Writer Neil Gaiman, actor Hugh Grant and historian and presenter David Olusoga are among 120 well-known British figures who have signed an open letter decrying the threat to public service broadcasters from streamers and government.
The letter, from campaign group the British Broadcasting Challenge, chaired by former BBC creative officer Pat Younge, states that PSBs such as the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 are “under severe threat” from “unregulated streaming services and ‘click-bait’ content of big-tech companies” and also from the U.K. government.
Also signed by actors Michael Sheen and Steve Coogan, author Salman Rushdie and filmmaker Armando Iannucci, the letter is addressed to U.K. Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden. It points out that funding to the BBC has been cut by 30% and states that “the safeguards supporting the PSB structures at ITV, C4 and C5 have been undermined and would be further damaged by the privatization of C4.”
The group takes issue with a specific public service broadcasting advisory panel, which was appointed in November to “provide independent expertise and advice as part of the government’s strategic review of public service broadcasting.” Among its members are Nicola Mendelsohn, VP for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Facebook; Sophie Turner Laing, former CEO of Endemol Shine Group; and Jane Turton, chief executive of All3Media.
“We are concerned that the government is being advised by a panel not set up under the Cabinet Office guidelines, meeting in secret with no public record of its agenda, discussions or recommendations,” the letter states.
“We take a different view. We believe that this is the moment — in an era of misinformation and the ‘weaponized’ politicization of news and opinion — to build up our Great British public service broadcasters rather than diminish them; to stop short-sighted political and financial attacks; to provide a vision for the future that allows our PSB system to grow as a trusted independent network that is worthy of the U.K., its citizens and the world.”
The letter goes on to call for an “honest public debate that explores the world-class advantages that our unique PSB system gives us now.”
“The expert PSB Panel is providing independent advice as the government considers how to deliver a successful and sustainable future for U.K. public service broadcasting. Its remit, membership and terms of reference are publicly available,” a U.K. Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson told Variety.