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Government must not bury BBC consultation, Gavin warns

Gavin Newlands, the MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, has today called on the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to not “bury” the findings of the BBC Charter Review Consultation and to honour their commitment to publish the findings of the consultation in full.

Gavin Newlands MP wrote to the Secretary of State, John Whittingdale MP, on 23rd December 2015 after a number of his constituents contacted the Renfrewshire MP to raise their concerns that the government’s consultation had ended on 8th October 2015 but the findings of that consultation had not been published.

On 6th January 2016, replying on behalf of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey MP, told Mr Newlands that:

“The Government takes the responses extremely serious and is in the process of reading and analysing all of these. Any suggestion that the Government is trying to bury the responses is totally false. I can assure you that once all the responses have been read and analysed the Government will of course be publishing the consultation results.”

However, it has since been reported by the Telegraph that “the Culture Secretary has been forced to revisit the consultation on the future of the BBC” because it “was hijacked by a left-wing campaigning group” 38 Degrees. The Secretary of State claimed that the submissions to the consultation were “not wholly representative of public opinion at large”.

Gavin Newlands, the MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, said:

“Over 190,000 people responded to the UK Government’s BBC Charter Review Public Consultation last year in order to have their say on the future of the BBC.

“When a number of constituents contacted me to raise their concerns about the delay in the publication of the consultation’s findings, I wrote to the Secretary of State to find out the time-frame for publication.

“Replying to my letter, the Minister for Culture told me that the consultation responses would be published in due course and that the government was ‘not trying to bury the responses’ – which was strange as I did not suggest that government was trying to do so.

“However, in retrospect, that comment may have been a Freudian slip from the government. Now the Secretary of State is back-pedalling and has said that he will revisit the consultation because the 190,000 responses from the public are somehow, in his words ‘not wholly representative of public opinion at large’ – this is worrying.

“The BBC is the nation’s public broadcaster. It belongs to the people, not the government or politicians. Therefore, governments cannot simply dismiss the opinions and views that have been expressed by members of the public on the future of their public broadcaster because it might not fit with the government’s agenda.

“The UK Government must not bury the consultations findings or obfuscate in this matter – to do so would be utterly unacceptable. Instead, the government must now commit to publishing the findings of the BBC Charter Review Public Consultation in full as soon as is reasonably possible – people throughout the country deserve nothing less.”

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