A host of big names have lent their voices to an open letter to the government calling for it to protect the integrity and independence of the BBC. Daniel Craig, J.K. Rowling, Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Fry and Richard Curtis are just some of the luminaries to offer the embattled BBC some support a day ahead of the government publishing a green paper that many expect to call for a top to bottom review of the BBC moving forward.
Here is a full copy of the letter:
‘Dear Prime Minister, We have seen that the Government has pledged to modernise the licence fee, return funding that had been diverted to pay for broadband roll-out, and increase the licence fee in line with inflation in return for the BBC taking on the costs of Licence Fees for the over 75’s. The Government and the BBC are now entering the Charter Review.
We are writing to place on record at the very start of the process our concern that nothing should be done to diminish the BBC or turn it into a narrowly focused market-failure broadcaster.
‘In our view, a diminished BBC would simply mean a diminished Britain. The BBC is a very precious institution. Like all organisations, it has its faults but it is overwhelmingly a creative force for good. Britain’s creative economy is growing and enjoying unprecedented success. The BBC is at the heart of this as the global showcase for our creative industries. The BBC is trusted and loved at home by British audiences and is the envy of the world abroad. During the course of the Charter, we will continue to make the case for a strong BBC at the centre of British life and will be vocal in making the case for the BBC as it approaches its centenary.”
It’s been a rough time recently for the BBC. The corporation has had to announce cuts of more than 1000 jobs as part of a restructuring caused by a $234 million gap in license-fee income for 2016-2017 as well as face a bill in excess of $1 billion for new welfare charges. The public broadcaster is being asked to absorb the cost of the license fee for viewers over age 75 as the government attempts to shift the cost, currently covered by the Department for Work and Pensions, off its books.
The pubcaster has been under pressure to find alternative ways to fund its operations. Earlier this year, a report from the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee said the TV license is “becoming harder and harder to justify.” UK households currently pay a compulsory charge of around $250 a year to help fund the BBC. Some have called on a Netflix-style subscription model, allowing households not to pay for the BBC if they did not wish to watch its programs. BBC Director General Tony Hall has consistently defended the need for the license fee to continue while also recognizing the need to adapt to a digital marketplace.
Hall also gave an impassioned defence of the corporation yesterday with a statement published alongside the BBC’s Annual Review, pointedly calling for an end to political meddling. “The BBC does not belong to its staff. The BBC does not belong to t.he Government. The BBC belongs to the country. The public are our shareholders. They pay for us. So it is their voice that will matter most in this debate,” said Hall.