Minister tells BBC to 'project British values' or lose licence fee

Handout screengrab from Parliament TV of Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden speaking in the House of Co

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said the BBC should 'project British values' or face losing its licence fee - Credit: PA

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has said the BBC must project "British values" or face losing its licence fee.

Dowden also accused the BBC of adopting a "we know best" attitude following the scandal surrounding its Panorama interview with Princess Diana.

In his first detailed response since the report from Lord Dyson was released, Dowden said the scandal exposed "failures that strike at the heart of our national broadcaster's values and culture".

Writing in The Times, he said far-reaching change was needed to ensure the broadcaster was in tune with "all parts of the nation it serves".

Dowden indicated there were "fundamental questions" about the future of the licence fee beyond 2027 as it competes with US streaming giants like Amazon and Netflix.

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He said the BBC could justify its funding models by providing distinctively British programmes, adding that it needed to "step up to project British values and distinct quality programming with renewed vigour and ambition as our national champion".

In his report, Lord Dyson, said journalist Martin Bashir used "deceitful conduct" to obtain the 1995 Diana interview which was then covered up by a "woefully ineffective" internal investigation.

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Dowden claimed the BBC's leadership was too narrowly drawn – succumbing to "groupthink" – and that "cultural change" was needed in the organisation.

"The BBC can occasionally succumb to a 'we know best' attitude that is detached both from the criticism and the values of all parts of the nation it serves," he wrote.

"Groupthink in any organisation results in a lack of challenge and poor decision making. That's why cultural change must be a focus for the director-general and new chair."

The culture secretary argued the BBC needed "to improve its culture to ensure this never happens again and that means a new emphasis on accuracy, impartiality and diversity of opinion".

His warning came after home secretary Priti Patel refused to rule out the prospect of criminal prosecutions after Lord Dyson's findings.

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