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What Has The BBC Ever Done For Us?

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In partnership with Media North

The BBC produced a punchy advert in the 1980s. It was a strong defence of the cost of the licence fee. Based on the Monty Python “What have the Romans ever done for us?” sketch, the ad shows actor John Cleese leaning on the bar in a pub, complaining about the £58 he’s spent on the licence fee, before he is presented with several examples of how his money is used.

As the BBC celebrates its centenary the BBC licence fee is under intense attack and Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, is relentless in her criticisms of the BBC and the impartiality of its news reporting. Other critics say the BBC is irrelevant in the age of Netflix and streaming services, and that the BBC should move to subscription to finance it. This event will discuss these issues but also look forward. What kind of BBC do we need and how can we ensure that these views are heard in the run up to Charter renewal in 2027?

Dorothy Byrne is the current President of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge. She has had an impressive career in broadcasting, including working on Granada's World in Action, and as Head of News and Current Affairs at Channel 4.

Patrick Barwise is the co-author (with Peter York) of The War Against the BBC (Penguin) and is Emeritus Professor of Management and Marketing at London Business School.


Dr Tom Mills is chair of the Media Reform Coalition and author of The BBC: Myth of Public Service (Verso).

Paulette is a presenter at BBC Radio Sheffield.

Part of our 2022 festival strand


How can we reimagine citizenship and our democracy?