20 January 2022
The Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries recently indicated that the licence fee may be axed in 2028 and will be frozen for the next two years. By doing so, she called into question the very future existence of the BBC.
This was the latest in a long line of measures and proposals that make clear that Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) is under attack by this Government. We must defend it.
At a time when the Government should be tackling urgent issues, such as the cost of living crisis and climate change, it’s instead fixated on privatising Britain’s public services and bashing our cultural infrastructure.
The freezing of the licence fee will result in an estimated £285 million gap in funding by 2027. The government is also proposing to privatise Channel 4, a hugely successful broadcaster that costs the taxpayer nothing while guaranteeing investment to the independent production sector.
While the Government has said they will provide more interim funding for S4C to reach younger audiences in Wales and create more digital content, there are questions as to how this content will be created and how it will be contracted. With the additional squeeze on overall BBC funding there are concerns being expressed about how the framework agreement between S4C and the BBC will deliver things like BBC Radio Cymru, Welsh Language news and Pobol Y Cwm.
Public Service Broadcasting is worth saving
We believe that UK public service media is as important as ever to our culture, democracy, economy as well as to the UK’s image on the world stage:
- The BBC has been a training ground for many artists starting out in the industry. Throughout their careers, many artists depend on the stable work and good terms of the BBC in an often-precarious sector.
- The BBC’s nationwide network is an increasing source of work opportunities outside of London and the South East.
- PSBs help to inform our understanding of the world, reflect the UK’s cultural identity and represent a range of people and viewpoints.
- Although other channels and services offer high-quality UK programmes, the availability and affordability of PSBs through digital terrestrial television remains unmatched.
- The public service media sector is a major contributor to the UK economy. Of the estimated £4.5bn invested in UK content in 2019, £2.8bn came from public service broadcasting.
- The BBC is the biggest single investor in original British content. For every £1 spent, £2 is generated for the UK economy.
- Any income received by the BBC/BBC Studios is ploughed back into production and not to shareholders.
We know though that the BBC and PSB system are far from perfect. For Equity members, years of internal privatisation has meant the serious undermining of terms and conditions. There is also a serious lack of accountability at the very top.
But instead of bashing our cultural infrastructure, we need a new approach to a universal public service broadcasting. We believe this should include:
- increased worker representation on the boards and management structures of PSBs, and licence fee payer democracy
- proper accountability of all aspects of decision making, including hiring, firing, pay, and recruitment;
- accelerated regionalisation of PSBs by moving more operations away from London, generating greater content and opportunities in every nation and region of the UK.
Equity General Secretary Paul W Fleming has outlined a vision in Tribune for a re-founded BBC rather than Nadine Dorries’ current plan”.
What you can do
Lobby your MP about Channel 4
We’re expecting an announcement about Channel 4 privatisation later this year, but the Culture Secretary recently told Parliament she hadn't made up her mind. So there’s still time to influence her decision. Write to your MP asking them to support our campaign to keep Channel 4 public.
Attend the rally
We Own It are organising an urgent rally to defend Channel 4 from privatisation on Thursday 27 January at the DCMS offices in London. Find out more on Eventbrite.
Spread the word
Share the message that public service broadcasting is worth saving - on social media, with your fellow Equity members, and at branch and network meetings.
Check back here in the coming months for regular updates on the next steps of our campaign to save the BBC and Public Service Broadcasting – and how you can get involved.