UK culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell has rejected the main recommendations of a Tory Party-commissioned report on the BBC, saying they go against the government's wish for a "strong and independent" BBC.
The report by former Channel 5 ceo David Elstein, regarded in some quarters as a TV guru, had urged the abolition of the BBC's licence fee and the axing of its board of independent governors [WAMN: 24-Feb-04].
But some of the report's less extreme exhortations will be considered, Jowell promised. "We are pursuing a charter review that is genuinely open, so to that extent we will accept the Elstein report as a contribution to the debate. However, its prescription is for a weak, small BBC, and we do not believe that is what the British people want."
Jowell is nothing if not a political animal. There is a heady scent of public sympathy for the BBC outside the miasmic environs of the Palace of Westminster, and having sniffed the outer air she will be wary of any action that might be construed by the electorate as governmental revenge on the BBC over its independent reporting of the Iraq war.
In uncharateristic placatory mode, Jowell delared: "[The Elstein report] makes no reference to the importance of the BBC as a news organisation committed to accuracy, balance and fairness.
"Nor does it mention the important contribution made by the BBC to children's programming, education, coverage of the UK's nations and regions, or of the arts and culture. In contrast, we regard the BBC as a British success story, admired round the world and highly regarded at home."
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff