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Culture Secretary warns Scots: Vote to leave the UK and you will lose the BBC

By William Turvill

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid has reiterated his predecessor Maria Miller's warning that an independent Scotland would lose the BBC.

Speaking at the Royal Television Society conference in London, he told delegates: "If you decide to leave the United Kingdom then you are leaving the institutions of the United Kingdom behind, and clearly one of those… institutions is the BBC."

Earlier in the conference, BBC Radio 4 Media Show presenter Steve Hewlett suggested to the corporation's director of strategy and digital James Purnell that viewers have been "woefully uninformed" on the impact Scottish independence would have on the BBC.

Interviewing him on stage, Hewlett said the omission of information could see the BBC accused of having "played along with the 'yes' campaign".

Purnell said the BBC has not made contingency plans for Scottish independence – despite former director-general John Birt's assertion that it would lead to a ten per cent loss in the BBC's income – because that would leave it "very, very difficult for us to remain open-minded".

In his address, Javid also warned the BBC "more can and must be done" to make it more efficient.

Talking about his his experience of watching how the corporation covered the arrival of the Commonwealth Games baton on Jersey he said: "What I found odd was the number of people representing one broadcaster.

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"The BBC had ten staff in attendance, three of them reporters, is that really justifiable?

"While I support the work [director general] Lord Hall is doing to find savings across the corporation, I believe more can and must be done to make the BBC more efficient."

The BBC has axed hundreds of jobs in recent years in a bid to save hundreds of millions of pounds and, speaking at the same conference, the director general defended staffing levels, saying that the Jersey story was being covered live on radio and television.

He said: "We've got to keep making sure we're efficient and making sure we're being effective, and we're spending licence fee payers' money correctly, but you've also got to put on the other axis that what's right editorially to make sure we're doing things that people expect."

Earlier in the day, the BBC warned the Government not to rush a planned review of licence fee enforcement after the minister questioned whether the current system was "really working".

He told the industry gathering that a review of it "needs to begin now".

He said: "In 2012/13, almost 200,000 people ended up in court accused of not buying a TV licence.

"More than 50 were sent to prison. When over 10 per cent of magistrates' court cases concern this one offence, you have to ask whether the current system is really working. So that's exactly what I'm going to do.

"The Government is committed to launching a review of decriminalisation once the Deregulation Bill receives Royal Assent. But we can't afford to wait that long. This needs to begin now.

"Very shortly I will be publishing the terms of reference for a review of TV licence enforcement. I expect it to begin taking evidence in the autumn, and to conclude early in the next Parliament.

"I don't want to pre-empt the Charter Review. I want to ensure that, when it begins, it has a solid evidence base on which to draw.

"This will allow it to shape the future of the BBC in a way that works for both the Corporation and those who pay for it."

MPs from all three main parties have recently voted to make non-payment a civil offence punishable with a fine.

A BBC spokesman said: "This is an important issue and the review must be thorough and not rushed.

"Licence fee evasion is low, which maximises investment in the programmes and services that audiences love.

"Changing the system could lead to higher evasion, so it's important that any decisions are made as part of the Charter Review process. We look forward to working with the review."

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