It has been a well worn but largely unsubstantiated mantra in British politics for decades now that the BBC represents a left wing plot designed to foil Britain’s right wing. The ‘Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation’ has long been the bane of the Daily Mail and its similarly progressive bedfellows.
God knows why.
I say this in the full and certain knowledge that the BBC employs people with a variety of political views who represent the epitome of independent, non partisan publicly funded broadcasting, but the corporate reputation of the BBC is one of snobbish elitism accompanied by a corpulent corporate culture.
In the past, too many on the left have leapt to the defence of the BBC, believing it to be a mainstay of British life and society. The basis of this analysis, is the belief that the Beeb acts as the ballast of our liberal democracy, preventing violent political swings this way or that, helping the nation to cohere around a fixed set of values. This analysis tends to blank out John Reith’s refusal to allow the general strike to be covered, or the behavior of the BBC during the battle of Orgreave. It focuses, too, upon news content and not the majority of the BBC’s other output across other platforms.
But, something has changed. The BBC is not the darling of the left it once was. Social media can be a hermetically sealed echo chamber, but even a cursory glance reveals that the left dislikes the BBC as much as the right.
Why? The right dislikes the principle of a public broadcaster – a fair and credible position to hold. The left dislikes a BBC easily bullied by the Tories, easily cowed and threatened, supine in the face of Sky, chasing market share for its news coverage rather than taking the time, as the licence fee enables it to, to explain and inform. In terms of news coverage, tone, balance and scope, BBC News is a daily argument in favour of the abolition of the licence fee.
The welcome demise of BBC3 announced this week – comedy fans are particularly pleased by its passing – has been met with few tears. BBC beware, it is a precursor for much of the likely reaction in the event that the Tories do come for you. The left will not rush to your defence. Why should it?
Having helped to foster a puerile, unquestioning political culture, the BBC should not be surprised if many of the general public respond positively to a tax cut of £145.50 per year. As for the vast libraries of news content and original programming of such alleged worth, how about turning that into a dividend for the licence fee payer?
The BBC has lost its way. Go to the regions to experience the broken broom cupboard studios without monitors and with speakers that do not work – then visit TV Centre to see what a no-expense-spared operation looks like.
In a churning, changing country, the national broadcaster needs to take a long hard look at itself, ask what it is for and why – if it did not exist – it would be needed.
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.