LETTER : The BBC's fight to retain its edge in a competitive market

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From Mr Graham Allen, MP

Sir: John Birt last week called for "reflection in equal measure with disputation" from journalists and politicians. It is, therefore, a pity that you felt ("Summer cannot last for the BBC", 16 February) that "Labour has yet to construct an original position" on the future of the BBC. Had the privatisation fanatics in the Conservative Party had their way, Labour's part in the defence of the BBC as a public service broadcaster, funded by the licence fee, would have been portrayed as a typically irrelevant and adversarial gesture of opposition.

Instead, and fortunately for the BBC and for the viewing public, even the Government saw this as a privatisation too far and the Corporation was spared the Tory hatchet. This was not, however, an act of mercy by the Government. The BBC fought a long and painful battle to prove their mettle. Producer choice and several thousand job casualties later they are a leaner, fitter operation. The latest report, People and Programmes, is a continuation of this battle to remain a universal service and to retain consistently high ratings in an increasingly competitive broadcasting market.

John Redwood's attack on the BBC was a timely echo of the sustained and vitriolic barrage to which the BBC was subjected during the Thatcher regime. The consensus, which you interpret as lack of originality, has in fact been created by defenders of public service broadcasting against the Conservative attacks of the Eighties, and at great cost to the BBC.

Yours sincerely,

GRAHAM ALLEN

MP for Nottingham North (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

16 February

The writer is Shadow spokesperson on broadcasting, the media and the information superhighway.

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