BBC director of television Danny Cohen has called on viewers to appreciate what the Corporation delivers before it is too late.
In an address to journalists at the BBC press Christmas drinks on Wednesday night, Cohen said that the organisation is at a “crossroads” with its future funding facing further scrutiny in 2016 when the charter is reviewed by the government.
“The question is this: what kind of BBC do the people of Britain want for the future?,” he said of the renewal process which has already informally begun between the BBC’s management and the government.
“Do the public want to see the BBC and its services fundamentally changed or do they want it to keep delivering, keep providing information, education and entertainment in so many impactful ways to so many people every single day?
“I believe that the BBC is one of the most important institutions in the United Kingdom. It is an intrinsic part of our democracy. It delivers education and deep joy and stimulation to 97% of the population every month. When you go abroad, the reputation of the BBC is singularly outstanding.
“There is not a country in the world that would not benefit from a public broadcaster of the quality and range of the BBC.
“And if you asked the people or the government of these countries whether they would like to have a broadcaster of the quality and reputation of the BBC I feel confident of their answer. It would be crazy to damage, undermine or deflate what we have.”
Citing programme successes such as the dramas Happy Valley,The Missing and Line of Duty, Cohen added: “The BBC is a great British company, not a government department.
“We need it to flourish and continue to be the spark that lights a thousand creative fires. So I make a direct and open plea to you tonight. It is sincerely meant and acknowledges that the BBC doesn’t get everything right, that it makes mistakes, that it is imperfect.
“But despite these imperfections I ask you to stand by the BBC in the year ahead – support it, make the case for it, speak up for it, celebrate its achievements and help us make sure we can keep offering such an extraordinary range of programmes for all audiences. Of course, you will always hold us to account – and so you should.
“But if you ask yourself whether the UK and its audiences would be better off with a diminished BBC, unable to deliver the range of quality programmes in the coming years that I’ve just outlined, then I feel confident you will agree that a BBC that can flourish in a world of globalised media companies is the right thing for the UK and the right thing for audiences.
“Perhaps this is time for a little less of the critical friend and a bit more of the friend.”