John Whittingdale MP

Former Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport

Reflecting on 30 years at the heart of Westminster, government… and the media

2nd September 2022

John Whittingdale OBE MP is former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. A Member of Parliament for over 30 years, he famously chaired the Select Committee during its biggest moment – calling Rupert Murdoch to account for phone hacking, and also seeing him take a custard pie to the face. The Sun dubbed John “Maggie’s Toy Boy” when in 1988, aged just 28, he became then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s political secretary. In this in-depth interview, John discusses people’s surprise when hearing of the “vast” range of responsibilities he had when leading DCMS – including overseeing the work of the National Lottery, leading on policy relating to blockchain and the digital economy, and promoting the UK on a global stage; praises the BBC as “the finest broadcaster in the world” and acknowledges that it may “surprise some people” to hear of his strong support while making the case for his controversial licence fee settlement; and shares the challenges involved in balancing protecting the vulnerable from harmful content online with preserving the “core democratic principle” of free speech – a conundrum which gave rise to the predictably divisive Online Safety Bill.

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