Shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant says there are only 18 months left to save the BBC which he describes as “our nation’s cultural NHS”.
In a speech to be delivered tonight, the Labour politician pledges to save popular programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing and The Voice amid expected calls for the Corporation to row back on big ratings shows such as these in a Government green paper to be published on Thursday.
Bryant’s speech insists that if the government gets its way with the changes it wants “the BBC will be a national irrelevance by 2027” [the date the next charter is due to expire].
“The BBC is our nation’s cultural NHS and the golden thread through it all is that it provides something for everyone,” Bryant will say at a Royal Television Society event this evening. “The Tory’s war on the BBC could mean no more popular shows on a Saturday night, no more sport and an irrelevant and barely recognisable BBC come 2027.
“The public deserve a world class broadcaster showing popular and acclaimed programmes and sport; the government seem intent on wrecking it but Labour will fight to save the BBC.”
His speech argues that the government’s pledge to make the BBC pay for the licence fee for over 75s – costing an estimated £650m or more under the proposals – will cripple the organisation.
Bryant also criticises the way culture secretary John Whittingdale has handled negotiations with the BBC, calling his Tory opposite number the “true ideological son of Tebbit” – a reference to the uncompromising Tory politician from the Margaret Thatcher era, Norman Tebbit.
However Bryant will also take issue some aspects of BBC management, in particular its system of regulation by the BBC Trust.
His speech, to be delivered at the Hospital Club in the West End, insists that the governance of the BBC is no longer fit for purpose. It will call for the BBC to be fully subject to the National Audit Office, for the BBC Trust to be abolished and for Ofcom to take over full regulatory responsibility for the BBC.
He says: “With [Sajid] Javid, [George] Osborne and [John] Whittingdale each taking chunks out of the BBC it is all the more important that we remind them that they do not carry the nation with them on this particular bully crusade.
“The Government’s plans are to scale back the BBC and to stop it making popular programmes. If it gets its way with the changes it wants the BBC will be a national irrelevance by 2027.”