Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence




  Gerald Kaufman (25 January) scorns the BBC's "own ambitions (which) extend only to the retention of 30 per cent of the total TV audience . . ." and says it is essential between now and 2006 to find a new structure and funding for the Corporation. He is wrong to imply that a 30 per cent share defines a minority role for the BBC—whose three goals should be to reach more than nine in ten of the population each week (which it already does) and to deliver them (us) the most diverse range of programmes, at a level of quality that is second to none.

  To validate the second two goals one needs broadly understood measures of programme diversity and of appreciation. Mr Kaufman's Select Committee, after its many years of deliberations, should by now have urged that the results of the existing continuous measurement of television programme appreciation be published, along with measures of diversity which have been piloted (but which are not yet regularly calculated) in the industry.

  A more serious solecism that seems to have escaped the scrutiny of the Select Committee is that the BBC has, on its own, removed the collection of licence funds from the Post Office and has hired Capita to do this. The problem is that the licence is not the BBC's for it to make such decisions. It has been established that if one's TV set does not transmit BBC programmes but only commercial television one still has to pay a licence fee. Thus the real function of the fee is to support an overarching system of regulated broadcasting and this involves paying the cost of programme making (by the BBC) and the costs of its regulation (by the governors). Ideally, the licence revenue should also be used for whatever governing body regulates commercial broadcasting, whose competitive options must be set at a level at which overall standards of quality are sustained rather than eroded.

27 January 2002

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