UK media minister issues speech

James Purnell looks ahead to future of TV

CAMBRIDGE, England — In his first big policy speech, Blighty’s new media minister has urged U.K. web heads to put the recent scandals over rigged phone lines and faked documentary footage behind them.

Delivering a flagship address at the Royal Television Society’s biennial Cambridge Convention, James Purnell said that despite the controversies, U.K. TV is a British success story.

“The basic facts are that broadcasting in this country is very good and that, in the end, it will be the quality of the output that settles all the big questions,” he told an audience of senior industry players.

“At the end of a bad year, I don’t think the bell is tolling for broadcasting. I do think people feel let down. But you only get to feel let down if you hold something in high regard in the first place.”

In a speech that will be pored over by industryites, Purnell, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, stressed that despite the changes being wrought by new media, universally available public-service broadcasting remains central to British democracy.

“We start from the premise that we value public-service broadcasting as part of our public realm,” he said. “It is more like a public park than it is like a consumer good. The big question is not whether but how to deliver it.”

Purnell recently returned from a U.S. fact-finding trip in which he visited Disney and Google.

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