The BBC

This week the Commons Culture Committee cross-examined BBC executives about the antics of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross.

Actually, I haven't received a single e-mail or letter about the issue, although I doubt this means that local people condone the offensive messages left on Andrew Sachs's answerphone.

When the Shadow Culture Secretary (and one of my neighbouring MPs), Jeremy Hunt, came to speak at a recent event in the constituency, he was asked about the episode.

He stressed that while public service broadcasting works, it also receives large public subsidies, so it has a duty to be socially responsible.  That's why the BBC was wrong to allow the offensive phone calls to be broadcast.

The BBC must take care not to abuse its position - a point that was reinforced at the Amberley Business Breakfast which I attended last Saturday, where the Editor of the County Times was the guest speaker.

He warned about the dangers of the BBC's proposed local video on-demand scheme, which would see 65 websites across the country providing on-demand news and sport updates by video.

While this might sound a like a nice idea, it would in fact mean that a service heavily subsidised by the licence fee payer (£68 million in set-up costs, £23 million a year running costs) would compete on unfair terms with local newspapers who are themselves trying to develop online services.

As I'm sure every reader of the County Times will testify, local newspapers are hugely valued by our communities; indeed they are themselves a social resource.  And, like many businesses, they are already having to deal with the sharp economic downturn.

Public service broadcasting is valuable and popular.  93 per cent of the population tune in to one or other of the BBC's services every week.  But the Beeb must remember its wider social responsibilities.  Public subsidy should not be allowed to kill off diversity in local news.

Michelle Taylor