It’s a brave MP who launches an attack on an organisation in his own constituency, but the “MP for Albert Square” has done just that.
Oliver Dowden, Boris Johnson’s new secretary of state for culture, represents Elstree where the popular BBC soap EastEnders is filmed. It also takes in the Elstree film studios and Sky’s new multi-stage facility.
But in a speech at the Enders Media and Telecoms Conference in London, Mr Downden said that while the BBC was an institution that needed to be cherished, there were still questions to be asked, such as whether it truly reflected the nation and the British people.
The minister accused the BBC of being “slow to pick up, key political and social trends in recent years” – a reference to Brexit, though viewers to political show Question Time might dispute that given the number of appearances given to leading Brexiteer Nigel Farage.
He highlighted Ofcom research showing the perception of news impartiality to be lower for some public service broadcasting channels than commercial channels such as Sky and CNN.
“In an age of fake news and self reinforcing algorithms, the need for that genuine impartiality is greater than ever,” he said.
There was also the question of viewer habits and the use of on demand services, naming Netflix and the (BBC) iPlayer.
“My generation is no longer just turning on the TV when we get home, but is consuming different types of content through the likes of iPlayer and Netflix. While younger generations are favouring self-generated content on platforms such as YouTube.
“When there is so much choice around, the BBC and our public service broadcasters need to think boldly.”
The conservative government has not hidden its desire to downsize the BBC, mooting plans to scrap the licence fee in favour of a subscription model.