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Government, BBC show ‘lack of urgency’ on plans for broadcaster’s future

Cross-party Lords Communications and Digital Committee says there is a "disappointing lack of urgency" in preparing for the future of the BBC

The House of Lords has criticised both the UK government and the BBC for a “lack of urgency” in responding to a report it published earlier this year on the future of the broadcaster.

In July the cross-party Lords Communications and Digital Committee warned that rapid changes in media, technology and consumer habits combined with increasing competition, meant the BBC needed to define its role and publish a new vision for how it will deliver for audiences and benefit the nation.

The government acknowledged the committee’s assessments of alternative funding models, but declined to commit to national public engagement. The BBC committed to bringing forward a strategy review, without saying when it would be delivered.

The committee has now criticised both responses, adding that there is “no time to waste” in planning for the future of the BBC.

Baroness Stowell, chair of the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee, said: “The responses from the Government and BBC show a disappointing lack of urgency in preparing for the future.”

She called on the government to immediately undertake an independent market impact assessment as well as an extensive public consultation ahead of the BBC’s charter review in 2027.

“We are pleased the government has committed to an independent review. But this must start soon. The final decision about how the BBC is funded cannot be left to the last minute in 2027,” she added.

“The BBC must recognise the importance of bringing forward a compelling future vision that sets out what it is for in the 21st century, and how it will deliver value in the context of rising costs, restricted funding, and a competitive future marketplace. This is essential to informing decisions about the BBC’s future funding,” stated Baroness Stowell.

“It is disappointing that the BBC’s response does not engage more directly with the challenges highlighted in our report. I welcome the corporation’s commitment to a strategy review, but they have not set out how this is any different to previous reviews. As the committee said in its report, we need a step change in how the BBC approaches the funding debate. It must use this opportunity as a catalyst to drive much needed change.

Baroness Stowell has written to the BBC to emphasise the urgency of this task, and to request further details which were not forthcoming in their initial response.

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC’s existing Charter runs until 2027 and securing the long-term future of the BBC is a priority. It is essential there is a well-informed public debate about this and how we continue to deliver for UK audiences, in an increasingly digital and globally competitive market.

“The committee produced an important report, with detailed recommendations to be considered, and we will continue to keep them updated on our plans.”