Director-general: “We want an open and honest debate with the public about what they want from the BBC”

Tony Hall defends the "world class" Corporation that is the "envy of the world" and criticises the way the current system around BBC budget reform has been conducted

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BBC director-general Tony Hall today delivered a robust defence of the Corporation and called on the Government to engage with the public more over its future.

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Delivering the BBC’s annual report, Hall was highly critical of the way the Government decided to impose the cost of TV licences for over 75s and said that a key decision over the BBC’s future should have been conducted more openly.

“This was not a good process or one which met the public’s expectations,” said Hall who said that the public had a right to have a more “open” system of licence fee renewal with the viewers’ and listeners’ voices heard more often.

“Let’s not have a debate dominated by commercial interests and people with ideological preconceptions… and what they think of the BBC.

“We want an open and honest debate with the public about what they want from the BBC.

“The rest of the world envies the UK for having the BBC…. On any measure this is a world class institution and any debate about the BBC must start with that fact.”

BBC Trust chair Rona Fairhead also attacked the Government for imposing the cost of licences for over 75s.

“This is part of a pattern in which BBC funding decisions have been caught up in Government budgets and Government spending reviews,” she told the same press conference.

“The public need guarantees from Government that all decisions like these are made with public consultation.”

Fairhead added that call for the BBC to be less populist going forward with fewer shows like The Voice on air was not in tune with public opinion.

This warning is expected to be contained in a Government green paper being published on Thursday.

She also cited BBC Trust research that showed that of the three main BBC mission statements – to “inform, educate and entertain – the wish to be entertained was sought after by licence-fee payers.

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Asked to choose between 15 suggestions, 6 out of ten BBC licence fee payers wanted to be entertained in one questionnaire, Fairhead said.