, and suggests a broadcasting levy on all households instead of the licence fee, enabling a small proportion of the revenue raised to be used to fund public service content and services provided by others, such as children’s broadcasting and local and regional journalism.
Responding to the publication, RadioCentre CEO, Siobhan Kenny said: “RadioCentre welcomes the findings of the new Culture, Media and Sport Committee report that the BBC does not need to provide ‘something for everyone’, particularly in areas that are already well-served.
“The BBC’s very significant 53% share of the UK radio market represents a hefty intervention by any definition. Our contention is that the mainstream content of Radio 1 and Radio 2 is too similar to commercial radio and we would therefore support a re-evaluation of the BBC’s output in this area.
“The proposed changes to the regulation and governance of the BBC would need to ensure that audiences enjoy the best possible choice of content in return for paying the licence fee – and that commercial operators have a fair chance of competing with the might of the BBC.”
On commissions, the report says: “Whilst we welcome the BBC removing in-house production guarantees and opening up the majority of BBC commissioning to competition, we are sceptical of the suggestion that the BBC should become solely a publisher broadcaster.
“The challenge lies in the BBC demonstrating a transparency in its commissioning processes in its pursuit of the best content, and not favouring old ties with BBC Production, and a transparency of costs if it is to eliminate suspicions of cross-subsidy of its commercial work and production of content for others.
The Radio Independents Group, the trade body for independent radio production companies, says it welcomed the view that more indies will have a greater chance to compete to make radio programmes.
Will Jackson, RIG Managing Director: “The committee has taken a balanced and informed view in many areas. We welcome such aspects as: general support for competition in programme making; support for a continuation of the Licence Fee, including its possible use for wider industry training; and greater transparency including in-house production costs.
“We also welcome the committee’s statement that the BBC ‘must develop a more equitable commissioning and business strategy that fosters cultural variety and spreads its activity, as far as possible, across the country’. To achieve this the BBC needs to introduce much more competition for ideas in radio so that audio indies, large and small, around the UK have a greater chance to compete to make radio programmes”.
The document is the first step in a wider process of examining the role and position of the BBC, as well as the way it has been managed, governed and held accountable, before the current Charter expires at the end of 2016.