Culture secretary

UK Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan wishes the BBC well as the government overturns grievances on the public broadcaster’s 100th anniversary

The BBC turns 100 today and it looks like the centenary is helping to build bridges between the British public and the Conservative government, at least in the short term.

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan struck a conciliatory tone in a statement released in the last hour noting the anniversary, highlighting several achievements in the BBC’s history and its outsized impact on the world beyond the UK.

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“Since the first BBC broadcast went on the air 100 years ago, few could have imagined that BBC broadcasting history would become British history,” she wrote. , while highlighting shows such as Doctor Who and classic sitcom Only fools and horses as cultural landmarks in the UK.

Donelan said the BBC “became a crucial method of maintaining morale” during World War II, adding: “Now, as Russia targets the media in Ukraine, the BBC has again stepped up to serve the War-torn Europe.

She referenced how the BBC had covered important historical moments such as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher traveling to meet US President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and both the coronation and funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

It is a markedly different tone than most Tory ministers have used when addressing the BBC in recent years as debates over the future of the license fee and perceptions of bias continue to bite. Donelan, a former WWE Entertainment marketing executive, has herself previously said it’s ‘no secret’ she’s been ‘long skeptical of licensing fees’ but pledged to listen to the evidence before making decisions about the future of the BBC.

Donelan was appointed Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last month, replacing Nadine Dorries, whose stance was much more openly hostile to the BBC and its existing model.

Donelan today stressed the need for reform at the broadcaster, which is currently undergoing a major round of cuts to its World News division and still faces huge financial pressures ahead of the next round of Charter talks with the government.

“As the world continues to move and the media landscape evolves, we will ensure that the BBC continues to evolve with it,” Donelan wrote. “Our aim is to improve on the best of the BBC, but to address areas where it could and should offer value, fairness and choice to the public. This is how we protect one of great institutions of British life.

His comments come after BBC Director General Tim Davie, who was at Mipcom this week to tout the broadcaster’s continued commercial success, released his own statement on the centenary.

“With the BBC reaching the milestone of 100 years, our mission to inform, educate and entertain has never been more relevant or necessary,” he said. “For a century, the BBC has been a beacon of trusted news and programs around the world, while being part of the fabric of the UK and one of its key institutions. It was a story of dedication to public service and constant reinvention, to which those at the BBC remain utterly committed today. We exist to serve the public – doing that will guide the next 100 years.

BBC Chairman Richard Sharp, who is a Conservative Party donor but is now seen as a strong supporter of the broadcaster, added: “I believe [the BBC’s] the best days are ahead. We have always innovated, changed and adapted. Our path has always been guided by the needs of the public. We are just as aware of this today as we always have been. By continuing to put the public first, we will continue to inform, educate and entertain for another century.

Read Donelan’s full statement here

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