NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear has criticised proposals in the Digital Britain report for the sharing of the BBC licence fee with other organisations. And he has also said the union will continue to pressure the government for a strengthened public interest test when regional newspaper mergers are being considered.
Dear said: “Top-slicing of the BBC licence fee would undermine the corporation’s independence and put quality broadcasting at risk. We agree that funding needs to be found to support news provision outside the BBC, but there are other options that wouldn’t inflict the same damage to the cornerstone of British public service broadcasting.
“Sharing the licence fee with other organisations is the start of a slippery slope towards the politicisation of the BBC. When politicians start to decide how the licence fee is divvied up, the independence and impartiality of the corporation will be put at risk. The government has said it will consider other options and that is exactly what it must do. We can’t allow the BBC to become a political football.”
The NUJ believes that the government should conduct a detailed investigation into the use of levies to help fund public service broadcasting outside the BBC.
On the decision by the Office of Fair Trading to leave existing media ownership rules in their current form, Dear said: “The NUJ has consistently argued that ownership rules are still hugely important so we’re very pleased pressures from media owners for them to be weakened have been resisted.
“The vital importance of vibrant local media to our democracy has been recognised by people on all sides of the debate over the last few weeks. Media plurality must be at the heart of any ownership decisions that are taken in the future. The NUJ will continue to pressure the government for a strengthened public interest test to ensure that ownership rules work in the interests of citizens and communities.”
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