James Murdoch takes aim at the BBC….
My eye was caught today by the lecture that James Murdoch gave for the MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV festival. The Guardian also reproduced his speech on it’s Comment is Free site; which struck me as slightly ironical given the content and given the fact that, despite any of Murdoch’s protestations to the contrary, his attack on the BBC and the UK media as the ‘Addams family of world media’ is a plea for his own special interest. So much is wrong with what Murdoch says that it is hard to know where to start but we should perhaps challenge the assumption that everything the BBC; Channel 4, et el does is heinously wrong; which is not to say everything is all rainbows and roses but it is to say that what Murdoch says is so one-sided it obviously needs to be argued against.
All of the above do produce quality programmes and there is some evidence that the BBC is regarded as something of an institution and the BBC does far more than provide TV services, it’s gamut of radio shows; especially Radio 5 Live will presumably irk Murdoch especially because it undermines the B Sky B stranglehold over sporting events with it’s free, live and uninterrupted commentary. The BBC often catch’s alot of flak especially in political circles for bias (not all of which is unjustified) but the point remains true; if it wasn’t for things like 5 live and sporting events were the sole preserve of the market then we would lose access to alot of them.
It is a bit rich of Murdoch to complain that;
“And it threatens significant damage to the provision of independent news, to investment in professional journalism, and to the growth of the creative industries.”
when his company intends to pioneer charging for access to online news in a further attempt to wring every last red cent out of hapless customers. Furthermore, notice the defence of *professional* journalism in a clear attempt to say that the flourishing citizen news/blogging sectors are basically worthless as far as Murdoch is concerned. So, much for his support for ‘flowering creativity’. Murdoch says;
“Pay-television has succeeded in Britain by providing programmes in genres which public service broadcasting served inadequately: to begin with, largely 24-hour news, a broad choice of sport, the latest films.”
Except of course, that this ‘choice’ only exists for those with the ability to pay so it is a false definition of choice because for choice to mean anything and be free each option must be equitable in it’s availability. He is therefore wrong that;
“Soon more than half of all UK homes will enjoy some form of television that they *freely* choose to pay for.” (my emphasis)
Given an equitable choice I am sure that substantially less than half of these households would willingly pay for their sport etc, etc. All of which brings us to the licence fee which James Murdoch complains about with no apparent sense of irony as a ‘regressive tax’ on the poor. It is not without it’s problems and it’s impact on poorer households does need to be minimised but when you see the alternative that Murdoch purposes; more cultural elitism and access to culture on a pay as you consume basis it is far from appetising and in reality is nothing more than a shameless plea to let one broadcaster increase it’s profits and achieve monopoly; ironically, all the sins Murdoch accuses the BBC of perpatrating.