Bradshaw: 'BBC must be ready to change'

Tuesday, September 29 2009,

Culture secretary Ben Bradshaw has warned that the BBC must be prepared to change "in order to survive", reports The Guardian.

Speaking at the Labour party conference in Brighton, Bradshaw said that the corporation must become more "sensitive" to the views of licence fee payers.

However, he stressed that profit is "the only guarantee of independence", in what is viewed as a pointed reference to Sky chairman James Murdoch's recent fierce broadside about the state of public broadcasting.

"We will never sacrifice the BBC on the altar of free market dogma. But, like all successful organisations, the BBC must change in order to survive," said Bradshaw

"It must be more sensitive to the views of the public who pay for it and to the impact of its power and size on the rest of the media."

Bradshaw also reiterated his support for plans to boost local news provision by freeing up a series of independent consortiums to create a viable alternative to the BBC's coverage.

Last week, Ofcom warned that the 15 ITV regional network licences around the UK - including STV and UTV - could have a collective funding deficit of between £38m and £64m by the end of the digital switchover in 2012.

In suggestions initially put forward in the Digital Britain report, the government is therefore proposing to enable independent consortia to deliver ITV regional news in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Funding for this would derive from the £130m shortfall in the licence fee from underspend on the Digital Switchover Help Scheme.

According to Bradshaw, strong regional news coverage is "vital" for the health of UK democracy and could also benefit other local media.

He continued: "We face losing it completely from ITV unless something is done, and many of our local newspapers are also struggling to survive.

"Labour is the only party that will guarantee high-quality news on TV in the English regions, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and say how it'll be paid for. Our solution, and other measures we are taking, will help local newspapers too."