Debates between John Whittingdale and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi during the 2019 Parliament

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between John Whittingdale and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi
Thursday 1st July 2021

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
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The hon. Lady is right that Channel 4 does not have an in-house production company, which means that it is entirely dependent on advertising revenue, which is one of the reasons why we think it right to look at the ownership model, but it does support independent production right across the United Kingdom. That is part of its remit and we intend to preserve the remit, although we will be examining whether that needs to be changed—indeed, possibly strengthened in some areas—as part of our consultation.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Dhesi
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Channel 4 is a great British success story and an iconic institution. It has invested £12 billion in the independent production sector and regional TV, given voice to local communities across our country, and exported content around the world; and it has recorded a record £74 million financial surplus. Despite all those successes, for the sixth time, the Conservative Government are seeking to privatise it, even though they concluded just four years ago that that was a very bad idea. Could that possibly be because “Channel 4 News” is doing a solid job, in particular, of holding an incompetent and crony-connected Government to account?

John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
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I share the hon. Gentleman’s view that Channel 4, which was, of course, the creation of a Conservative Government, has done an excellent job and it is our intention to sustain it into the future. That is why we believe that now is the right time to look at its future ownership, because it is coming under increasing pressure due to the changes taking place in the way in which television is consumed. While I may not always agree with “Channel 4 News”, I do believe it does a good job. I very strongly support plurality of news providers and would expect that Channel 4 will continue to feature a news service as part of its future offering, and that would remain part of its remit.

BBC: Dyson Report

Debate between John Whittingdale and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi
John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
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I am pleased to hear what my hon. Friend says about the high standards that pertained when he was working for the BBC. Obviously, that is something we hope will represent the BBC’s values in future. In terms of the leadership and management, the review which has been conducted by the BBC into the specific lessons to be learned from Lord Dyson’s report will feed into the wider reform agenda, which I think the board is determined to pursue. There is no question that there is a problem with culture at the BBC which goes beyond just the failings identified by Lord Dyson. I can assure my hon. Friend that that is something the leadership of the BBC does now recognise and is working hard to address.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab)
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The hurt and anger felt by Princes William and Harry and other members of the royal family is palpable and painful. I am so glad that there has been an unequivocal apology from the BBC and the launch of the lessons learned report on account of the diabolical journalistic practices endured by Princess Diana in 1995, but, of course, the BBC is so much more than a single programme; it is a treasured institution that has contributed immensely to our nation over the last century. So does the Minister agree that it is very distasteful to see a feeding frenzy, especially from those with a severe dislike of the BBC? Does he also agree that it is the pinnacle of irony for the Prime Minister to be talking about being immensely concerned about journalism standards, given that he himself was sacked by The Times for inventing a quote?

John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
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The hon. Gentleman was doing fine until the end. This is a more serious matter. I certainly agree with him about the distress that has been caused to the royal family, which has been very powerfully expressed by His Royal Highness Prince William. That is something that the BBC recognises, which is why it is acting to address it. I can only repeat what I have said already: the trust in the BBC is one of its greatest assets and the BBC now has to work hard to restore that.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between John Whittingdale and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi
Thursday 24th September 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab)
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What steps his Department is taking to support local, independent newspapers during the covid-19 outbreak. [906489]

John Whittingdale Portrait The Minister for Media and Data (Mr John Whittingdale)
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The Government recognise the vital importance of local and regional newspapers, particularly during this pandemic. That is why we designated journalists as key workers and ran a £35 million public information campaign to carry covid messaging in more than 600 titles.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Dhesi
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We in Slough are fortunate to have two brilliant local newspapers, the Slough Express and the Slough Observer, which play a vital role in our local democracy, ensuring that the good people of Slough are well informed with reliable and accurate news reporting, but, like many of their counterparts across our country, local journalism is under threat. Their trade body News Media Association has repeatedly called for business rates relief, but those calls seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The National Union of Journalists has proposed a detailed news recovery plan to ensure the survival of excellent journalism, which is there for all of us. Can the Minister advise us, before we lose even more valued local newspapers, when the Government will finally listen to and support this important sector?

John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
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I have no doubt that the newspapers in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency are doing an excellent job, and I have had a number of conversations with the News Media Association and other publishing organisations. The Government have extended £1,500 business rates relief for local newspaper offices, but we will obviously continue to look at what additional measures we can take to support newspapers.

BBC

Debate between John Whittingdale and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
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I share a lot of the criticisms that my hon. Friend makes of the licence fee.  It is highly regressive, and there is no means testing or benefit available to anybody under 75. However, in the past it was always felt that, for all its faults, there was no better way of funding the BBC. That may become increasingly questioned, particularly as more and more people obtain their programming online. Undoubtedly, that debate will form part of the next charter review.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab)
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21 Jul 2020, midnight

Because of huge Government cuts, the BBC has reluctantly had to axe the free TV licence for the over-75s, and make substantial reductions to national news and its much-treasured regional news output. During the heat of the election, the Conservatives extolled the virtues of local news and promised to protect our elderly from isolation by retaining their free TV licences. Will the Minister take this opportunity to apologise to those millions of pensioners and the BBC staff who will lose their jobs as a result of the Government’s broken manifesto pledge?

John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
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21 Jul 2020, midnight

The Government have always believed very strongly in the independence of the BBC. It is for the BBC to take decisions about its programming content, its employment practices and, indeed, the licence fee. It was not for us to instruct it. However, as I and the Government have repeatedly made clear, we regret the decisions it has taken about over-75s and regional programming.