Shadow culture secretary wants inquiry into BBC licence fee agreement

The new shadow culture secretary has asked for a parliamentary inquiry into the BBC licence fee agreement announced last week. UPDATED 20:12

“This week I have asked the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to undertake an inquiry into the BBC Licence Fee Settlement. The BBC is one of this country’s great institutions and its future a matter of public interest. The licence fee settlement negotiated over a matter of days, rode roughshod over the independence of the BBC, crushed any serious prospect of reform and involved no consultation with licence fee payers or Parliamentarians.” – Ivan Lewis MP, speaking in Parliment

Ivan Lewis MP has written Conservative MP John Whittingdale who chairs the Commons Select Committee for culture, media and sport to look into the deal of which he is alleged to have described as “dodgy”.

The announcement last week will see the licence fee frozen for six years, along with other commitments that the BBC has to undertake, such as overseeing and funding in full for the BBC World Service and Welsh broadcaster S4C.

Ivan Lewis, Shadow Culture Secretary speaking in the House of Commons this week said:

“The BBC is one of this country’s great institutions, and its future a matter of public interest. Of course the BBC cannot be exempt from cuts at this difficult time, but can I ask you how you can justify a negotiating process which rode roughshod over the independence of the BBC, crushed any serious prospect of reform, and involved no consultation with licence fee payers or parliamentarians? Can you confirm at one point in the negotiations the BBC Trust board considered mass resignation, and that it now faces a judicial review by S4C? Is this not another example of you doing a dodgy deal for the Chancellor in order to further your own political ambitions, instead of providing responsible leadership on an issue of crucial importance to the future of this country?”

If an inquiry is held, it is likely that top BBC staff along with Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt could be questioned at the committee hearing.