New culture secretary John Whittingdale to bring experience and a distrust of the BBC license fee to role

With one of his first duties expected to be leading negotiations for the BBC’s charter renewal, the experienced John Whittingdale will take over from Sajid Javid as UK culture secretary.

Conservatives

Javid has moved to become business secretary.

Whittingdale, who has been in Parliament since 1992 and is also decade-long chair of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee, having led its 2009/10 investigation into the News of the World phone hacking scandal, is known for his strong views on everything from the BBC license fee to advertiser’s links with the print media.

The former he once described as “worse than a poll tax” and becoming irrelevant due to the rise of technology, and in the role he will lead the government’s negotiations with the BBC over its renewal. The BBC royal charter, which determines the level of the £145.50 license fee, is due to run out at the end of 2016.

But although Whittingdale is against the license fee, he has previously conceded that any serious change is likely to take until the 2020s to implement.

And with David Cameron’s government in the process of establishing cuts to eliminate the national budget deficit, Whittingdale is also expected to quickly make cuts across his department.

However, advertiser regulation is not on the Conservative agenda and Whittingdale isn’t likely to back any sanctions on gambling or junk food advertising any time soon.

The new culture secretary, who has argued against statuary regulation of the press in the past, believes that newspaper publishers should lose advertiser support if they step out of line; an ideal he once pushed by recommending a closer link between the Press Complains Commission and the UK’s biggest advertisers.

He has also previously stated that advertisers need to more actively demonstrate their importance and ethical worth to the wider British economy.

Ian Twinn, ISBA’s Director of Public Affairs, welcomed the appointment and said Whittingdale’s experience would benefit marketers.

“John Wittingdale brings with him vast experience and understanding of the issues facing the Department,” he said.

“I am confident that John will understand the concerns of responsible advertisers and appreciate the role they play in the national interest.”

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