The BBC’s role in broadening our horizons

Amidst all the controversy over whether the Great British Bake Off should have been allowed to leave the BBC and migrate to Channel 4, whether Mary Berry would follow and what on earth went wrong with the new series of Top Gear, there are far more important things we should be discussing about the mission and purposes of the BBC, our most important public service broadcaster.

While Charter Review is almost complete, with a new Charter due to be instituted on January 1st 2017, there will still be a period of transition while a new regulatory and governance model is established.

Our lives are increasingly impacted by international events – the refugee crisis, Brexit, international conflicts.

For the past ten years the BBC has had a purpose to ‘bring the world to the UK’. It’s had the responsibility to fulfil this mission across a range of genres – from children’s content, to drama, to documentary and entertainment. This aspect of the BBC’s mission, to provide a range of audiences with a window on the world, is essential if the BBC is to broaden our horizons, which is surely what we all want.

We want Great Continental Railway Journeys alongside natural history documentaries, Panorama, Blue Peter, Newsround, Mary Beard’s history programmes, Reggie Yates’ documentaries and series such as Exodus, a remarkable piece of film making which led viewers on the journey of refugees, much of it filmed and narrated by the migrants themselves. The list of international content the BBC currently provides is a long one. It is one of the most distinctive contributions the BBC makes to the national experience.

In a post-Brexit Britain, where some of us feel a bit more isolated than before, protecting the BBC’s global purpose feels like a priority. In the new draft Charter there is a revised first purpose that ‘The BBC should provide duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of all parts of the United Kingdom and of the wider world.’

This mission applies to all audiences. This is a great outcome for TV audiences across the country, irrespective of their personal interests or their political persuasion – Bake Off fans, news junkies, teenagers or pensioners. We can all feel proud of this aspect of the new Charter.

What is essential is that the BBC delivers on this promise. Ofcom will be tasked with regulation of the BBC for the coming 11 years.

It is crucial that Ofcom measures the amount and nature of non-news international content provided by the BBC if we are to be sure that we are getting our money’s worth out of the licence fee.

It is a right of audiences to be provided with engaging, entertaining and informative content about the world around them. We must make sure that this is delivered.

The only way to be sure of this is if it is introduced as a criterion of the measurement of the delivery of the BBC’s mission. 

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