Bradshaw: BBC better than American news

By Ian Dunt

The culture secretary has used his speech to the Labour conference to launch a robust defence of the BBC, saying it is far superior to news in the US or Europe.

It is the clearest riposte yet from Ben Bradshaw to James Murdoch, the son of the media mogul who gave a speech recently associating the BBC with totalitarian government.

“Anyone who has watched the news in America or continental Europe can only be extremely grateful for the BBC,” Mr Bradshaw said.

“Labour will always be committed to the BBC and the values of public service broadcasting. No, Mr Murdoch, we do not believe that profit is the only guarantee of independence.

“We will never sacrifice the BBC on the altar of free market dogma.”

But the former BBC reporter did suggest impending reform to the way the organisation is structured and the manner in which it dominates the market. Mr Bradshaw spent much of this year criticising the corporation, leading some on the left of the party to wonder what the difference was between Labour and Conservative policy on the organisation.

“Like all successful organisations the BBC must change to survive,” he said.

“It must be more sensitive to the views of the public who pay for it and to the impact its power and size on the rest of the media.”

Mr Bradshaw also pledged to help save regional news during the recession, as local papers, national newspapers and broadcasters are hit hard by reduced advertising funding and the effects of internet journalism on traditional outlets.

“Good quality local news is vital for the health of our democracy,” the culture secretary told the conference.

“We face losing it completely from ITV unless something is done and many of our local newspapers are also struggling to survive.

“Labour is the only party that will guarantee high quality news on ITV in the English regions, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and say how it’ll be paid for. Our solution and other measures we are taking will help local newspapers too.

“Let Britain be in no doubt what the Tories would do to our culture, media and sport,” he continued.

“Boris Johnson let one cat out of the bag last week when he advocated charging for museums.

“Sport and culture decimated. The BBC fighting for its life. The death of local and regional news.”

The BBC’s relationship with government never quite recovered from the Hutton inquiry surrounding the run-up to conflict in Iraq.

But both now suffer from criticism of their financial organisation, with BBC management condemned for their salaries and MPs still reeling from the expenses scandal.