The BBC is the latest structure poised to stoke the great bonfire of public services which has been burning since 2010.
A 10-year review of the more than 20,000 strong institution is something I support, but this review is the equivalent of setting the starting gun on a race while the rest of the runners are still tying up their shoes.
Admittedly, I feel some nostalgic attachment to the BBC; the sound of the Archers accompanying dinner and the 10 o’clock news signalling bedtime in my childhood home, and the dulcet tones of the 6 o’clock news presenters quelling moments of homesickness I felt while living abroad.
But my defence of the BBC is not emotive or nostalgia provoked. My defence of the BBC is entirely rational, and rests in my belief that a public broadcasting service is a right of the people.
Importantly, saying “I defend” is not the same as proclaiming “I wave my right to question”. Any and all organisations must review their structures and policies, out-rooting corruption, inefficiency, and bad practice. Excessive salaries, mismanagement, sexism, and in the worst extremes, cover-ups of abuse and paedophilia – the last few years have exposed realities which the BBC must investigate and atone for. But these issues are not to be conflated with the debate over its existence.
I defend the BBC because although no opinion emanating from a human being can be objective, a public service broadcast is bound to strive for impartiality. The BBC acts as an intermediary between more sensationalist or abjectly partisan approaches to reporting. It doesn’t always get it right and at times shows bias, but the attacks on the BBC as being a left-wing institution only go to show how far we have moved into the centre ground in mainstream politics – recent BBC reporting on strikes and protests, for example, might even have offended a Blairite.
On a serious note, the absence of an independent broadcaster in a strictly partisan landscape can lead to actual news items falling between the cracks of embittered feuds between rival outlets or rival parties – try locating the news in between Argentina’s long running dispute between pro-Kirchner Pagina 12 and right-wing Clarin, for example. In the US, the political agendas of outlets NBC, Fox, ABC and CBS dominate with public television either non-existent or poorly funded, and some of the more farcical reflections on the UK emanating from these outlets which have come to light show how unbalanced their reporting can be.
Beyond impartiality in the news, I defend the BBC because it champions British filmmakers, promoting independent directors and producers.
I defend the BBC because it supports popular culture, catering for diverse interests and differing forms of entertainment – from comedy to drama to talent competitions.
I defend the BBC because it is a space free from advertising, in a world dominated by the billboard and ad-emblazoned public space.
But above all, I return to my first point – I defend the BBC because it provides us with news which strives to be impartial. We have the choice to read, listen or watch the outlets which most closely appeal to our politics our preferred style of reporting, but the BBC gives us a platform to begin from.
So, while I believe that a review of the BBC is necessary and in theory a positive thing, its future hangs in the balance as a result of ideologically motivated movement to limit its potential. If we believe in balance in the media and the right to information without indoctrination, the right to British art and popular culture, then we must celebrate progress and a collective desire to improve, but reject attempts to weaken and undermine.
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