BBC reform is on the agenda. The appointment of Mr Whittingdale as Culture Secretary and related briefing indicates change is in the air. He will preside over the licence review, and has been a past critic of the BBC poll tax or licence fee.
Some wish to use this review as an opportunity to re open the issue of alleged BBC bias. I do not think this is a good idea. The issue of bias requires robust democratic exchange, with more than one party or interest group thinking they are badly done by. These are matters to be fought over within any given financial and governance framework for broadcasting, but should not dictate those frameworks.
I do agree with those Conservative and UKIP critics who think the BBC has a strong pro EU Guardian style bias. Many interviewers repeat the 3 million jobs at risk lie about EU& membership and still claim not to have heard its simple refutations. Most interviewers talking to business people invite them to say they wish us to stay in the EU in any interview, yet people against EU membership talking on other subjects are not asked for their view on the EU. When discussing issues like fuel poverty and dear energy the BBC seems to go out of its way to avoid mentioning that dear fuel is an EU policy. These are matters for immediate review with the BBC but not a proper part of any decisions on its future. The BBC after all belongs to all of us, including pro EU voters.
The main issues at stake in the licence review have been partially dealt with by the surprise announcement yesterday to the Commons of a new financial settlement. The BC loses the broadband levy, but takes over responsibility for free tv licences for the over 75s. In return it gains indexation of a confirmed licence fee.
This still leaves important issues like removing the criminal offence from non payment of the licence fee, the definition of public service and the question of how the BBC is allowed to compete with other media outlets using tv tax revenues.