The BBC may not exist in a decade’s time, the new culture secretary has suggested as she took aim at its “elitist” approach and “lack of impartiality”.
Nadine Dorries insisted she did not want a “war” with the broadcaster but suggested it would have to set out how it will change before the next licence fee settlement, which covers the five years from April 2022.
At a Conservative Party conference fringe event she admitted “I don’t know” if the broadcaster will even survive in ten years’ time in the face of competition from new players such as Netflix.
Dorries, who went from a working-class background in Liverpool to become a bestselling author and Cabinet minister, hit out at the lack of opportunities in the arts and sports for children with similar upbringings.
At an event hosted by the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast, Dorries was asked whether the licence fee would still be compulsory in ten or 20 years.
“I can’t look into the future. Will the BBC still be here in ten years? I don’t know,” she said.
“We can’t look into the future. It is a very competitive environment at the moment.
“You have got Amazon Prime, Netflix and other bods coming down the line.
“This younger generation that are coming through, they certainly watch their television in a very different way to how my generation watched its TV, so who knows where we will be.”
Dorries, who has only been in her role since September’s reshuffle, said she had “an interesting meeting” with BBC director-general Tim Davie and chairman Richard Sharp.
“The perspective of the BBC is that they will get a settlement fee and then we will talk about how they are going to change,” the culture secretary said.
“My perspective is ‘tell me how you are going to change and then you get the settlement fee”.
Dorries highlighted a series of issues she had with the broadcaster, including a lack of working-class diversity and perceived political bias.
“It’s about recognising that access and lack of impartiality are part of your problem,” she said.
She said there was a “groupthink” at the corporation which “excludes working-class backgrounds”.
“North West, North East, Yorkshire – if you have got a regional accent in the BBC it doesn’t go down particularly well,” she said.
“They talk about lots to do with diversity but they don’t talk about kids from working-class backgrounds and that’s got to change.”
Asked how to address that, she said: “It’s not about quotas, it’s just about having a more fair approach and a less elitist and a less snobbish approach as to who works for you.”
Dorries told the event the path from a poor background to the top of a career in the arts or media had “completely disappeared”.
“People I went to school with, from my background – I borrowed shoes to go to school, and people I went to school, who had done exactly the same thing – one of them went on to be Cher’s music producer, another one went on to be a very well-known TV broadcaster.
“People from my background wrote books, wrote theatre plays and did really well.
“If you want to do that today you need a double-barrelled name, you need to have gone to a private or a public school or your mum needs to know someone, or your dad needs to know someone, or you need to have a connection at the BBC.”
She added: “Levelling up isn’t about regional growth figures, it’s not about connectivity, it’s about none of that, it’s about people.
“The people it’s about the most are people who come from a background like mine who want to be the next Grand Slam champion but can’t afford the private tennis lessons; who want to be the next Daisy Edgar-Jones but their mum or dad aren’t head of entertainment at Sky; or they want to be Benedict Cumberbatch but they don’t go to private school.
“I want to go back to those kids and find them a pathway into the industry.”