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Can we trust the BBC? Audio from Cafe Oto event

Late last year, at the tail end of the Savile-McAlpine crisis, OurKingdom held a discussion on the BBC. Kicked off by panellists Peter Oborne, Jacky Davis, Omar El Khairy and Anthony Barnett, it was an intense public debate at a turning point for the Corporation. Here is the complete audio.

Late last year, as the Savile-McAlpine scandal was still unravelling and George Entwistle had only just left his position as Director General, OurKingdom hosted a discussion on the BBC. Taking place at Cafe Oto in London, Dalston, it was a public debate at a turning point. Leveson had just reported. The Murdoch press was gleefully smelling blood. The Corporation had declared that it must "regain the trust of the public". 

New year, new leaf. Diverse forces are intent on sweeping these questions back under the carpet, but as this debate shows, they are too urgent to remain unaddressed. Does the BBC really belong to us, the licence payers? Does it represent the British public? Is it fit for the digital age, for multi-cultural 21st century Britain? Do we need it at all? What do we want from the most important cultural and current affairs institution in the UK? 

We asked our panellists to kick off the discussion with five minutes each, then the debate is open to the floor. They are:

Peter Oborne (chief political commentator of The Telegraph), Dr Jacky Davis (Co-Chair of NHS Consultants Association, founder member of Keep Our NHS Public), Omar El-Khairy (writer for stage and screen), Anthony Barnett (founder of openDemocracy). 

The discussion is part of openDemocracy's 6 month project on the BBC, OurBeeb. We are seeking funds to continue what we feel is a much-needed project. 

I have marked several points that I thought particular interesting/provoking with comments beneath the audio clip. With thanks again to all the panellists and everyone who attended, whether they spoke or not.


About the author

Niki Seth-Smith is a freelance journalist, editor and fiction writer, published in Al Jazeera UK, VICE UK, the London Review of Books, the London Magazine, the New Humanist and others. At openDemocracy she has been Editor at OurKingdom (now oD UK), OurBeeb, and 50.50 (Interim Editor Jan-March 2017) and has co-edited two books: 'Democratic Wealth: Building a Citizens' Economy' and 'Re-thinking the BBC: Public Media in the 21st Century'. She lives in Athens, and is writing a novel.

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