MPs meet Murdoch on junket to Tinseltown

MPs investigating the future of the BBC have enjoyed a week-long junket at public expense to Los Angeles, where they met Rupert Murdoch.

MPs investigating the future of the BBC have enjoyed a week-long junket at public expense to Los Angeles, where they met Rupert Murdoch.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee's five-night trip to Tinseltown last month at a cost of several thousand pounds for the nine MPs was a fact-finding mission for its inquiry into the renewal of the BBC's charter. A similar trip last year to research the British film industry cost about £30,000.

The latest visit raises the question of whether California is the best place for MPs to research the future of the BBC, when the US has a dismal track record in public service broadcasting. Members of the committee argue that American firms are at the forefront of broadcasting technology and are therefore crucial to their inquiry into the BBC's charter.

Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat culture and media spokesman, said he hoped the committee could justify the expense to the taxpayer. "If the US offers cutting-edge technology, as is claimed, it also offers a public service broadcasting landscape to avoid," Mr Foster said.

"The public value of getting the BBC's Charter Review right is huge. But while the committee may have tourism under its remit, let's hope that the public cost of this trip can be justified entirely in terms of broadcasting," he added.

Members of the committee raised concerns beforehand about whether the trip was justified. Chris Bryant, the Labour MP for the Rhondda, originally opposed the visit but changed his mind.

He said: "We wanted our report on the future of the BBC to be well-informed and ahead of the game. The US leads the way technologically and our visit to more than a dozen companies opened our eyes to the changing nature of broadcasting. It was well worthwhile."

The committee, chaired by the veteran Labour backbencher Sir Gerald Kaufman, visited more than a dozen media organisations during the visit, but the highlight was a meeting with Mr Murdoch. The meeting with the News Corp chief was private and informal, and did not form part of the committee's official inquiry into the renewal of the BBC's charter.

Mr Murdoch makes regular trips to Britain, where his media interests include BSkyB and News International, publisher of The Sun and The Times, but because he is a US citizen, the select committee has no power to summon him to appear before them.

It is not the first time the committee has travelled to Los Angeles. In June 2003, the MPs visited the city as part of an inquiry into the British film industry. They flew British Airways business class and stayed at the Chateau Marmont hotel, a replica of an 18th- century French castle, on Sunset Boulevard.

A British Airways business class return ticket costs about £2,450, while standard rate rooms at the Chateau Marmont are priced at £220 a night. The committee remained within its stated budget and is believed to have received discounted rates, but the total cost is still likely to have been about £30,000.

A spokeswoman for the committee confirmed that the MPs visited Los Angeles last month but refused to comment on where they stayed or how much the trip cost. In its submission to the Government's review of its charter, entitled Building Public Value, the BBC outlined the problem with public service broadcasting in the US.

"PBS, the sole American public service television broadcaster, is a marginal broadcaster showing minority programmes in which commercial television has no interest," the BBC said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Creative Director / Head of Creative

£65K - £75K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Creative Director...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager

£40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...

Guru Careers: PR Account Manager / AM

£20-30K(DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a PR Account M...

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Account Executive

Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: One of the UK’s largest and most s...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence