John Whittingdale has been appointed as the new Culture Secretary. He replaces Sajid Javid who moves to become Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. Javid had only been in the Culture office for about a year. Mr Whittingdale has been chair of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee for a decade. One of his first duties will be to oversee negotiations for the BBC’s charter renewal. He described the TV licence as “worse than a poll tax”, although he has said it is likely to survive until at least the 2020s.
Whittingdale also faces massive cuts to his department, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) It is thought that the new government seeks to eliminate the national budget deficit. Press regulation will be high on his agenda. He has previously argued against statutory regulation of the press and said the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics “strayed” far beyond its remit.
Arts Council England is funded by the DCMS. However, many in the arts world are braced for further funding reductions as the government seeks to eliminate the budget deficit without raising VAT, income tax or National Insurance.
Wittingdale was first elected to parliament in 1992. He served as PPS to Eric Forth as Minister of State for Education and Employment, but had to resign after voting against the government on an amendment that would have allowed a media publisher with more than 20 per cent of the national press market to buy an ITV company.
He was later shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary from 2004 until the reshuffle after the general election in 2005 when he was re-elected Member of Parliament for Maldon and Chelmsford East. In 2005 he was appointed to the Executive of Conservative Way Forward, a Thatcherite pressure group within the Conservative Party. He is on a member of the Council of the Freedom Association and the European Foundation. In 2008, he was elected as a Parliamentary Member of the Board of the Conservative Party and Vice Chairman of the Conservative Parliamentary 1922 Committee. In 2011 he was Chairman of the Football Governance Inquiry. In 2012 he was Chairman of the Joint Parliamentar Committee on Privacy and Injunctions. He is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Intellectual Property Group. Whittingdale voted against the legislation for same-sex marriage in 2013.