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MPs urged to defend public service broadcasting

14 October 2009

Dozens of trade unionists gathered in Westminster this afternoon to lobby Members of Parliament over the future of public service broadcasting. The NUJ and BECTU are calling on the UK government to find a way of funding local news on commercial television – without taking any of the BBC's licence fee.

People travelled from as far as Glasgow and Leeds to support the lobby. Unions representing BBC workers have been campaigning for several weeks against the proposals to top slice the licence fee.

They have also proposed an alternative way of funding commercial TV journalism – a levy on telecoms companies and media organisations who don't currently pay for public service broadcasting.

Hundreds of people have already written to their MPs to protest against top slicing and to ask them to sign Early Day Motion 1891 that reaffirms their commitment to the licence fee.

Sue Harris, NUJ broadcasting organiser, said:

"The unions are absolutely committed to supporting regional news on commercial television.
"But we don't think the answer is to put the BBC's budget for public service broadcasting at risk.
"The NUJ doesn't think the BBC is perfect – like others we have concerns about management decisions, about levels of pay to executives and some celebs. But attacking the corporation's funding won't help.
"The government must open its mind to alternatives that would bring in genuinely new money to quality broadcasting."

Many of the MPs who attended the meeting spoke of their concerns about the impact the government's plans could have. Gerald Kaufman, MP for Manchester Gorton and an NUJ member, said the proposals were:

"superficial, stupid and ill-thought out."

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, said:

"The BBC has already cut 7,000 workers since 2004. ITV has cut thousands too – but NUJ and BECTU members struggle to produce regional news against the odds.
"We are committed to defending and strengthening quality journalism on all TV, radio and internet outlets."

Tags: , broadcasting, funding, public service broadcasting, bbc, bbc licence fee, television, top-slicing, parliament uk, quality journalism, radio, new media, websites