VLV supports amendments to the bill which will improve the process of negotiating BBC funding.
VLV is supporting a number of amendments to the Digital Economy Bill, designed to ensure that the process for determining the level of BBC funding in future is subject to more independent and transparent scrutiny.
Colin Browne, Chairman of the VLV, said ‘The last two licence fee settlements have been reached behind closed doors, with no public scrutiny. This is simply unacceptable, as both the Culture, Media and Sport and Lords Communications Committees have recognised. We now have an opportunity to ensure this never happens again.’
The two most recent BBC settlement negotiations have led to cuts of between 20-25% in the BBC’s budgets and undermined its ability to deliver a high quality, comprehensive service as well as compromising its independence from Government. VLV has argued consistently that licence fee settlements should be open to Parliamentary scrutiny and should not be ‘top-sliced’ for purposes other than the delivery of the BBC’s mission. The Digital Economy Bill provides an opportunity to ensure that, at the very least, any government intent on reducing or raiding the BBC licence fee will be obliged to make a public justification.
VLV believes that amendments being proposed by Lord Best, Chair of the Lords’ Communications Committee, with cross-party support, will lead to a significantly more transparent and democratic process. This amendment proposes that an independent body should make a recommendation to the Secretary of State on the level of funding the BBC should receive and that the Secretary of State in turn should conduct a full public consultation on the proposal. If the government chooses not to follow this independent recommendation, the Secretary of State will have to publish reasons for the rejection.
Colin Browne added “Our primary concern is that the BBC continues to deliver high quality content for all audiences across the UK and is accountable to those who fund it. If these amendments are accepted by the Government, this would be a real step towards greater transparency.”