Wednesday, July 15, 2015

(TV) BBC: Why Are The Tories Trying To Strangle The BBC?

While it’s no surprise that the Conservative party aren’t fans of the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and are trying make cuts to the BBC wherever they can get them, it’s quite a surprise to see how brazen the Conservatives are in doing it.

Appointing an outspoken critic of the organization in John Whittingdale MP as the culture secretary two months ago sent a clear message that the conservative government are planning to gut the BBC and take no prisoners while they do it.

The BBC is arguably the most popular public institution in the UK save the NHS and the conservatives are already experiencing backlash as British starssuch Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench and Rachael Weisz sent a letter to Downing Street imploring the government not to attack and weaken the BBC.

Their pleas however are likely to fall on deaf ears as the BBC may a long term casualty of a Conservative Party emboldened by a stunning election victory and solid majority in the House of Commons which puts them in a position to take on and win public battles to cut popular institutions such as the BBC.

The conservatives have made no secret of their plan to gut the BBC and even privatize parts of the organization as they see the BBC as wasteful and inefficient. However, in their luster to cannibalize the BBC, they end up making arguments as to why the BBC should be left well alone. Whittingdale made the argument with a straight face that the BBC has no business making popular programs such as Strictly Come Dancing and The Voice when its competitors in the private sector could produce them which, needless to say, doesn’t make sense.

It’s no fault of the BBC that it makes shows the public love and if it couldn’t make shows the public loved, why would there be a need for it? While there is a solid argument that the BBC has exceeded its public service remit, if Whittingdale’s argument gets taken seriously the BBC will be reduced to a British version of PBS which would make the BBC culturally irrelevant and would rightly justify calls from Conservatvies to liquidate the beeb altogether.  
However, this argument will likely be the one repeated again and again on Newsnight’s,  Question Time’s, parliamentary committee hearings and every right wing newspaper or blog you can shake a stick at for months to come until the BBC’s Royal Charter is up.  Executives at the BBC see the writing on the wall and have already agreed to take on extensive costs at the hands of the Conservatives as according to the Guardian “BBC agreed to pay for free license fees for the over-75s from 2020 at a cost of £700m a year.”[1]  While the BBC has the public (who pay for BBC), the Labour opposition and just about every creative industry you can think of in its corner, there will be little in the way of organization’s powerful enemies taking it apart piece by piece as there will be nothing democratic about how one of Britain’s most loved institutions will be brought to its knees by a government dead set on weakening the BBC until it breaks.

The real question would be to ask why the conservatives are trying gut and raid the BBC despite it being one of the few public institutions that meets its stated ambitions and the answer is simple, the Conservatives are targeting the BBC because it is one of the few public institutions that meet its stated ambitions. The BBC has served as a public reminder that public institutions can be as good and, in some cases, better than their private sector counterparts and the Conservatives hate the BBC bitterly because of it. They’ve hated the BBC for the lion share of its 93 year insistence and will continue to hate it until they turn the BBC into a slightly better version of C-Span.

Because of this, the BBC is in serious danger and there’s not much anyone can do as the BBC’s leadership are fully aware of why the Conservatives are after them and are fighting as hard as they can to keep the BBC as it is. The BBC has the winning argument and the public at large on their side as Lord Hall, Director General of BBC, rightly couched the debate about should decide the fate of the BBC: politicians with their agendas or the public who keep the BBC alive and who the BBC was created for in the first place.

In sum, the BBC can only hope that the latter gets involved in the fight for the future of the BBC before the former get their way.

[1] J. Martinson, 2015, BBC Fights back against Tory assault on waste and right to make popular shows,

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