The BBC (Impartiality, Gender Pay Gap, Funding)

Thank you for contacting me about the BBC.

May I begin by assuring you that the BBC is operationally, editorially and managed independently of Government. 

I agree that the BBC must ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and due impartiality in news or other content dealing with public policy or matters of political/industrial controversy. The BBC’s Charter embeds the core principle of impartiality in the BBC’s overall mission and enshrines the principle of editorial independence for the BBC’s Director-General. I hope this will make sure the BBC remains the most trusted provider of high quality news for audiences in the UK and abroad.

The current Charter also introduced a complaints system for when viewers believe the BBC is not performing at the level of expectation set for it. In the first instance the BBC handles the complaint. Where a complainant is unsatisfied with the response, or where the BBC fails to respond in a timely manner, the complainant is now able to complain to Ofcom, which has a proven record as an independent media regulator. This provides for independent regulatory oversight of editorial matters, and means the BBC will continue to be held to the high editorial standards that the public expects. 

I agree that the BBC has a responsibility to set an example to others and to lead the way in promoting equality in the workplace. The BBC’s overall median gender pay gap has been brought down from 7.6 per cent in 2018 to 6.7 per cent in 2019. However, the BBC acknowledges that there is still much more to do.

The Government’s reforms to the BBC Charter have vastly improved BBC transparency. It is these changes that have shone a light on gender and pay issues at the BBC. For example, the requirement for the BBC to publish annually the salary details of all BBC staff who are paid more that £150,000 led to vital public scrutiny of pay at the BBC.

When these salary details were published for the first time, some male presenters were understandably uncomfortable with the results and acknowledged that they would not necessarily be able to explain their high salaries. The BBC should observe pay restraint and deliver value for money for licence fee payers.

Gender should not be allowed to define how much an individual is paid. Equal pay is vital in an organisation that is funded by licence fee payers, as it is in businesses and organisations up and down the country.

With regard to the TV license, it was announced in 2016 that the licence fee would increase with inflation over the first five years of the new charter period. As of 1 April 2020 a colour licence costs £157.50.

The BBC has taken important steps to increase its efficiency over recent years. I welcome that  the BBC has also absorbed other costs, with the licence fee now funding the World Service and S4C.

I also note that the licence fee did not increase at all between April 2010 and April 2017.  

The Government has stated that it wants to ensure that the BBC has sufficient funding to invest in high quality, distinctive output that audiences enjoy and value at a time when the revenues of some leading commercial providers have been growing. It also recognised that the public does not want a significant change in the scale and purposes of the BBC. 

This settlement gives the BBC the certainty and funding levels it needs to deliver its updated mission and purposes, and will ensure that it remains one of the best-funded public service broadcasters in the world.

Further, I welcome that a consultation has been held on whether to decriminalise licence fee evasion and look forward to seeing the Government's response. This consultation will help ensure we have a fair and proportionate approach to licence fee penalties and payments.

The consultation did not ask for views on any other changes to the TV licence, and is clear that decriminalisation of licence fee evasion would have an impact on BBC funding. I appreciate that the current licence fee arrangements are a core part of the BBC’s funding, so I am pleased that the Government has indicated if it decides to take decriminalisation forward, it will consider the impact of it in the context of the overall licence fee settlement for 2022 onwards, with negotiations beginning later this year.

If you have a complaint against something you have seen on the BBC, it should be made to the BBC. More information on how to do this is available here.

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