Entertainment & Arts

BBC Charter renewal 'may be delayed'

Broadcasting House
Image caption The white paper sets out the government stance on the future of the BBC

Proposals for charter renewal may be delayed until after the EU referendum in June, reports suggest.

A Westminster source told the Guardian the chances of proposed legislation being unveiled after 23 June were about "80%".

In the Commons on Thursday, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said he intended to publish the white paper "as soon as is possible".

BBC Trust chair Rona Fairhead said she hoped "we don't have too long to wait".

Delays look likely following the huge public response to last summer's green paper, which drew 190,000 responses to the consultation on the BBC's future.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said they had read all the consultation responses and were currently looking at evidence and responses from other independent reviews on the BBC's future.

The white paper - which sets out the government's legislative proposals regarding the funding and future of the BBC - was originally intended for publication "in the spring", but turning around all the information and creating a draft ahead of local elections in May may be tight.

Image caption Rona Fairhead said "a cloud of uncertainty" hangs over the BBC

There is only a short window after the local elections before a political purdah (a period of time when government activity is restricted) is imposed ahead of the EU referendum in June.

There are also concerns over the impact of publication in the run up to the referendum, given the amount of media interest the white paper is likely to provoke.

A spokeswoman for the BBC Trust said publication was "in the gift of the government".

Speaking earlier this week at the Oxford Media Convention, Ms Fairhead said: "I hope we don't have to wait too long for a white paper because I am very conscious of the amount of work that will still need to be done after that - to agree the detail of a new Charter and a plan to implement any changes.

"For the time being, Charter Review hangs over the BBC: A cloud of uncertainty and unease.

"I dearly hope that cloud will have blown over by the end of this year, but that will require some clear decisions to be taken, and quickly."

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