Media landscape not Orwellian, Bradshaw insists

By Alex Stevenson

Culture secretary Ben Bradshaw has rejected James Murdoch’s claim that Britain’s media landscape is “Orwellian”.

Speaking yesterday evening at a Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge, Mr Bradshaw responded to Mr Murdoch’s scathing attack against the BBC last month in which he attacked its state-sponsored status and claimed the market was being distorted.

Mr Bradshaw said the speech had been “thought-provoking” but rejected the Orwellian tag.

“Being publicly funded or subject to statutory regulation does not equate with state control. East German TV was state controlled. That’s why those East Germans valued the BBC – it was free, diverse, self critical,” he said.

The culture secretary indicated a suspicion of the market, saying he did not believe it could by itself provide the range of content and “plural sources” for which Britain is “envied worldwide”.

“There are important areas of content as well as infrastructure that the public says it values, wants and expects, and that the unregulated market will simply not provide,” he added.

Mr Bradshaw did not let the BBC escape scot-free, however. He said Mr Murdoch was right to question its size, remit and impact, suggesting he viewed it as having “probably reached the limits of reasonable expansion”.

He said the Beeb should look carefully at what it pays its top stars and executives and added the BBC should allow the National Audit Office access to its accounts.

Mr Bradshaw concluded: “Public service broadcasting has informed, entertained and enriched Britain, and generations of Britons. The BBC has been central to that in the past and I hope will continue to be in the future.”