Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1675 - 1679)


Lord Carter of Coles

  Q1675  Chairman: Lord Carter, I apologise for keeping you waiting. The position is that we are looking at the BBC in relationship to the charter renewal. We have done one report, there were a number of areas where we were not able to do justice in the first report and one of those was the World Service of the BBC. We have with us, for which many thanks, your review, Public Diplomacy. If I could just ask some general questions, you say that this was an independent review. It was staffed by the Foreign Office, as I understand it and read it, it came from a public spending talk between the Foreign Secretary and the Chief Secretary and you, as we know, are a Labour peer close to the Government: how independent is this review?

  Lord Carter of Coles: I have done a number of reviews, as you perhaps know. It is very independent, within the confines of trying to produce something which will work, so that is the caveat I would give. I could produce a review which was very fundamental and basic, but was not very helpful; this is meant to be helpful to the administration, if you like, in a non-political sense. I think it is independent and I hope it is taken as such.

  Q1676  Chairman: That will work in the context of the Foreign Office and how it can be organised from there.

  Lord Carter of Coles: It is more managerial than that, I do not think there is any political dimension to this, it does not really read in that way.

  Q1677  Chairman: Who chose the advisers? We are obviously fascinated with what you have to say about the FCO and the British Council, but that is not our area; the World Service is a media organisation and I notice that the only media representative you had as an adviser was the Sports Editor of The Guardian. Without in any way decrying that—we are spending a lot of our time on sport at the moment—do you think you would not have benefited from a bit of media experience of the kind that, say, a foreign correspondent like Martin Bell could have provided?

  Mr Lowe: It is always difficult putting together a team of advisers, and it is people's willingness to give their time that is often one of the things, so you might have had a wish list of who you would like to get. We looked around, sought advice and talked to various people; possibly, in retrospect, that may be right, but we did not get one.

  Q1678  Chairman: You did not find that that was a defect.

  Lord Carter of Coles: No, I have to say that we did not find that hampering at all. We consulted a wide range of people, we had some very good advice and we got good advice from people who were not actually serving as advisers to the committee. We were very well served by them in every respect.

  Q1679  Chairman: The report itself is called Public Diplomacy, but as you say on page 25, as I read it, "Public diplomacy is arguably not the primary objective of the World Service . . ." That is right, is it not, it is not the primary objective of the World Service, the job of the World Service is to report independently and objectively what is going on around the world, but not just that, to be seen to be doing that?

  Lord Carter of Coles: That is absolutely right. It is the trust factor that makes it valuable in public diplomacy. When I was first asked to do this review I spent a lot of time looking back over the history of the BBC; one of the things that strikes you, if you look particularly at the Second World War and how these things were reviewed afterwards, was the fact that they reported with integrity in good times and bad, that they always reported the truth. For me that was a fundamental guiding principle of that, that that had to be maintained, and from that comes the reputation of the BBC and then the reputation of Britain, based upon that reporting truth.

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2006