BBC programmes and services cost each TV set owner in the UK 33p a day. If there is better value for entertainment, information and enrichment anywhere in the world I would like to know about it. Those who criticise the BBC (I am among them) cannot point to a single country where higher quality and more responsible TV and radio are provided day-in, day-out. This fact is implicitly recognised in the UK government's Green Paper on the renewal of the BBC Charter published yesterday. Broadly speaking it proposes continued funding of the BBC by licence fee for a further ten years from the end of next year but recognises that during that period the BBC's operations and the licence fee will have to be reviewed in the light of the growth of multi-channel digital TV and the switching-off of all the current analogue services in 2010 or as soon thereafter as proves technically practicable.
Tessa Jowell, the minister responsible for the BBC, has shown good judgement and considerable courage in making these proposals. She has consulted widely and found sufficient public support for the BBC in its present form to be able to resist pressures for radical change from the commercial TV sector and also from within 10 Downing Street where the former director-general John Birt has been pushing ideas which he failed to get through when he was in office. The single most important recommendation in the Green Paper is that BBC producers should not play copycat and chase ratings for ratings sake This is a clear condemnation of the policies of director-general Greg Dyke, who resigned over the Hutton Inquiry, who chased ratings obsessively with regrettable results that can still be seen today.
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