Like many things in life, it’s not perfect — but what is the alternative? It’s all well and good to move forward and develop, but only when a better way has been identified. So when culture secretary Nadine Dorries tweeted her BBC death sentence on Sunday, she nailed her colours to the mast by linking to a splash by the Mail on Sunday outlining a funding cut to encourage a move towards new ways of “funding, supporting and selling great British content”.
That’s all well and good but is this progress away from something doing more harm than good or is it another act of national self-harm by taking away from one of the most trusted and respected institutions in the world?
It’s been a fraught few weeks of news and current affairs as MPs in Westminster search for something upon which to unleash their savage moods and demand appeasement in response to Boris Johnson’s most recent ill fortune.
Revelations about boozy gatherings in Downing Street have provided broadcasters and newspapers with headline after headline — and so, something has to give and something or someone has to be punished in an effort to refocus minds.
Enter Operation Red Meat, an effort to bring forward populist policies to boost ratings.
Attacking the BBC may seem an easy target and the organisation, respected and recognised around the world, absolutely has its faults.
Among them are accusations it is bloated in size, it isn’t committed enough to impartiality or honest enough about it’s political links or that staff are out of touch.
But this effort to significantly curtail a national institution, when Brexit was ostensibly brought about as an effort to protect what makes Britain British and promote patriotism, may backfire on Boris yet.
To paint this move as an effort to protect the pocket of the taxpayer, defend the elderly from prison sentences as described by Ms Dorries or prevent bailiffs from knocking on doors is utterly disingenuous — instead, the government is lashing out.
Instead of focusing on value for money, which the BBC does offer with nine national TV channels and numerous radio stations including BBC Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle in Northern Ireland, this Government is seeking to get rid of the headlines they don’t like and indulging in their desire to curtail independent news and state-funded broadcasting, which many other countries are unlucky enough to be without.
Despite cuts of 30% since 2010, the BBC news website is the world’s most visited. It’s thought the mandatory charge for the licence fee may be replaced purely by a voluntary Netflix-style subscription.
We’re all obsessed with streaming platforms now but what about when we’re sick of Squid Game or what’s offered by similar subscription models such as Amazon Prime and Disney+ — and instead, like during the coronavirus pandemic, need the facts presented in a simple fashion and accessible to all for £159 a year?
Maybe Netflix News, when it comes along, will be the next best thing but I’m not so sure some of the most remote areas of the UK will be able to convince those big bosses to focus on the news that matters to them.
Some of the BBC’s regional radio stations remain one of the last bastions of local reporting, while BBC staff are employed in Salford and Cardiff, as well as Belfast and Derry — something I can’t imagine other broadcasters being as quick to do.
When Joe Biden was elected in 2020, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thanking my lucky stars for the BBC, instead of news falling along partisan lines as it does in America — only serving to further fuel political divides amongst voters.
I was amazed by the huge disparity between channels as I watched election coverage during which CNN host Anderson Cooper described Donald Trump as an “obese turtle” — a distasteful road to travel whatever you think of the former president himself.
As the US deals with the aftermath of years of slanted information, public-service news is in short supply — across the water, the BBC is legally obligated to neutrality.
After a pandemic where so many have turned to trusted sources of news to combat disinformation, the reliance on public service broadcasters such as the BBC is greater than ever.
So many parents relied on BBC Bitesize education service, used by 5.8 million children during lockdown, to help the younger generations learn from home when it all got too much without being afraid of ads or platforms where you don’t know what video will pop up next. Try getting that from Disney+.
The BBC should now work to remind people of their national worth and the value we’re all receiving for around 50p a day. This shouldn’t be hard to do and with the actions of the current government in sharp focus, it shouldn’t be hard to do. Yes, the BBC is worth having — but more than that, it’s worth prioritising, instead of being allowed to fall by the wayside.