The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

The BBC Is Doomed

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 14, 2010 @ 10:40

Creators of images like this are the ones sharpening their knives...

Creators of images like this are the ones very much looking forward to a Tory government...

It’s funny how the past few years have seen an increasing degree of attention being paid to how the BBC conducts its affairs. Perhaps it’s the result of the Freedom of Information Act turning us all into snoopers, legitimately wanting to know where our taxes are going.

And that’s the BBC’s problem. It likes to think of itself as a member of a very competitive market. It has major rivals in the forms of ITV, Channel 4, and Sky, who are always snapping at their heels.

Markets don’t lend themselves to openness. Commercial sensitivity in contracts, exclusivity agreements and non-disclosure makes sure that no one really knows what the other gets up to. The BBC has thrived on this for decades, talking how it has to pay mega-bucks for big formats, imports, productions and, of course, talent.

Only the Freedom of Information Act presents a problem. The BBC is a public sector organisation, providing a public service. It is funded by a compulsory levy on everyone in the land. That makes it compulsory that they join in the new spirit of openness that is sweeping the land in the wake of the MPs expenses scandal.

They don’t like that. Furthermore, a significant number of people on the right know it, and, having been suspicious of the BBC for a long time during the period in exile, are now determined to use it to undermine them.

It’s not good if every time we have a minor or major BBC scandal that the old classics of “I paid for that!” get wheeled out. Especially when you have the likes of the Daily Mail whipping up the noise, like it did over the Jonathan Ross-Russell Brand saga.

It’s not good either if the BBC is determined to keep all its arrangements secret. Like it or not, it’s going to have to disclose sooner or later almost every penny of its licence fee haul. It doesn’t matter that they have commercial sensitivities. It is unacceptable in the modern age for taxpayers not to know where their money is going.

That would cause major upheaval at the BBC, something which its current management cannot countenance right now.

If I were in their shoes, though, I would be doing it right away, and making a major story of how wonderful and open the shiny new BBC is.

The reason?

Because there’s far worse around the corner. And they need to fight future battles from a position of strength.

There is no doubt that the Tories and their associated think-tanks are sharpening their knives. Whether it’s plans for outright privatisation, or to share the licence fee with ITV regional news, Channel 4, or anyone else providing public service programming, or even have their remit changed to make them more boring and more in tune with Old People (the only ones who bother voting), they are going to come under incredible pressure to change in the decade ahead.

The BBC does need to change. It does need to recapture a certain element of its public service remit. It may need to scale back the breadth of its offerings to save some money. But privatising it would be a major loss to British culture; as would tying its hands with requirements to get out of certain markets – e.g. sport or youth programming.

The BBC is for everyone. It tries to, with its many offerings, cater for a huge variety of tastes. It attempts to reflect the diversity of the British people. That’s probably why the right don’t like it.

And that’s probably why it’s in big trouble.

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