The Voice of the Listener & Viewer (VLV) is proposing the establishment of a statutory body, the Licence Fee Body, to determine the level of future licence fee settlements. This would help to underpin the independence of the BBC, including protection from political decisions by the Government of the day to ‘top slice’ the licence fee and divert it to fund other projects.
Colin Browne, Chairman of the VLV, said ‘Our members were outraged by the recent funding agreement. The independence of the BBC should be at the heart of public service broadcasting in the UK. We believe that independence was severely compromised by the manner and nature of the last two licence fee negotiations, which were carried out in secret, with no public consultation nor reference to licence fee payers. In particular, the Government’s decision to force the BBC to pick up the tab for providing free licences to the over-75s gave the impression, both at home and abroad, that it was prepared to use the BBC as an extension of its welfare policy. This must not be allowed to happen again’.
The Licence Fee Body would comprise a chair and other members who have the requisite expertise and knowledge and are independent of Government, of the BBC and of other media organizations. It would consult with the public and recommend a level for the licence fee. The Secretary of State would have a duty to lay this recommendation before Parliament. VLV has sponsored the preparation of a draft Bill to give effect to this proposal.
The proposal is contained in VLV’s submissions, in response to consultations by the House of Lords Communications Committee and the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. In the submissions, the VLV stresses that the BBC needs to continue to work hard to provide a range of high quality content which appeals to a wide range of audiences, is universally available and is free at the point of access.
‘While it would be against the public interest to impose artificial reductions on the present scale and scope of the BBC, it must ensure that it is providing content and services that are genuinely distinctive. In order to justify the significant intervention in the market implicit in the BBC’s funding, the BBC needs to provide services which lead those of the UK’s other broadcasters and add value to our lives and society as a whole’ said Colin Browne.
The VLV is also proposing changes to the BBC’s governance, with the creation of a new public interest body to engage with licence payers, conduct research to measure whether the BBC has fulfilled its public purposes and hold the BBC Board to account. A new unitary BBC Board should run and be responsible for all BBC matters: its chairman and a majority of its members would be non-executive. Content regulation, including impartiality issues, would reside with Ofcom.
The full submissions can be viewed here. They include the results of a special survey of its members carried out by the VLV.
Further information from Colin Browne on firstname.lastname@example.org m
01285 740433 or 07733 103800
Sue Washbrook (Tuesday to Thursday during office hours)
VLV Office 01474 338716; email: email@example.com or
VLV, The Old Rectory Business Centre, Springhead Road, Northfleet, Kent, DA11 8HN
Notes to editors
- One of the major areas of VLV's work is to respond to public consultations on broadcasting held by government, regulators and broadcasters. VLV has responded to many major public consultations concerned with broadcasting and media policy - making the case for public service broadcasting and ensuring that the interests of viewers and listeners are kept in mind.
- The Voice of the Listener & Viewer (VLV) is an independent, non-profit-making membership association, free from political, commercial and sectarian affiliations, working for quality and diversity in British broadcasting content. VLV represents the interests of listeners and viewers as citizens and consumers across the full range of broadcasting issues. VLV is concerned with the structures, regulation, funding and institutions that underpin the British broadcasting system. VLV is a charitable company limited by guarantee.
- For 30 years VLV has played a unique role in keeping a citizen’s eye on major legislative proposals and action taken by regulators and broadcasters, enabling the voice of consumers to be heard, independently from the interests of political parties, industry players and other pressure groups.