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'Dark forces' threaten BBC, claims MP, as 192,000 respond to consultation

Published 22/10/2015

The BBC's future is up for discussion after the Government published a green paper on the issue in July
The BBC's future is up for discussion after the Government published a green paper on the issue in July

Ministers have been warned "dark forces" are threatening the BBC, as the Government said it has received 192,000 comments about the broadcaster's future.

Labour former shadow minister Barry Sheerman cautioned that "media barons" want to see the BBC "diminished", adding the corporation must remain at the "heart" of Britain's creative sector.

But Conservative backbencher Philip Davies insisted the BBC has "nothing to fear" from dropping the licence fee and becoming a subscription service if it is "as popular as it claims".

The BBC's future is up for discussion after the Government published a green paper on the issue in July.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Sheerman (Huddersfield) told culture minister Ed Vaizey: "Are you aware that we are a world hub for creativity and the creative industries but there are certain linchpins - the BBC is at the heart of the creative sector, the Design Council is at the heart of the creative centre.

"Please do not sacrifice either of these. There are dark forces, like certain media barons, that would like to see the BBC diminished."

Mr Vaizey replied: "I agree with the last Labour secretary of state who said we shouldn't make the BBC a political football.

"We're asking perfectly legitimate questions about the BBC but I note your comments about the UK being a creative hub."

Mr Vaizey then joked: "I was concerned about your comments on the Bond movie this morning on Twitter.

"Your attack on the Bond franchise, which employs thousands of people in this country, whose producers make such a fantastic contribution to our cultural life, and I hope you'll stand up for James Bond."

Earlier, Mr Davies (Shipley) asked Culture Secretary John Whittingdale: "Do you not agree with me that it would be far better for subscribers to the BBC to determine the scale and scope of its services rather than the Government?

"Isn't it the case that if the BBC is as popular as it claims with the public, it's got nothing to fear from going to a subscription model?

"And given its international recognition, freed from the shackles of the licence fee, isn't it inevitable that the BBC's revenues would increase substantially if it went to a subscription model?"

Mr Whittingdale replied: "I am, of course, familiar with your views on the BBC and you have made your case with your customary strength and fluency.

"But, as I say, we are still in the consultation period, or at least analysing the responses we have received, and of course your view will be taken into account - as will the other 192,000 we have received."

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