This past week I have reflected on the strength and value of our public broadcasting. Alastair Cooke was famous for his 2,869 BBC radio talks. His service to broadcasting can be summed up in a quote he often recited from an old Greek: ‘Think like a wise man and talk in the language of the people’.
He thought that had been done by some minstrels, the greatest religious teachers and comedians of genius. He conveyed human experience in language most people could understand. He dedicated his Letters from America to the brave, tolerant and courteous people of Britain who chose to sit down on Friday evenings to understand the lives, amusements and foibles of Americans across the seas.
Born in Salford where the BBC now has a strong base, he retired on medical advice three weeks before his death aged 95 in 2004. His dedication to information, education and entertainment combine at the heart of our public broadcasting.
This past week, I welcomed the BBC to a Palace of Westminster meeting marking the 75th anniversary of radio’s Any Questions. The presenter Alex Forsyth has Alastair Cooke’s gift of speaking clearly. Tim Davie, the director general and Dame Elan Closs Stephens, the acting chair were joined by former presenter Jonathan Dimbleby and by the legendary producer Carole Stone.
Enoch Powell would not drop a minor commitment for something more interesting or important; the exception was Any Questions.
This week I also host a roundtable briefing with the BBC, ITV and C4 about the public broadcasting sector and the Government's plans in the Media Bill. Constituents and I value the strength, depth and breadth of public interest broadcasting on television and radio. Good content should not be limited to age groups, quotas or digital capability. As identified by broadcasting pioneer Graham Spry, the choice is between the United States and the State.
In recent days, I have met Southern Water over flooding and wastewater treatment. In Ferring with Councillor Roger Elkins, I met constituents at the advice session hosted at ASDA.
Congratulate the organisers for bringing so many together with Ukrainian community members at Worthing Museum on Saturday for Ukrainian Culture Day. Do visit the Ukrainian Renaissance exhibition.
I enjoyed the celebration for the National Award to Lima and Syed Ahmad for their Shaan restaurant in Tarring Road, sitting by County Councillor Sean McDonald. With Borough Councillor Russ Cochran, he has supported the North West Durrington Residents and the remarkable Terry Woodjetts. I hope to join them to solve problems with First Port, the managing agents.
Monday’s success was publication of the Leasehold Reform Bill. A public-spirited constituent had consulted me about a serious injustice suffered because a landlord was not fairly treating elderly leaseholders on limited incomes. We battled successfully. I became the Conservative co-chair of the all-party group. With the campaigning charity Leasehold Knowledge Partnership’s Sebastian O’Kelly and Martin Boyd, I worked in a cross-party alliance with national groups of leaseholders, even more so after the Grenfell fire tragedy.
There is now the prospect of major progress. In the next three weeks, please search for and respond to the consultation on existing Ground Rents: ‘Modern leasehold: restricting ground rent for existing leases’. Secretary of State Michael Gove wants to address these unregulated costs. Let us make the dream of home ownership more available and everyday bills more affordable. He wants fair and transparent charging for legitimate expenses only through the service charge.
In conversations with the BBC and other public broadcasters, I make clear the need for concise coverage of big issues and necessary investigation of lesser-known concerns. For years I have called for a housing editor to bring to light the injustices faced by millions of leaseholders across the country. Recent progress could have come sooner? In plain language, make abuse of leaseholders known, then end it.