Donald Macintyre's sketch: New BBC champion Cerys Matthews rises in the Lords

The Welsh singer and author charmed a pretty charmable committee

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Indy Politics

As a bit of a 21st-century renaissance woman, Welsh singer, songwriter and author Cerys Matthews, who had an early break from the BBC, was not appearing before the House of Lords committee considering Charter renewal to slag off the Corporation.

But today she underlined her passion for it by saying that after six years, “I left the US in 2007 because I missed the BBC so much”.

This was unsurprising since she put some of America’s acutest social problems down to there being no US equivalent. “The disparity between rich and poor, black and white, in America is shocking. I truly believe it is because they lack a well-funded and easily accessible public broadcast provider,” she declared.

“When you watch television in America, you are bombarded with ads that are very frequent and very long, selling you the junk foods that are killing those who are most vulnerable, because they haven’t got easy access to unbiased information… that will prevent them being easily exploited.”

Ms Matthews charmed a pretty charmable committee. Two of its members, Lady Kidron and Lady Bonham Carter, have done work for the Beeb; and another Lady Benjamin, is on the BBC’s advisory diversity committee. Perhaps a fourth old BBC hand, Lord Michael Dobbs of House of Cards fame – absent today – as a Tory would have been slightly more sympathetic than Ms Matthews to Government doubts about leaving it intact. 

Which wouldn’t have been difficult. Scornful of the argument that Radio One and Two should be axed because they were too “popular”, she urged politicians not to “fiddle” with the BBC and be remembered for “taking away our culture”.

Was it right, she asked, that Culture Secretary John Whittingdale had an advisory committee, six of whose eight members worked for companies that would benefit by “weakening” the BBC? Ms Matthews would be pretty effective in a tougher interrogation than she got. The BBC may have found its secret weapon.