Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries accused the broadcaster of ‘groupthink’ and suggested it needed to change before the next licence fee settlement
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The new Culture Secretary has questioned whether the BBC will exist in a decade’s time as she accused the broadcaster of an “elitist” approach.
Nadine Dorries denounced the BBC for “groupthink”, painting it as “elitist” and full of people “whose mum and dad worked there”.
Ms Dorries, who grew up in a working class family in Liverpool, said there weren’t enough opportunities in the arts for people who came from northern and working class backgrounds.
She appeared to link her demands for change at the BBC with the success of funding talks over its next licence fee settlement – which covers five years from April 2022.
Ms Dorries told a Tory conference event that she was not at war with the BBC but hinted heavily that the broadcaster would have to change before the next settlement.
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Asked about a recent meeting with BBC bosses, she told Choppers Politics Live: “It was interesting. I think the perspective at the BBC is that they will get the settlement fee and then we will talk about how we are going to change.
“My perspective is tell me how you are going to change and then you will get the settlement fee.”
She refused to comment on the details of the settlement, but added: “There were no words which began or ended in ‘generous’ or ‘settlement.
“We’re having a discussion about how the BBC can become more representative of the people who pay the licence fee.”
She criticised “groupthink” at the broadcaster and said there needed to be greater impartiality and access to the corporation.
“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.”
Ms Dorries said applicants needed 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.”
The Tory MP came under fire in 2013 for employing her daughters as staff in her parliamentary office.
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.”
Mr Dorries also questioned whether the BBC will still exist in a decade in the face of competition from streaming services.
Asked whether the licence fee would still be compulsory in 10 or 20 years, she said: “I can’t look into the future. Will the BBC still be here in 10 years? I don’t know.
“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?”
Ms Dorries said she would continue to pay the licence fee personally if it was made voluntary – but only so she could watch Strictly Come Dancing.
The top Tory was appointed to the cabinet in Boris Johnson’s latest reshuffle.
She accused her critics of “snobbishness” at her appointment, as former I’m A Celebrity contestant and also a best-selling author.