What will no doubt be the first of several debates on the renewal of the BBC’s Charter takes place today as the Opposition have chosen to use their first Opposition day of this Parliament to debate a motion criticising the new Charter. The Government have tabled an amendment noting that actually the new Charter has been welcomed by the BBC which negotiated the new deal.
The Investigatory Powers Bill passed its remaining stages in the House of Commons by 444 votes to 69 with both Labour and Conservative MP’s voting in favour and the Bill being opposed by the Scottish Nationalist and Liberal Democrat parties. The Bill will now go to the House of Lords for consideration.
There was a long statement in the Commons yesterday on the government’s White Paper which was published yesterday on its plans to renew the Royal Charter under which the BBC operates. The fact the BBC operates in this way that is to say under a Royal Charter rather than an Act of Parliament is of course one guarantee of its independence. I am all in favour of the BBC and indeed all broadcasters being independent of the State and independent of government. However the BBC is funded by the tax payer and just as with general taxation any taxpayer who does not pay is faced with criminal sanctions.
The proposed new Charter is a long one for 11 years taking the BBC right up to 2027. It contains revised governance proposals and sets out what is expected of the BBC but basically the viewer will not notice many changes, if any. There will be greater transparency of what people are paid. The fact that the starting point is £450,000 tells you all you need to know about the size of the salaries involved!
Crucially the funding model will remain the same. The licence fee will remain the same and be allowed to increase in line with inflation.