Wither the BBC?
I am willing to lay a fair amount of money on the line that I am not the only politico of a lefty persuasion that currently, rather than watching programs like Newsnight, suffers them. The last two editions I have seen were less easy viewing than the Texas Chainsaw Massacre must have been in 3D; highly paid journalists and ‘commentators’ [sic] did their very best to foist on us the dreaded Plan A+ of massive labour market deregulation. However, I am still not one of these people that thinks the BBC has an inherent left or right wing bias. I think rather it has an establishment bias, something that makes sense since it is the government of any given day that controls the purse strings by setting the licence fee. So, when Labour were in power, I am perfectly prepared to accept it displayed an obvious liberal/leftish bias and consequentially now it is playing the role of the poor mans Pravda for the Coalition of right-wing ugliness that currently lords it over us.
Something has to be done, or else, my laptop and many TV sets throughout the land will end their days sailing through a top-floor window faster than Murray Walker can say “ANNNNND THEY AREEEE OFFFFF”. It is tempting to say simply ‘junk the licence fee’, especially it is essentially a tax on television viewing which soaks the poor badly and provides a dubious return. After-all it isnt even really allowing the BBC to compete on a level playing field and it is falling badly provide commercial stations in many areas in any case so, cutting this tie might even be welcomed by them, it saves people money and crucially should eliminate the need for such an obvious bias towards whoever is currently in a position to pay the piper.
However, the obvious rebuttal to that is that damages a public service broadcaster and leaves commercial stations free rein and ultimately will force the BBC down the commercial route. People will, eventually, end up paying more through subscriptions etc and access to things like major sporting events and national cultural occasions will be further reduced. So, this is obviously not an option just as much as maintaining the status quo isn’t either. The problem with the status quo is the BBC’s ultimately position of supplicant to the government of the day. Mutualising the BBC and issuing shares in return for the payment of your licence fee would dramatically change that and instead, make the BBC answerable to the viewing public and remove the government of the day from the equation. The government would have to surrender the power to set the licence fee and give that power to the shareholders in the BBC, ie, us. This democratisation of the BBC would also enable it to become a resource that could offer its considerable weight in aid of supporting local, grassroots media. Breaking the governments control of our national broadcaster is the way to introduce a much better sense of balance, not to throw it to the commercial wolves.