The former secretary of state for culture, media and sports called for the BBC to be transformed into a publicly owned mutual in order to ensure more accountability and responsiveness.
The mutualisation of the BBC was one of a number of proposals within the collection designed to spark an “ownership revolution” on the scale of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ scheme.
“By making the BBC the country’s biggest mutual, with 26.8 million licence fee payers as its shareholders, we would bring greater accountability and responsiveness to secure its future in the 21st century,” Jowell said.
She emphasised the importance of “democratic ownership, user voice, and equity” in her support for an increase in mutuals, which she claimed would fill gaps left by the market and the state.
Jowell, who quit frontbench politics after the Olympics last year, claimed the BBC felt remote from the lives of ordinary people despite its status as a cherished national institution.
Pat Harrington of Third Way commented: “I think many of us see the flaws with the current BBC structure. At the same time we are concerned that our TV isn’t completely funded through advertising. There are many advantages to a license fee funded broadcaster. The BBC help to balance the commercial broadcasters who rely on advertising. Mutualisation of the BBC would safeguard that but also empower the license payers.”
The call to mutualise the BBC came in a collection of essays about the state of the economy compiled by thinktank ResPublica.
Contributors also argue that ownership in the UK has become far too concentrated in the hands of just a few players, which has had a severe negative impact on innovation and economic growth. This is not just an issue for the private sector. Public institutions and services have also become disengaged from British people, separating communities from their own resources and their use as potential community assets.
It argues a radical structural shift in the economy is needed in order to effectively combat the sluggish recovery.
Making it Mutual: The ownership revolution that Britain needs calls for a new economic model that extends ownership to all. In the wake of the long-term squeeze on wages and income, a mutual business model is needed that delivers growth that benefits everyone.
It draws together essays from a range of policy-makers and practitioners, including: Graeme Nuttall, Government Advisor, HM Treasury Employee Ownership Advisory Group; and Professor Julian Le Grand, Chair, Mutuals Taskforce; Andrew Burnell, Chief Executive of City Health Care Partnership CIC; and Kate Bull, co-founder of The People’s Supermarket.