Jonathan Dimbleby slams Government’s “astonishing” failure to read Radio Times readers’ submissions to BBC consultation

“I’m appalled that this might be the case. The BBC belongs to the public and if the public’s voice is to be ignored we will all be losers"

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Broadcasting grandee Jonathan Dimbleby has attacked the Government for its failure to read more than 6,000 submissions from Radio Times readers to its consultation on the future of the BBC.

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The presenter and son of the BBC’s first journalist Richard Dimbleby said he was “appalled” at the failure of Department of Culture, Media and Sport officials to read 6,085 submissions sent in as part of its consultation on the future of the BBC.

“If it’s really true that the department has effectively ignored the views of a significant number of licence fee payers it is astonishing,” he said.

“I’m appalled that this might be the case. The BBC belongs to the public and if the public’s voice is to be ignored we will all be losers.”

Dimbleby, who presents Radio 4’s flagship political phone-in programme Any Questions?, referred to fears expressed by BBC director of radio Helen Boaden this week about Government pans to allow ministers to seize control of appointments to the BBC’s powerful new governing board. In a speech this week Boaden said it amounted to “undue political interference” and threatened to turn the corporation into a “state broadcaster”.

Added Dimbleby: “It’s worrying enough that, as Helen Boaden has pointed out, there is a grave danger of the BBC being turned into a state broadcaster.

“That our ministers have apparently failed to take into account the views of those who read the Radio Times in this case should press alarm buttons even more loudly.

“The Radio Times has an important role as an independent magazine which is read by people who love broadcasting and are very knowledgeable about it.

“There are few independent voices like Radio Times and decision makers really should care what its readers have to say.”

Dimbleby’s remarks follow demands by Radio Times for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to reopen its BBC Charter Renewal Public Consultation after Whitehall officials failed to view the 6,085 online responses from Radio Times readers which were sent following the launch of the public consultation in July 2015.

Radio Times published 16 questions which mirrored those in the Department of Culture Media and Sport’s [DCMS’] official consultation, inviting their readers’ views on the BBC, including the programmes it makes and the future of the licence fee.

More than 9,000 Radio Times readers responded: around 3,000 by post with a further 6,085 digital replies, which were then delivered to the DCMS on an encrypted memory stick for data protection purposes.

But the DCMS published its consultation report without ever requesting the password to open the file – and therefore cannot have taken the responses into consideration.

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The Department of Culture, Media and Sport declined to comment on the specifics of Dimbleby’s remarks but issued the following statement: “Government is committed to a thorough and open BBC Charter Review process, welcoming everyone’s views. All responses to our formal consultation will feed into the process. We also received other views including results from the Radio Times survey, which asked different questions. We will also take account of these as part of the Charter Review.”