SPEAK UP FOR AUNTIE.
You currently have a chance to give your views on the future of the BBC. I hope you will take the opportunity to say that it is one of this country’s best assets and, free from those endless advertising breaks, offers great value for money compared to the expensive Sky and BT packages which line the pockets of Premier League footballers.
I am not a naïve fan of the BBC. I worked for them for thirteen years under managers of varying quality. It was over managed and paid its top staff too much. Most of the pooh-bahs have gone now, apart from Creative Director Alan Yentob. He should be on his way soon after his handling of the Kid’s Company affair. In 2010 the BBC were wrong to fight plans for Ofcom or a new OfBBC to replace the discredited governors system. The BBC Trust that was set up has failed to provide an independent overview of the executive.
So the Corporation isn’t without its faults but in the run up to Charter renewal in 2017, it has been subjected to continuous vilification in many newspapers. More worryingly the government have trampled all over the proper procedures regarding its future funding for the second time, the new Culture Secretary has hinted the BBC should compete less in popular programming and Tory backbenchers have maintained their tired campaign against the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation.
The press attacks on the BBC are motivated by falling newspaper sales, a loss of advertising revenue to the internet and a jealousy about the Corporation’s excellent news coverage. They should get their house in order. Shrinking the BBC is not the answer. We know what that leads too. Some years ago local papers managed to get BBC plans to improve their regional web pages scrapped claiming unfair competition. It did nothing to halt circulation slides and impoverished a part of the BBC’s service to the public.
Some parts of the Tory Party have always had a problem with the BBC, thinking it is biased against it.
In my thirteen years as a BBC journalist nobody remotely indicated I should favour the left. No such editorial policy has ever existed and it is essential that the publicly funded BBC should remain free of government pressure. That independence has been sorely tested with the recent overnight imposition on the BBC of funding free TV licences for the elderly.
THE LICENCE FEE.
Finally we come to the £145.50 compulsory licence fee. In an age when there are so many ways to access BBC services, why does the BBC have to be funded by TV licences? My answer is that at 40p a day it is very good value compared to Sky packages which are often £70 a month. People kid themselves if they say they never use BBC services as an article in next week’s Radio Times shows. Finally what is the alternative? Please not advertising which is making commercial channels unwatchable. The BBC should make much more of this. Would people really want subscription with the BBC begging on air for money to fund its programmes as happens with public broadcasting in America? A state levy like they have in Germany seems the only possible alternative.
After a summer where the government and BBC got in their trenches, a more conciliatory mood broke out at this week’s TV festival in Edinburgh. Perhaps the Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, has already picked up the public’s bewilderment that with all the problems we’ve got, that time should be wasted fixing a problem that does not exist.