Tories: BBC should be more ‘responsible’

Public service broadcasters were urged to be more “socially responsible” with their content by shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt in a speech in London today.

“Surely it is reasonable for broadcasters to take more responsibility for the social impact of their programmes and not just simply place issues on the table for debate,” Mr Hunt said.

The comments come as BBC entertainers Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross were suspended following an internal investigation into Mr Brand’s radio show a fortnight ago.

“Just as it would be wrong in a plural and democratic society to require broadcasters to produce programmes that meet government objectives and promote positive social behaviour, so it is also wrong for broadcasters to produce programmes that legitimise negative social behaviour,” Mr Hunt continued.

Hunt further commented that he found Mr Brand and Mr Ross’s broadcast “offensive and juvenile behaviour” and said the BBC’s own policies were not followed.

“Just because it’s entertaining, doesn’t mean it’s good,” he said.

“I think the BBC is a socially responsible broadcaster, we just need to hear it.”

Mr Hunt urged major changes in the way the BBC and other public broadcasters addressed issues in society.

Assuming what he described as a “realistic approach”, Mr Hunt explained public service broadcasters rarely move beyond merely raising an issue but were capable of doing more.

“Our broadcasters have a huge impact on the progress we make in tackling the major social problems of the day through the way they inform and shape attitudes and beliefs,” he said.

Mr Hunt described what he saw as options to improve public service broadcasting such as changing the method of collection for the license fee to evolve with growing technology and improving local sector public service broadcasting to function similarly to the US.

“I believe that the lack of local TV in Britain is the biggest single failing of the British broadcasting industry,” he said.