Scandal-hit BBC must "get a grip" warns Bishop Auckland MP

The BBC must "get a grip" - or risk losing public confidence and possibly losing its licence fee, an MP from Bishop Auckland has warned

Broadcasting House, London
Broadcasting House, London

The BBC must "get a grip" - or risk losing public confidence and possibly losing its licence fee, an MP from the North East has warned.

The national broadcaster was heavily criticised by Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman in the House of Commons.

The MP, who is Labour’s Shadow Minister for the media, warned that the BBC needed better management after it was “rocked” by a series of scandals.

The outspoken comments from Labour’s official spokeswoman raised questions about the future of the BBC if Ed Miliband’s party wins the next general election.

Traditionally, Conservatives have been more willing to criticise the broadcaster, and to ask whether the licence fee is justifiable.

But Ms Goodman highlighted a series of concerns including massive pay-offs to departing staff which came to £25m shared between 150 outgoing executives.

She also raised concerns about a Newsnight report which led to former politician Lord McAlpine being falsely accused of being involved in child abuse.

The BBC apologised and paid him £185,000 plus costs after he threatened to sue for libel.

And she highlighted a Panorama report about North Korea in which students from the London School of Economics were accompanied by an undercover reporter during a visit to the country - leading to claims the students had been put in danger, although they said at the time that they had known the risks.

Ms Goodman said the worst scandal to hit the BBC had been the revelation that presenter Jimmy Savile had abused children and adults while working there.

She said: “A series of scandals have rocked the BBC in the past few years. The most serious was clearly the Savile scandal.

“It looks now as if perhaps 500 people were victims of this man, and the initial horrors have been followed by wrong editorial decisions.

“Those massive pay-offs were partly caused by the fact that there was excessive pay at the top of the management of the organisation.”

She added: “We on the Labour benches believe that the BBC must get a grip.”

While she did not directly comment on whether the BBC should retain the licence fee or not, Ms Goodman pointed out that some MPs believed the time had come to scrap it.

She said: “All those episodes seem to me to show that the BBC’s management needs to be improved.

“Some honourable members believe that the model has failed and the licence fee should be abandoned.”

But Ms Goodman stressed that the BBC would still have a vital role to play for a long time to come.

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