12 May 2010
The BBC’s proposed return to its core public service mission is a welcome ‘homecoming’ that should herald output appealing to the broadest possible range of audiences, according to the Church of England’s response to the Director-General’s proposals for the future strategy of the corporation.
Noting that the term “public service” had increasingly been replaced in the BBC’s corporate language by the “rather more nebulous and management-speak version ‘public value,” the Church’s response welcomes the fact that the current proposals “keep that traditional (but nevertheless evolving) concept of public service mission firmly in mind”.
The response is issued by the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester and the Church of England’s lead spokesman on communications. It calls for the BBC Trust to consider how this mission needs to be reinterpreted for today’s society, stressing that while some tough choices have to be made, “the BBC should continue to retain at its core the imperative to produce programmes appealing to a wide range of tastes and interests and of broad general appeal.”
The response echoes the tone of ‘critical friendship’ towards mainstream broadcasters set by the General Synod’s debate on the subject of religious broadcasting in February this year. Following its debate, the Synod resolved to “express its deep concern about the overall reduction in religious broadcasting across British television in recent years, and call upon mainstream broadcasters to nurture and develop the expertise to create and commission high quality religious content across the full range of their output, particularly material that imaginatively marks major festivals and portrays acts of worship”.
The Church’s submission highlights the central theme of this motion, calling on the BBC to ensure that “that appropriate resources are allocated towards ensuring high-quality provision of content that reflects and explores religion,” and warning “that the implied benefits of having a more mobile and flexible workforce outlined in the Director-General’s proposals need to be balanced not only against the human and social costs of operating in such a work environment, but also the importance of retaining sufficient in-house knowledge and skills in a range of specific ‘knowledge’ areas.”
It draws attention to the “highly valued” role of BBC local radio stations and the thematic content available online linked to these stations’ outputs, especially that relating to religion and ethics.
The submission also calls for a greater emphasis on promoting media literacy among audiences, and careful consideration of the issues surrounding the selection of institutions for partnership projects.
The Church’s full submission to the BBC Trust strategic review can be found on the Church of England website at: http://www.cofe.anglican.org/info/papers/bbctruststrategicrev.rtf.