Parliament: Media: MPs angry over `dumbing down' of programmes

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The Independent Online
CHRIS SMITH, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, will lead protests to the BBC from MPs about the alleged "dumbing down" of broadcasting in the ratings war with commercial stations for higher viewing and listening figures.

Mr Smith is also to raise with the Independent Television Commission concern about the quality of programmes whichfollowed the moving of News At Ten to a new timeslot.

Mr Smith faced anger from MPs on all sides yesterday in the Commons over the BBC's perceived shift downmarket. The focus for the MPs' anger was the decision to move the reporting of Parliament off Radio 4, but they also complained about the quality of public service delivered by the BBC.

Mr Smith told the MPs the Government could not intervene directly about programming but he would be raising the issue personally. He said he would remind the BBC, its governors and the director-general, "of their duty as a public service broadcaster, not only to entertain but also to educate and to inform... My personal view is certainly that accurate and full coverage of what happens in Parliament is part of that duty. I am sure that is a point many MPs will wish to make."

It was not up to the Government to make a "government view" about programming decisions. "It is up to individual MPs to do so," he said.

Norman Baker (Lib Dem, Lewes) said: "The BBC is awash with, indeed submerged with, management strategies, management consultants and mission statements. The situation is so absurd Broadcasting House now has no broadcasters in it - solely management." Licence holders would get a better deal by having more money spent on programmes and journalists and less on "gobbledegook managers".