John Whittingdale has been let go from his position as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport as part of a wide-ranging cabinet re-shuffle at the hands of new Prime Minister Theresa May.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Whittingdale said: “[It] has been a privilege to serve as Culture Secretary. I wish my successor every success & will continue to support creative industries”
Number 10 has yet to confirm who is in line to replace him, however, several sources, including two senior BBC executives and one indie head, have told TVWise that Damian Green is the best possible candidate to take on the DCMS brief. Whittingdale was in post for a little over a year, having succeeded Sajid Javid in May 2015.
During his brief tenure at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Whittingdale did exceedingly little to ingratiate himself to the creative industries. He is an ideologue who long held an anti-BBC position in his previous position as Chair of the House Select Committee on DCMS and as Culture Secretary he once ‘joked’ that the demise of the BBC was a “tempting prospect”.
Whittingdale had expressed a desire to scrap the licence fee, get rid of the BBC Trust, strip the BBC executive of editorial and commissioning decisions and he was also a proponent of privatising Channel 4. He was prevented from taking a harsh stance on the BBC by then Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osbourne after the BBC did a deal with the Treasury to take financial responsibility for free TV licences for people aged 75 and above.
Given Whittingdale’s political positions, the industry will likely react positively, at least initially, to his departure. It remains to be seen if May’s decision to sack him represents a substantive shift in government policy and all eyes will now be fixed on who takes over as Culture Secretary. BBC sources have stressed, however, that while the change atop DCMS will be met with relief in the industry, it does present a difficulty for the corporation. The BBC is, after all, in the middle of charter renewal and had made a fair amount of progress on the new charter, working closely with Whittingdale.