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    Tory 'Mafia' Going for the 'Jugular' Over BBC Funding Cuts

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    Veteran British broadcaster Melvin Bragg has launched an extraordinary attack on the UK Conservative party, accusing Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne of acting like "Mafia" bosses over their proposed reforms for the BBC, which he said was equivalent to "cultural vandalism".

    Lord Bragg took to parliament to say that the principles of the BBC were being "ignored and trampled over" by the Tories, who were trying to "rob the license fee payers' money."

    Veteran British broadcaster Melvin Bragg
    © Flickr / Financial Times
    Veteran British broadcaster Melvin Bragg

    In particular, Bragg has criticized the Tories' demands that the BBC foot the license bill for pensioners over the age of 75, which is expected to cost the corporation $1.1 billion (£700m) per year.

    He said the funding reform was:

    "…The most damaging thing that has happened to the BBC in decades."

    The comments come amid extreme tensions between some members of the Tory government and BBC officials, with critics accusing David Cameron's party of trying to undermine the independence of the BBC. 

    The appointment of prominent BBC critic John Whittingdale to the position of Culture Secretary was seen as increasingly inflammatory, with reports suggesting Whittingdale was given approval to sort out the broadcaster ahead of the renewal of the Corporation's charter next year.

    Given the criticism of some foreign-funded media outlets in Britain, many have argued that the Tory reforms are effectively challenging the broadcasters' ability to provide a thorough, independent service.

    On the other hand, government officials have accused the BBC of anti-Tory bias, particularly during coverage of this year's election campaign.

    BBC 'Fighting For Its Life' 

    During a parliament debate over BBC funding, Lord Bragg said the Tories were forcing the BBC into a harsh funding arrangement.

    "A few weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon, authorized by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and approved by the Prime Minister, the director-general of the BBC, the noble Lord, Lord Hall, was cold-called, rather in Mafia style. It was a demand he was not allowed to refuse."

    Lord Bragg also questioned the legality of such a demand, saying that the broadcaster wasn't given any consultation time.

    He accused politicians of going for the "jugular" — adding that the BBC was "fighting for its life."

    "To make the BBC smaller at a time like this, without reason, passes understanding. It could be called, without exaggeration, cultural vandalism."

    In a final message directed towards Tory MPs, Lord Bragg urged politicians to stand up for the broadcaster amid the perceived attacks by the government.

    "Show some guts and respect for the values that make the BBC so necessary, respected and admired in this country and abroad — often rather more so than our politicians."

    Related:

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    Tags:
    media bias, vandalism, cuts, radio, TV channel, broadcasting, funding, criticism, mafia, culture, Conservative Party, BBC, George Osborne, David Cameron, Great Britain, Europe, United Kingdom
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