Tessa Jowell on the BBC’s “fight of its life”

Seminar today at City University on public service broadcasting set up by the enterprising people at OpenDemocracy’s OurKingdom blog, which has been assembling an impressively wide-ranging cast of opinions for the past months. The seminar gave some of them a chance to get into the same room.

Star of the opening session was Tessa Jowell, Culture Secretary and in charge of the government’s negotiations with the BBC for the past six years until the election four weeks ago. The BBC will find itself in the “fight of its life”, she predicted. (Another panellist replied that the BBC had been seen in thes melodramatic terms for at least the last 25 years and several licence fee  renewals).

Other highlights: Jowell said that in the Labour government she had found herself as “the only advocate” for the BBC in government. She criticised the Beeb’s culture and managers as wanting “all the advantages of the private sector with none of the risks.” This seemed like an oblique reference to the high salaries  at the top of the BBC.

She said that BBC accountablity was good enough and that the BBC Trust had failed correctly to read the mood of the moment, not least because the BBC’s hierarchy had spent too much of its time in intmate negotiations with the government, neglecting the broader picture. She also said that the Trust’s power had not been sufficiently built up.

The video of these discussions will be posted on Monday and I’ll link to it when it’s up.


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