Entertainment & Arts

BBC charter renewal: White Paper to be published

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Proposals for the renewal of the BBC charter will be published in a government White Paper later.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale is expected to set out a tougher regime for the broadcaster in plans for a new royal charter for the next 11 years.

Reports have claimed the BBC will scale back online services, including losing recipe pages and magazine content.

The BBC said it was reviewing online services but such claims were "speculation".

The royal charter expires at the end of December and a public consultation into its future was launched last year.

Earlier in May, Labour accused Mr Whittingdale of "meddling", following reports he would allow commercial broadcasters to challenge the BBC over peak-time scheduling, a claim that was denied.

Mr Whittingdale, speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, said media reports ahead of the publication of the paper had ranged from "complete fantasy" to "quite well-informed", adding: "But certainly not informed by me or my department."

A government source told the Sunday Times the White Paper was intended to "set a broad set of principles and guidelines".

"How that is applied to individual programmes and scheduling is a matter for them. But they will be subject to external regulation."

'Need to evolve'

The Guardian has claimed the licence fee would be subjected to "top-slicing", with a portion of it being handed to commercial rivals in areas such as children's programming.

Newspapers have also speculated Mr Whittingdale will make the BBC publish how much it pays top talent earning more than £150,000.

At Sunday night's TV Bafta awards, Wolf Hall director Peter Kosminsky was one of a number of people who spoke out against alleged government plans.

He claimed ministers were trying to "eviscerate" the BBC and that now was "a dangerous time for broadcasting in Britain".

In a speech at the British Museum, Prime Minister David Cameron said the broadcaster was one of the "most recognised brands on the planet", while Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill warned a public protest march would follow any "stupid" decisions in regards to the BBC's future.

The White Paper is also expected to address the conclusions of Sir David Clementi's report into the BBC Trust, which recommended "fundamental reform" of the body.

The document follows 2015's Green Paper, which was a consultation paper about the future of the corporation.

In that paper, Mr Whittingdale said there was a "need to ask some hard questions in charter review if we are to ensure the future success of the BBC and, indeed, UK broadcasting".

"I believe the BBC can continue to thrive. But to do that it will need to evolve," he said.

Birmingham moves

In an email to staff, BBC director general Tony Hall said the White Paper "must give us a mandate for a secure future".

He said he would address staff following the paper's publication.

Lord Hall wrote: "It's a big moment. Of course, every Charter matters - but perhaps this one even more so, as it's taking place in the middle of a global media revolution."

He said the BBC must have a "certainty of funding, as well as control over its own revenue streams".

"This debate should lead us to a position where our creativity can flourish rather than be constrained...

"We need to change the way we're governed to make it simpler and clearer. But, any changes must protect the independence of the BBC."

Meanwhile, the corporation has announced the commissioning, publishing and some of the production of BBC Three's short-form content is to move from London to Birmingham by 2018.

The TV channel, which became online-only in February, will create new commissioner and assistant commissioner roles in the city.

Birmingham will also be the home of a team within BBC News supplying content for BBC Three's Daily Drop web stream.

The BBC said its proposed partnerships with local news organisations are also expected to be based in Birmingham, alongside the existing English Regions HQ.

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