James Purnell against BBC contraction

Friday, September 18 2009,

Ex-culture secretary James Purnell has said that it would be wrong for the BBC to cut back on its activities.

His comments come after News Corporation director James Murdoch recently attacked the broadcaster and the current culture secretary Ben Bradshaw's argued that "the BBC probably has reached the limits of reasonable expansion".

According to The Guardian, Purnell told the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge: "If you start to have the BBC contracting, it will have very bad long-term consequences on the kinds of people you attract and their ambition.

"I'm particularly worried that because something is aimed at young people it will be seen as not public service. It's less of an argument than it used to be, but it's still there."

Regarding the potential negative threat to the BBC from 'top-slicing' off of the licence fee, Purnell said: "It depends on the way you do it.

"If the government is allocating the money, yes. If it's through an independent trust with very clear limits on how it's done, then no."

He added that none of the money 'top-sliced' from the licence fee should be spent on privately-owned broadcasters such as Five or ITV, which "would end up wasting money on subsidising failing organisations".

Purnell, who quit the government this summer, was culture secretary from June 2007 until his replacement by Andy Burnham in January 2008.