Culture secretary

A word to the UK’s new Culture Secretary: Nadine Dorries was a toxic disaster. Do better | Jane Martinson

Dear Michelle Donelan,

Congratulations on your appointment as Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, which should be one of the best jobs in the firm but has become a bit of a joke. And not in a funny way, but in the way the title of Minister of “Culture and Information” in Afghanistan makes you wince.

Your immediate predecessor, Nadine Dorries, never seemed to take the job seriously, somehow confusing the Culture Department with the Culture Warfare Department.

As a journalist, I can tell you that politicians prone to making mistakes and yelling at people make great copy. The problem is that the work, and those who do it, should be more important than that.

Forgive me for this unsolicited advice, but as the 11th Conservative Culture Secretary in the past 12 years, you have to see that it’s time to take the job seriously.

You have a huge to-do list left, with proposed new laws ranging from the yet-to-be-published bill to privatize Channel 4 to a Digital Markets Bill, which could change the way tech platforms pay for newspapers. . Much of it is complicated and requires you to learn your memory.

Again, learn from Dorries’ mistakes. By all means, consider privatizing the country’s only public broadcaster if you think it’s really in the public interest, but at least try to figure it out first. Don’t blame Channel 4 for “receiving public money” when it’s not. Don’t pretend rival Channel 5 has been successfully privatized when a quick Google search will show you it never was. Such ignorance does not help when so many independent producers who depend on Channel 4 for a living oppose privatization.

Everyone makes mistakes, of course, but much of the agenda you inherited seems driven more by politics than economics.

Truth-based trust is the essence of all good journalism, but especially so for public service broadcasters such as Channel 4 and the BBC, given that they are owned or paid for by the public.

A few months ago, Dorries accused Channel 4 of using actors in a documentary about people living in desperate conditions in housing estates, Tower Block of Commons. Who could argue given that Dorries, a former reality TV star herself, appeared alongside them on the show? Except that a later investigation found the allegations to be false, leading to a denial backed by a DCMS committee headed by a conservative chairman. So far, there have been no apologies, and the allegations spark doubt and mistrust.

Similarly, when the BBC showed footage of Boris Johnson being booed by royalists on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, Dorries tweeted that there were “lots more cheers” than boos despite video evidence to the contrary.

Reality in our dystopian times is often distorted. Call the BBC a hotbed of socialists and trotters all you want, but the fact is that the two guys at the top either donated to the Conservative Party or considered running as local Tory candidates.

And whatever the politics of those inside, all broadcasters, and especially the BBC, are governed by rules of impartiality. It must be infuriating for politicians eager to cut deals for favorable coverage, but it’s one of the things that makes the BBC one of the most trusted sources of news in the United States, not to mention the UK.

Millions more people can read the Daily Mail than the 81,000 who voted for your boss, Liz Truss, or even the 30,000 who voted for you in Chippenham. But the Mail doesn’t run the country – or at least it’s not elected to do so. Calling opponents a ‘leftist luvvie lynch mob’ is fine for its columnists, like Dorries when she writes in the Mail, but it’s the writing equivalent of blowing a raspberry, not really a thoughtful argument.

The task of managing digital, culture, media and sport in this country is also far too big for that. And not just because the arts and culture enrich a nation, its well-being and its sense of community, but purely for their economic importance – the kind of reason that should be obvious to a Conservative minister in times of economic crisis. More … than four million people work in the sectors you are now responsible for, which is 13% of all jobs in the UK. Unlike many other sectors, these numbers increased last year by 3%. At a time when Britain is redefining its role in the world, the kind of soft power wielded by its creative industries must be nurtured, not attacked.

As minister of universities, you focused on what you considered “work” on campus, such as staff diversity programs. Two years ago you appeared to join the BBC hit-squad, writing: “I think the license fee is an unfair tax and should be scrapped. Beware of this stuff. See Dorries as a warning, not as a model.

Entertainment and the media have long been used to distract people from harsher realities, like not being able to warm up or eat. Don’t go down this path. May culture be a source of strength and enrichment. It’s a real job. Do it properly.

Yours in hope,

Joan