HC Deb 07 March 1996 vol 273 cc335-6W
Mr. Spring

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage when the new BBC charter and agreement will come into effect. [20251]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

We have considered the views of right hon. and hon. Members in the debate on 15 February.Official Report, columns 1172–1234, and those expressed in another place. We have considered whether there is substantial support for significant changes to be made to the draft royal charter or the agreement which was approved by this House. We have concluded that no such changes are warranted.

Many of the points raised related to specific aspects of the BBC's services. The new charter and agreement set out explicitly the broad standards we expect of the BBC. It is for the BBC to give more specific undertakings, after consulting its audiences, in its statement of pledges.

Concern was voiced that the BBC should reflect the needs of audiences throughout the UK. The new charter and agreement establish a clear framework to ensure that programme makers in all parts of the country make a proper contribution to the BBC's output, and that the BBC stays closely in touch with the needs and opinions of all viewers and listeners. The statement of pledges will underpin these commitments.

We have made explicit the independence of the BBC. Alongside this, the BBC must be accountable to the public. We have made it clear that the responsibility for ensuring the BBC fulfils its obligations rests with the board of governors.

The policies reflected in the draft charter and agreement will secure the future of the BBC for the next 10 years and allow it to flourish, at home and abroad, in its public services and its commercial enterprises, under its new chairman, Sir Christopher Bland. I am therefore making a representation to Her Majesty that the new charter now be granted to the BBC. Subject to Her Majesty's approval, I expect the new royal charter and agreement to come into force on I May 1996.