Sunday, 27 October 2013

Privatise the BBC?

I had meant to put up a post today disparaging the feebleness, opportunism and all-out apathy of Britain's main political opposition (thus the rather odd Facebook picture). Where's the cohesive argument and alternative vision? Hurtin'-But-Not-Workin'? Nasty-Party's-Back? One-Nation? Even Labour can do better than that.

But my forthcoming rant will have to wait, thanks to Conservative party Chairman Grant Shapps, who has announced that the Tories might soon turn their guns on the BBC. The rationale (excuse)? A string of very unpleasant BBC scandals. His threat is to reduce – or split with other media outlets – the licence fee proceeds (approx. £3.6bn).

No, no, no.

This sort of rough talk might excite a few crusty Tory core voters who balk at anything with the word 'state' behind (or anywhere near) it. But a lazy attempt to use public disgust at those appalling paedophilia cases as subterfuge for an attack on the BBC is downright ugly.

And the suggestion that big severance payouts are the problem is patent nonsense. The private sector (darling of the Conservatives, and rightly so) is rife with these big payoffs. That's life. In case he has forgotten, the government is busily fighting a court battle to protect the rights of London's banking sector to keep awarding massive bonuses. So a pubic institution acting like a private one is precisely what Shapps should want to see.

Shapps, I think I speak on behalf of the majority of the nation when I say that we have been horrified to see this sort of child abuse infect the BBC. We feel genuinely let down because the BBC, like so few institutions in present times, commands our trust and genuine affection.

And we want to see the foul practices of sexual abuse thoroughly discovered, cut out, stamped out, utterly removed.

But any suggestion that retribution is being called for is nonsense. The BBC is the finest broadcaster that I, having travelled a bit and seen a lot of media, have yet come across. It is quite conceivable that the BBC is the best broadcaster the world has. It follows a mission statement of seeking to "inform, educate and entertain" and it fulfils each of these criteria exceptionally.

The phrase 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' comes up a lot these days. It's a doubly true maxim for governments. Well, Grant, seeing as you haven't taken this on board, perhaps we can put it a little more clearly, so you have time to 'get it' before the 2015 elections.

If it's the best broadcaster in the world, if it's one of the pillars of our culture, our modern history and our nation, if it's a living manifestation of the intelligence, culture, balance, creativity and genius that we like to compliment ourselves with as a people – and if it ain't broke – then don't even think about going anywhere near it.


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