On Thursday afternoon, 3rd December, there was a debate on the future of the BBC, led by Lord Fowler, chairman of the Lords’ Communication Committee. The House is often quite critical of the BBC in debate, especially around the time of Charter renewal which, in the past, has taken place every ten years. On this occasion however, many speakers praised the BBC for its creativity, its representation of Britain abroad (the World Service came in for special mention) and its support for the arts. I declare an interest, as a former governor (one of the very last) of the BBC. I believe that the licence fee represents good value for money, bearing in mind that it also supports radio, the website, orchestras and choirs, the Reith lectures and training of journalists in many employments. It amounts to no more than a few football tickets in price.
If the BBC has to save money, then I think we could revisit BBC3, which is targeted at a younger audience, but does not seem to me have been a great success in this. I also believe that the BBC should have an external Ombudsman (but not OFCOM) to make the final decision on complaints, because internal Trust determination may be perceived not to be independent and impartial.
I also commented that I thought the BBC should show more older women with grey hair reading the news, conducting interviews and generally in positions of authority on the TV screen. There are plenty of older women who look good, are articulate and have authority. Just look around this Chamber, I said! There are, incidentally, many women in top executive positions at the BBC, which is very good news.