Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has ordered the BBC to project British values and prepare for regulation and funding changes in a piece penned for The Times.
It comes following a report by Lord Dyson which revealed the the corporation acted unethically in obtaining an interview with Diana, Princess of Wales in 1995.
Over the weekend, Priti Patel told the BBC to “look at itself” and reflect on the report – whilst dismissing findings that showed she broke the ministerial code.
Dowden has now said that Lord Dyson’s investigation “exposed failures that strike at the heart of our national broadcaster’s values and culture”.
Tory leadership of BBC
He said: “The BBC must act fast to restore trust, and reassure the country that it will shine a light on any other areas falling short of the high standards we rightly expect from it.
“We will not stand idly by in Government either. We cannot and should not get involved in editorial decisions, but we should reflect on the lack of oversight and challenge that these decisions exposed.”
The MP for Hertsmere praised the “more powerful Board” the BBC now has – which includes Robbie Gibb, a Brexiteer with close ties to the Tories.
“The new leadership deserves credit for setting up an independent investigation and accepting Lord Dyson’s findings in full, and I expect them to act swiftly on all of his recommendations.”
The culture secretary said the government is looking into strenghtening the regulation of the BBC. “Its purpose is to look at issues such as the performance of the BBC Board and the effectiveness of the regulation by Ofcom,” he said, adding:
“We will need to be reassured that this system of governance and oversight is now sufficient.”
He said a mid-term review is scheduled for the start of 2022 – and described it as a ‘health check’ provision’ established by his Tory colleague John Whittingdale.
Dowden continued by saying that, “as a conservative”, he believes in “preserving great national institutions”, and praised BBC’s work throughout the pandemic.
Independent and investigative BBC?
The Tory minister supported Prince William’s speech and said that in the “era of fake news, public service broadcasting and a free press have never been more important”.
He added: “I firmly believe we need trusted and impartial broadcasters, high-quality investigative journalism, and an independent and vibrant press today more than ever.
Dowden thinks the BBC needs an new emphasis on accuracy, impartiality and diversity of opinion: “As others have observed, the BBC can occasionally succumb to a ‘we know best’ attitude that is detached both from the criticism and the values of all parts of the nation it serves.
“It must step up to project British values as our national champion.
“Groupthink in any organisation results in a lack of challenge and poor decision making.
“That’s why cultural change must be a focus for the Director General and new Chair on the back of the Dyson report.”
Dowden said they will also be looking at longer term aspects such as the correct funding model, shape and structure of the BBC.