Top peer warns people would take to the streets over charter
PEOPLE will take to the streets in protest if the government’s imminent proposals to reform the BBC turn out to be “stupid,” a senior peer warned yesterday.
Lord Lester QC said that, while he hoped Culture Secretary John Whittingdale’s white paper on BBC Charter renewal would not be met with demonstrations, these might happen “if necessary.”
In March, Lord Lester tabled a private member’s Bill attempting to protect some of the corporation’s basic principles.
His views were supported by a series of actors, screenwriters and other workers in TV and the arts, including Wolf Hall star Mark Rylance, One Foot in The Grave’s Richard Wilson and theatre director Sam West.
Speaking ahead of the white paper’s publication, Mr Wilson said he would “march in the streets” in defence of the public broadcaster.
“I would march in the streets, I would, as long as they don’t march too far,” the 79-year-old said.
“I hope that, as the independent BBC campaign develops, the government will be forced into one of their many, many U-turns. They’re very good at them these days.
“I don’t think they realise how strong the public feeling is for the BBC.”
The white paper, which is expected to be published on Thursday, will propose a harsher licence fee regime and further government controls.
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Maria Eagle said: “John Whittingdale seems determined to diminish the BBC and deliver a charter that ignores the wishes of the public and is not in the interests of the BBC, licence fee payers or our broadcasting industries.
“Proposals to further top-slice the licence fee and pack a new governing board with Tory appointees would be a real hammer blow to the independence of the BBC, and be more evidence of mendacious meddling on the part of the secretary of state.
“Labour will oppose them all the way.
“The Culture Secretary must stop ignoring the wishes of the public, who are clear that they want the BBC to remain independent and to carry on producing the programmes we all enjoy.”
Mr Whittingdale’s relationship with the media was questioned earlier this year after details of his affair with a sex worker were kept under wraps by four newspapers well aware of the story.