The BBC can only be saved by a rediscovery of the values that John Reith placed on public service broadcasting, Dame Joan Bakewell counselled at an event on Wednesday.
Bakewell warned that broadcasters have a responsibility to look back to the ethos of the ‘golden age’ of public service broadcasting of the 1960s in order to deal with the challenges presented by multiplying competition.
“At a time when so many other institutions, financial, parliamentary, are deeply flawed, the battered and tattered ideals of public service broadcasting survive. If a societal consciousness is creeping back into public affairs, then now is the time to celebrate public service broadcasting and see it flourish again,” she said.
Bakewell described Public Service Broadcasting as the ‘lynchpin’ of Britain’s culture and democracy and argued that it must have the courage of its own judgments in order to survive as the ‘bedrock on which the BBC’s worldwide reputation relies’.
Her reflections came in the form of the annual James Cameron Memorial Lecture, which she delivered to an audience made up of journalists and students at City University in London.
Gary Younge, the US-based Guardian reporter and columnist, was presented with the James Cameron Memorial Award for his reporting written with ‘passion and compassion’ in the run up to the election of Barack Obama.
Younge’s nod to Kanye West’s recent faux pas at the MTV Video Music Awards had the room in fits of giggles. “Beyonce was the greatest writer of all time,” he said.
Also posthumously honoured with a special award for those who fight to hold those in power to account was Sri Lankan editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, who was murdered in January. As editor of Sri Lanka’s Sunday Leader he was known as a forceful critic of the challengers to liberal democracy.
Wickrematunge wrote a ‘living obituary’ predicting his own death as a result of his work as a journalist shortly before his murder. Sonali Wickrematunge, Lasantha’s wife, said that the award would serve as ‘a beam of hope for those who continue to risk their life for the truth’.