Corbyn calls for ‘bold’ thinking on future of media

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Corbyn calls for ‘bold’ thinking on future of media

Jeremy Corbyn is to give the Alternative MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival.


Jeremy Corbyn will address the Edinburgh TV Festival (Jane Barlow/PA)
Jeremy Corbyn will address the Edinburgh TV Festival (Jane Barlow/PA)

Jeremy Corbyn will propose a shake-up of the way the TV licence fee is paid and set as he outlines a raft of suggestions for the BBC and wider media in a speech to the industry.

The Labour leader will argue that the licence fee should be modernised for the digital age, with a “fairer and more effective way” found to fund the BBC.

He will float the idea of introducing a digital licence fee – paid by tech giants or through internet service providers – to supplement the current licence fee, with a view to reducing the cost for poorer households and helping the corporation to compete “more effectively”.

Mr Corbyn will also propose the creation of a new independent body to set the licence fee and suggest the BBC should be placed on a permanent statutory footing “to end government control through charter renewal”.

A digital licence fee could allow a democratised and more plural BBC to compete far more effectively with the private multinational digital giants like Netflix, Amazon, Google and Facebook
Jeremy Corbyn

The Labour leader will air the ideas when he gives the Alternative MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Thursday, the fourth day of his visit to Scotland.

Mr Corbyn is expected to outline his support for the BBC as a publicly owned, public service broadcaster, but argue it needs to become more free from government influence, more accountable to the public and more representative of the country.

Among his suggestions, he will argue for “complete transparency” over the diversity of the corporation’s workforce with the publication of data including social class, and he will call for the election of some of the BBC board members by staff and licence fee payers.

On the licence fee, he will tell the festival: “If we want an independent BBC, we should consider setting it free by placing it on a permanent statutory footing, with a new independent body setting the licence fee.

“The licence fee itself is another potential area for modernisation. In the digital age, we should consider whether a digital licence fee could be a fairer and more effective way to fund the BBC.

“A digital licence fee, supplementing the existing licence fee, collected from tech giants and internet service providers, who extract huge wealth from our shared digital space, could allow a democratised and more plural BBC to compete far more effectively with the private multinational digital giants like Netflix, Amazon, Google and Facebook.

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“This could also help reduce the cost of the licence fee for poorer households.”

In a wide-ranging speech on the media as a whole, Mr Corbyn will argue that there is a need for “bold, radical thinking on the future of our media” because of “low levels of public trust” and the impact of the digital age.

Without major changes, a “few tech giants and unaccountable billionaires will control huge swathes of our public space and debate”, he is expected to say.

Mr Corbyn, who once worked on the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser, will also set out a number of proposals aimed at empowering public interest journalism.

These include strengthening Freedom of Information (FOI) rules by ending ministerial vetoes and including private companies delivering public services under the FOI umbrella.

Mr Corbyn will say it is unacceptable for corporate executives to “hide behind the excuse of commercial confidentiality” when they are providing a public service.

“But I think we should be more ambitious,” he will tell the audience.

“Currently, ministers can veto FOI releases. On two occasions, this veto has been used to block information about the UK’s decision to pursue military action against Iraq. That can’t be right. We will look at ending the ministerial veto to prevent the Information Commissioner being overruled.”

The Labour leader is also expected to call for charitable status to be given to some local, investigative and public interest journalism and an independent fund for public interest journalism paid for by tech giants.

Press Association

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