Sunderland calls for BBC to raise its standards of impartiality to justify the licence fee

James Sunderland intervenes in the Minister’s response to a debate on a Private Member’s Bill to decriminalise non-payment of the BBC Licence Fee for the over-75s. He says that as the Government are not supporting this Bill, and therefore enforcing payment in law, the Minister must ensure the BBC raises its standards of impartiality to justify the licence fee.

James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)

Given that the Government are effectively choosing to enforce the licence fee in law by not decriminalising over-75s, does the Minister agree that the BBC has an equivalent duty to raise its own standards of impartiality and to justify the licence fee?

The Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries (Sir John Whittingdale)

I agree with my hon. Friend. The issue of impartiality is central to the BBC’s reputation, and it is in the top line of the public purposes of the BBC contained in the charter. It is a matter that the Government have kept under review. When the charter was set back in 2017, it was agreed that there should be a mid-term review of its delivery by the BBC and, in particular, the governance arrangements, which include impartiality. We have since had a number of internal BBC reviews. In particular, there was the review conducted by the senior independent board member, Nick Serota, which agreed to strengthening the impartiality requirements.