Whither next the BBC, some political and media pundits ask, while others – mainly motley, disgruntled members of Joe & Joanna Public, fed up with a diet of dog-tired repeats – may cavil and demand, ‘Why doesn’t the Beeb just wither?’
Rather like the National Health Service, Brits long retained a misty-eyed nostalgia for old Auntie, though – again like the NHS – they are fast realising it has become a misbegotten one, based on faith rather than reality.
The old tenets, as decreed by its founding father, Lord Reith, a man whose Scottish piety inspired a vision of broadcasting neutrality and integrity which formed the basis of the BBC Charter, have been whittled away and usurped by a self-serving, Left-liberal cabal.
So, while much of the BBC’s arts, magazine and drama output remain a tour de force, in the sphere of current affairs it sees itself as gatekeeper of the country’s political and moral conscience and, listing heavily to the radical as it does, it perpetuates an agenda that is arrogant, posturing and intensely self-serving.
To many this is not the role of a once-unique, public service broadcaster, propped up by an annual viewing tax (e.g. the Licence Fee) of billions, imposed on every telly-owning household in the land, even if its occupants limit their small screen entertainment to Sky News, ITV, Channel 4 or 5, The Shopping Channel or the countless other platforms that have mushroomed since the advent of the digital free-for-all.
Auntie has also become ultra-protectionist – almost neo-Stalinist – in its secrecy and sensitivity to criticism. For instance, The Balen Report of 2004, which investigated allegations of BBC bias in its Middle East coverage, was a blatant cover-up and never given a public airing. It caused the Corporation to spend hundreds of thousands (again of taxpayers moolah) fighting legal challenges to make it come clean.
It even took a recent Freedom of Information request from the online news site, The Commentator, to force the Beeb into disclosing which daily newspapers it bought. This revealed that, while the BBC procured between 40,000 and 50,000 copies of most of the day’s dailies, it bought 59,829 copies of the Guardian – a substantial proportion of the ailing paper’s print run.
The figure suggests that, while newsrooms automatically buy all the hard-copy media, employees order the Guardian for themselves.
As MEP Daniel Hannan points out, the bastion of the far-Left takes a number of assumptions as givens: i.e. police are racist, businesses are corrupt, Israel is a wrong, US Republicans are extreme, the welfare system is ungenerous, immigration is desirable, austerity and growth are contradictions.
However, readers have a choice of options which may reflect their personal prejudices and vote with their pockets when buying a newspaper. They have no such freedom of expression when it comes to watching – or switching off – the BBC. It’s pay up or be damned (and possibly face a prison sentence if you withhold your Licence Fee).
To hark back to my earlier reference of The Guardian’s influence in BBC newsrooms, one insider admitted this is no co-incidence. For not only does Auntie use this paper as a recruitment tool – thus ensuring it attracts only like-minded, Left-leaning thinkers – The Guardian’s editorial stance is often the one most popular with the Corporation’s news coverage decision-makers. And they tolerate no democratic counter-arguments.
As Hannan reported anecdotally when he tackled one editor on her failure to give airtime to that portion of the population – possibly a clear majority of Licence Fee payers – who think Britain would be better off outside the EU, she replied: ‘That’s their opinion, but we have to reflect the economic facts.’
‘She genuinely couldn’t see that hers was just as much an opinion as her viewers,’ he noted.
At sometime in the future – hardly likely under the tutelage of the next Director General, George Entwistle, a BBC apparatchik of long standing – the Beeb’s self-protectionism will be a busted flush and it will be forced to live in the real world, raising its own funds, minus the tax-payers’ crutch.
If and when it does, Auntie will only have herself to blame for lumbering viewers with Guardian-spun, pro-Left, anti-Establishment bias.
PS: It was hardly surprising the BBC’s outgoing DG, Mark Thompson, was quickly anointed boss of the New York Times, the self-styled ‘paper of record’, otherwise known as The Guardian of the USA.