BBC facing ‘perception challenges’ says Labour MP as party launches review panel

The BBC is facing “some perception challenges”, shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said as she announced that Labour is launching an independent review panel into the “future direction” of the broadcaster.

She noted that the BBC “does face a number of headwinds” including its charter renewal and “constant questions around future funding”, adding that “its independence and impartiality is constantly being questioned”.

Asked if the BBC is independent of Government, she told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “I think that there are… have been serious issues lately.

“Obviously there are a number of issues around the appointment process of the chair, which is now under investigation because I asked for that investigation, because, quite clearly, the relationship between the chair that was appointed and the then prime minister was a lot closer and involved a lot more financial issues that we weren’t aware of at the time.

“The appointment of other members of the board of the BBC, but also… what we’ve seen from this Government in particular is keeping the BBC at heel by constantly threatening its future.

“So, this time last year, the then culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, said that the licence fee settlement would be the last licence fee as we know it and that in the future there would be some other way of funding the BBC, yet they’ve said nothing about that.”

Embattled BBC chairman Richard Sharp is facing pressure to resign amid an ongoing review after it emerged that he helped former prime minister Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility.

Labour Party Conference 2022
Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell announced that Labour is launching an independent review into the ‘future direction’ of the BBC (Peter Byrne/PA)

Ms Powell, MP for Manchester Central, said she wants the new panel to “really do some deep policy work for Labour on these issues”.

“Well, I think there are some perception challenges at least in that regard and the reason that I’ve launched this independent review panel today, with some very pre-eminent people from the industry working with me who are going to make recommendations and advise Labour on the future direction, is because the BBC does face a number of headwinds,” she said.

“But we’re sure that, as the Labour Party, we support a universally-funded, public service, publicly-funded broadcaster in this country – we think that’s absolutely critical.

“But there are a number of headwinds that it faces. It’s got a charter renewal coming up, there are constant questions around future funding.

“This Government have basically put the BBC under threat in terms of its future funding.

“Its independence and impartiality is constantly being questioned and at the centre of culture wars and, of course, in the streaming age, the platform age, the social media age that we are now living in, there are big challenges for the BBC, and that’s why I want this panel at this stage to really do some deep policy work for Labour on these issues, so that we can secure the future of the BBC, not just to survive, but to thrive into the next generation.”

Asked if Labour would not appoint anybody with any political links, Ms Powell told BBC One’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “That’s something we will look at, but I do think that would narrow the field significantly.”

A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC plays an important part in national life and we look forward to engaging with the review.”