BBC chief and the Mystery Plays Choir at York Festival of Ideas

Posted on 12 June 2012

The BBC’s Chief Operating Officer, Caroline Thomson, will feature in a panel discussion at the York Festival of Ideas Jane Moody Memorial Event at the University of York this week.

 The event is being held in memory of Professor Jane Moody who died last October. Professor Moody was the founding director of the Humanities Research Centre and co-founder of the York Festival of Ideas.

Ms Thomson will speak in a debate on how public sector organisations can demonstrate their value and impact. She will be joined by Sir Alan Langlands, CEO of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, University of York health economist Professor Trevor Sheldon, and Mark Wakefield, a former member of the BBC Trust and CEO of Valoro, a consultancy which helps museums and galleries to demonstrate their public value.

Members of the York Mystery Plays Choir will give a brief recital before the debate to demonstrate the social impact of organisations such as York Theatre Royal, York Museums Trust and Riding Lights Theatre Company who are working together to develop the community -based York Mystery Plays. More than 1500 volunteers from the city will help to deliver the York Mystery Plays which open at the Museum Gardens on 2 August.

The event, which is also part of the University’s annual alumni weekend, will be chaired by Denise Jagger, senior Partner at Eversheds and Non-Executive Director of the British Olympic Association. It takes place at the University’s Berrick Saul Building on Friday 15 June at 6pm and free tickets are downloadable on www.yorkfestivalofideas.com/tickets .

Ms Thomson will explore some of the most challenging questions facing the BBC such as how to ensure it adds value in a constantly changing media market. How does a publicly funded organisation such as the BBC remain close to the audience who pay for it, without becoming populist? How does it maintain independence while being dependent on governments and Parliament for its legislative and financial existence?  And can the BBC deliver value for money while funded by a flat rate fee and how to value creativity?

 Professor Trevor Sheldon will outline the particular challenges facing the NHS, arguing that any moves towards privatisation and the introduction of market forces are not necessarily the panacea they might seem.  He will argue that markets do not discriminate between admirable and base preferences, but reflect only peoples’ willingness-to-pay, ignoring what may be good for society now and in the future, and the distribution of benefits across society that results.

Alan Langlands will present evidence on the effectiveness of the UK Higher Education sector arguing that though it only counts for one per cent of the world higher education population, it is the most productive and efficient publicly funded research system in the G8, producing 7.9 per cent of world research papers. He will discuss recent research that shows for every £1 invested via the Higher Education Innovation Fund, £6 of external income has been generated. With a total income of £23.4 billion, higher education generates £59 billion annually for the UK economy and provides a significant contribution to the UK employment market.

Mark Wakefield works extensively with museums and galleries to help them demonstrate the many ways in which they can deliver ‘public goods’ when public funding is being cut. He will add that universities must not fall back on the argument that what they do is intrinsically valuable and therefore by its nature not subject to effective scrutiny or challenge.  They must accept that public funding carries with it a duty to explain and justify what they do.