Funding the BBC

On Wednesday I met leading BBC people at the Commons. They told us of their commercial successes with Dr Who and Strictly Come dancing, and tried to whet our appetite for their Christmas schedules with a long advert for their leading programmes.

I asked them how they defined public service broadcasting? They said they saw their popular commercial shows as a crucial part of that, yet these shows could just as easily have been invented by ITV and shown on a commercial channel.  Many are sold to commercial channels elsewhere in the world to be shown. I am still at a loss to know what their definition of public service is, and how it differs from Downton Abbey or ITV News. Why is East Enders public service, and Coronation Street commercial?

The BBC has always experienced a difficult dilemma over public service definitions. If public service is educational or uplifting programmes for a minority, it runs the risk of the majority no longer wishing to pay for it by a tax. If it is very popular programmes to keep the majority on board, it is difficult often to distinguish these from commercial product.Why does that need a poll tax?

I raised with them a more interesting issue which has often been raised here. How do they think tv will evolve in the years ahead, as more and more programmes and content is delivered by internet? Will they reach a point where many more people no longer watch any live tv, and so they will claim they should not have to pay a tv licence?

The BBC management recognised the issue, and said come the next dialogue about the licence fee they might need to reconsider the definition of the taxable service. That should be an interesting debate.

 

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131 Comments

  1. Mark B
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    ” . . . . come the next dialogue about the licence fee they might need to reconsider the definition of the taxable service.”

    That on a second reading, sounds rather ominous. ” . . . . definition of the taxable service.”

    So, the BBC admit that it is a ‘tax’. Well that is actually a good start. But who will exactly define the ‘service’ bit, certainly with regard to the use of the internet. Will the Government of the day (possibly Labour) seek to increase the scope of the fee/TV tax, and therefore increase both funding and Government taxation of this service ?

    One is for sure. The people having to pay this, will not get a say. Those in charge will make the laws. And those laws will be made to suit them. The Royal Charter for the BBC comes ends in 2016. A new Government will be in place in 2015 and have at least four more years for those poor TV Taxpayers to, “get over it !”

    The BBC needs to go over to subscription. The licence fee to be abolished. Public Service Broadcasting can still continue under the guise of radio. Some stations can remain free, such as the news, but the rules on the BBC’s ‘impartiality’ need to be tightened.

    The BBC Trust needs to be abolished and the complaints procedure taken over by Ofcom.

    End anymore funding of Channel 4 and Channel 4Sc. BBC Scotland, and BBC Wales should also be funded by subscription and only by those that use it.

    I think it high time all political parties lay their cards on the table with regard to the future of the BBC, as I think this should be an election issue, as we the people will get no other chance to have our say.

  2. Martyn G
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    “…..might need to reconsider the definition of the taxable service….” Oh yes, like the simple ownership of a TV, PC, tablet or whatever will demand that a BBC licence fee to be paid, perhaps at the point of purchase within the UK.
    Or how about adding the licence fee to Council Tax? Should be easy enough, surely? What we can be sure of is that without a sea-change in the BBC leadership mentality at some point, as licence fee income falls with more and more people declaring they do not watch live TV, the BBC and government will find an imaginative and punitive method of clawing back lost income.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      One in ten criminal prosecutions is for TV licence evasion I see – so surely there is a better way than this for funding this lefty, pro EU, fake green propaganda broadcaster – if we do have to suffer it? The top staff are paid about double the going rate so their is plenty or room for economies.

      Mind you I quite enjoyed radio 3′s Bach only Christmas, some years back perhaps they could repeat that to win me over.

      • Bob
        Posted December 8, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        @lifelogic

        they could repeat that to win me over

        So easily bought off? I’m surprised at you.
        £145.50 will go a long way on an iTunes account.

        • lifelogic
          Posted December 9, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

          I just don’t have the time to muck about with all the selections, downloading and trying to remember my apple password.

    • Hope
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      The BBC is like parliament, over paid people who are not worth their salaries and are driven by self interest and greed. We hear today MPs will get 11 percent pay rise for a part time job with no compulsion to attend work every day and to have as many second jobs or lobbying deals as they like, irrespective of conflict of interest. Only the job as chair of the BBC Trust earns more for working less.

      Welfare capped at the equivalent of £35,000 per year, yet people who earn £40,000 are classed as rich. Welfare lifers learnt to only work 16 hours to continue to get all the tax credits and benefits. Simply does not pay to work, be responsible or have aspirations. The autumn statement confirmed this last week. No wonder the polls, as JR likes to point out when convenient, shows Osborne is in denial and has done nothing for them. Cameron goes further and says tax cuts for middle classes is ten years away!

      Bernard Jenkins rightly points out today how the EU is taking the UK defence policy by stealth. Some of us realised what Cameron was up to sometime ago when he signed up with the French for our aircraft carriers. Coalition needs to go ASAP, like the BBC it is not fit for purpose.

      • lifelogic
        Posted December 10, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

        Indeed the appointment of the dreadful Lord Patten to the BBC is perhaps one of the most appalling decisions Cameron has made and there is very strong competition. His ratting on the Cast Iron & IHT promise, his gift to Clegg of equal tv billing and his dreadful coalition deal spring to mind.

        After appointing Patten how can anyone doubt where Cameron stands on the EU? Both he and Patten are clearly pro EU, tax borrow and waste, big government, fake green, BBC think socialists to the very core.

        The UK will just have to suffer Miliband it seems, he cannot be that much worse. Miliband does have half decent & numerate A levels and from a state school – English, Maths, Further Maths and Physics, so who knows, perhaps he will be better, it seems we will find out.

        At least he clearly deserves more trust that one could ever give to ratter Cameron.

        • APL
          Posted December 11, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

          JR: “After appointing Patten… ”

          Which has turned out to be quite a wheeze for Patten, as a ‘Lord’ he can refuse to come before the public accounts committee.

          Is there an equivilent body in the Lords?

          Should a post holder of a supposedly publicly accountable body be someone who can refuse to be called to account?

    • G Wilson
      Posted December 16, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Expansion of the BBC tax through levies on unrelated services, such as internet access, seems to me to be the most likely objective of the BBC in the run-up to the end of the current charter in 2017.

      A wide range of non-live TV services from around the world is now available without paying the BBC tax, even through game consoles (nicely described in this diagram – http://licencefree.info/img/Media-player-network.jpg). The range of programming that’s available, and ability to choose what and when to watch, outstrips any TV service I’ve previously experienced.

      For me, not handing money to the BBC for a service I don’t wish to use is now a matter of principle. Whether or not the BBC will be allowed to stifle the development of international web media by increasing cost to access will be a critical issue at the next election. I hope the Conservatives will take a strong position that free choice should be allowed to develop – but I am not optimistic.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    What about the BBC’s absurd political agenda for a big state, high taxes, more EU, AGW exaggeration, quack green energy science, open borders, enforced “equality” (for all be BBC staff) and the likes? This is surely the real BBC problem, I rather like some of radio 3 and 4 and appreciate not having adverts (though of course we get endless BBC and charity adverts anyway)

    How on earth can in be that technical problem with a phone line, at Swanwick air traffic control centre, can cause delays to hundreds of UK flights? Do these people not understand that their system need to have full alternative back up systems. What if they get a fire or some other rather more major problem. They clearly must have a full independent backup system in place to switch to in alternative buildings.

    • James Matthews
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Concur (both issues).

    • Bazman
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Who would pay for this idle system in this already bailed out part privatised sector who no doubt still got their bonuses and massive wages? This would just be more absurd elf n safety getting in the way and adding unnecessary cost to the tickets.
      What is needed is full privatisation with the threat of planes crashing into London focusing the investors minds and reducing ticket prices. The people who are responsible for these delays should of course all be sacked with no pay and replaced, but no doubt due to absurd employment laws this will not happen. How many private jets were delayed by this fiasco? Business and the rich creating wealth should be given priority and the rest on cattle class going to Spain or a stag night in Prague should be last in the queue for the backlog. Why can’t they just get a train or coach anyway? The next thing will be a blizzard of fake ‘compo’ claims for ruined stag nights and hotel bills when they slept at the airport and ate crisps as they would do anyway before their pointless journeys.

      • lifelogic
        Posted December 8, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

        The passengers and airlines already pay quite enough for them to run a decent system and would far prefer to pay rather than be delayed.

        Just cut out all the rail subsidies and HS2 if they need to save anything.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted December 8, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        At the risk of encouraging you, that gave me a good laugh.

      • Edward2
        Posted December 8, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        Whilst in France and Spain there are never any problems for travellers caused by state owned air traffic controllers.

        • Bazman
          Posted December 9, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

          Apart from strikes. Just sack them all huh?

          • Edward2
            Posted December 9, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

            President Reagan called their bluff in the USA with great success and its about time France and Spain stopped them holding the public to ransom every time they fancy more money.
            Give them a very good salary, a proper independent review body for decent pay and conditions, but a no strike deal.

          • Bazman
            Posted December 9, 2013 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

            The danger is that these sort of people might just call your bluff and tell you to ram it. Its a bad job no matter how much money they are paid. You will not replace them overnight. You think like many Tories that you can just threaten anyone with the sack. They are all desperate in short. In my case you would see me driving off in my car and nicking the kettle if any such threats were made. A strike that can be understood.

          • Edward2
            Posted December 10, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

            Rubbish, in the USA they were replaced overnight by military personnel and new staff trained up from the huge number of people who applied.
            I didn’t notice any disruption.
            So feel free to walk away with your little kettle and go find a better paid job.
            The public want a reliable service from well paid staff who have a decent agreed system of pay review that means archaic strikes are a thing of the past.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted December 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Imagine the safely issues if the aircraft manufacturers did not arrange back up systems for when they get all sorts or failures on board the aircraft.

        Doing so for the land based control air traffic control systems is a far simpler and cheaper problem to solve, or should be if it were run properly.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      I read that 20%+ more chance of death for weekend admissions, in many of the NHS A&Es. Is this an acceptable way to run the NHS Mr Cameron how many orphaned children and bereaved partners? Did Cameron not make some NHS promises?

      How may easily avoidable deaths PA is that, that the dis-functional NHS is responsible for?

    • James Sutherland
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately from what I’ve seen so far it seems it was the switchover system itself which failed! They do indeed have a system intended to move workload around as needed, so if a controller or even whole group of controllers had to be removed and have their work handled by others, that would normally be no problem – but that switching system was stuck: the whole problem was that they couldn’t transfer the workload from the two dozen or so consoles used at night to the much greater number used in the daytime.

      It should presumably be possible to have a backup of this switching mechanism itself – but apparently that isn’t in place right now. (Or possibly it was an exact duplicate – right down to whatever aspect failed, meaning the backup wouldn’t fare any better anyway.)

  4. ColinD.
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Why did you not raise the issue of BBC bias – pro-EU, pro-global warming lobby etc? Since it is funded by the general public, it should reflect the majority opinion of the general public.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      “it should reflect the majority opinion of the general public”

      In that case it should want less EU, be hugely anti HS2, anti the quack green expensive energy agenda, anti the global warming exaggerations, anti totally uncontrolled borders and in favour of lower taxes and less government.

      It is clearly a pressure group and propaganda service largely for the state sector so it is non of the above. It takes little interest in the opinions of the general public, nor in any real science. At the moment its (and almost) sole interest is Nelson Mandela.

  5. arschloch
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Just kill it off by withdrawing the licence fee. If I want public service broadcasting unfortunately for the BBC I can get it elsewhere, for free, via the internet. Compare the quality of output from NPR and PBS in the USA, the CBC in Canada and the ABC in Australia. If these
    organisations are overpaying their “stars”, letting nepotism decide who they recruit and package it with a blatant liberal bias well then it least its not costing me a penny

    • John B
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      ” I can get it elsewhere, for free, via the internet.”

      If you’re watching live TV from anywhere on Earth or beyond on computer or any other device, even from the Moon (thinking of the Chinese lander due there soon), you still must pay your licence money to the BBC. This is the present law.

      There is no doubt that the BBC will press for an additional licence charge to cover mobile devices (do you remember the car radio licence fee?).

    • Matt
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      The definition of quality with respect to any media is subjective. However you might want to compare how much BBC produced content PBS, CBC and ABC air compared to how much of their material makes it on to UK terrestrial. From my limited exposure of ABC I think there is more BBC on there than ABC here.

    • James Sutherland
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      A better approach, I think, would be to define “public broadcasting” properly, and fund that rather than “whatever the BBC feels like putting on the various channels at the time”. Let Eastenders by funded and broadcast commercially; keep the public funding for educational content, Parliamentary coverage (which was originally done commercially, and indeed is done by ITV under contract, despite the BBC branding) – and actually, very little else.

      Then tender for that content being produced and distributed UK-wide. Don’t fund even one “channel” of TV content, besides Parliament – fund programmes as needed to meet the defined public service goals. (I seem to recall schools and Open University content on channel 4 when I was at school: funding that is a far more sensible use of public funds than Dr Who or Eastenders.)

  6. Old Albion
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    The justification for the TV tax expired long ago.

  7. APL
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    For once never mind the BBC corrupt and venal as it is. Welfare scroungers award themselves 11%

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/dec/08/mps-pay-rise-embarrass-party-leaders

    Reply The MPs have no say I this. It is an independent body which is proposing this, against the wishes of the 3 party leaderships.

    • APL
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      JR: “It is an independent body which is proposing this, against the wishes of the 3 party leaderships.”

      Conveniently the three heads of the hydra that is the political class in this country like Pontius Pilatus, wash their hands, ‘Ipsa made us bung the latest load of cash’. Clearly we are all in this together ( we being MPs, and ‘this’ being the asset stripping of the public purse.

      Meanwhile we are all too familiar with the concept of regulatory capture.

      If you want a pay review arrangement that is above suspicion, leave it up to local constituencies how much an MP is paid, then take a charge of the affected constituency council tax to cover it.

      • sm
        Posted December 8, 2013 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

        Why not put it to a referenda? or a fixed % of the median income or minimum wage.

        A referenda would then be truly independent and accountable? No need for IPSA or expensive dialogues.

    • Old Albion
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Must be tough having an 11% rise imposed upon you…………….

    • forthurst
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      “”…against the wishes of the 3 party leaderships.”

      MR-D

    • Bob
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink


      Reply The MPs have no say I this. It is an independent body which is proposing this, against the wishes of the 3 party leaderships.

      How bizarre! In every other walk of life people fight for a pay rise, and in politics you have to fight them off.

      This just proves that our MP’s take us for complete idiots.

      Time to means-test the second home allowance, and impose a bedroom tax on the property.

    • formula57
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      What a jolly wheeze!

      I am likewise blameless and morally sound in not having a TV licence because I am prevented from buying one by an independent body I have set up to advise me.

      I also don’t have a TV licence as per the law I do not need one. I am, however, bombarded with rude, offensive letters from the BBC (or rather from its proxy, perhaps in the hope its name is not directly tarnished) threatening me with being classes as a criminal. That seems grossly inappropriate and it is disappointing that Parliament connives in this harassment.

      The licence fee was fair enough at inception when the sole purpose of owning equipment capable of receiving TV broadcasts was to consume BBC output and the technology allowed for no other means of capturing revenue. The world has moved on, the BBC has fallen so very far from the days of Reith, and the market has altered beyond recognition such that the concept of some form of public service is, as you show, hard to discern. Time for the BBC to be funded only by those who use it and leave the rest of us alone.

    • Jagman 84
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply:
      Surely it would be possible to take an inflation-only rise and donate the surplus to charitable causes in your own constituency. There have been examples of an MP, in the past, taking less than full salary .

      • Bob
        Posted December 9, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        Jagman 84

        donate the surplus to charitable causes

        Or simply return the money to the taxpayers (i.e. the Treasury).
        If I want to make charitable donations I am perfectly able to do so myself.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Simple enough for the government to propose and the Commons to pass a motion calling on every MP to have all or part of the increase directed back to the Treasury as a gift to the nation.

      I’d draft it for you, if you like – it could start:

      “That this House condemns the idea that MPs should have a whacking great pay increase when many of their constituents are suffering cuts in their pay … “

    • Elrond Cupboard
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      If you can’t even turn down a pay rise, what can you actually do?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      I see that this has now degenerated into absurdity:

      http://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2013/12/mps-should-be-paid-26000-a-year.html

      Our elected representatives in the Parliament which is the supreme legal authority for our land should be treated as though they were welfare claimants.

    • cornishstu
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      The armed forces have an independent pay revue body and from my understanding the government has the right to accept or reject in whole or parts of their recommendations. During my time most were, if not all pay rises accepted, though the country was not in dire straights financially and I don’t remember an 11% pay rise being on the agenda whilst goverment try to curb the public wage bill.

    • Graham
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      No doubt the Honourable Gentlemen will, to a mam, accept 1%, in recognition of their valuable contribution (sarc)

    • arschloch
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Why can you all (well the honest ones anyway) not be like Enoch and refuse to take a mid parliament pay increase?

      Reply There will be no such increase mid Parliament. IPSA is talking about pay for the next Parliament.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      John you seem to have forgotten that it was MPs who told IPSA that they needed a huge pay rise and refused to vote against it. Claiming that it comes from an independent body won’t make the public opposition any less.

      Reply I did not ask IPSA to put our pay up. Can you name the MPs who did?

      • Richard1
        Posted December 9, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        The best solution would be for MPs to be positively encouraged to have outside work. They are meant to be representatives of the people. The more in touch they are through business and professional life – even union sponsorship so long as its not paid advocacy – the better. If we want to stop MPs having outside interests – which I think would be a terrible idea – they should be paid much more.

      • sjb
        Posted December 9, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        “IPSA commissioned an anonymised survey of [100] MPs. The results of this survey have today [10 Jan 2013] been published too. The results show that 69% of MPs questioned think they are underpaid and, on average, they suggest a MPs’ salary should be £86,250 [a 32% increase].”

        Source: http://parliamentarystandards.org.uk/NewsAndMedia/Pages/LatestNews2.aspx?ListNews=739f9c00-b7d4-4282-bffd-9ae51fd8d92d&NewsId=47

        Reply IPSA I believe consulted all sorts of people. You would also need to know what else the MPs said about items like pensions and second home allowances to decide if the MPs were sensible or unrealistic in their views of remuneration. An independent body does not simply do what the most interested party wants, as they are that groups regulator.

    • Hope
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      Rubbish. IPSA is made up from cronies. How many former MPs have been on the board? Who chose the chair? Who decides whether it exists or not. Did not Cameron say that unless it sorted itself out he would intervene, how could he do this if it is as independent as some MPs say?

  8. Ex- expat Colin
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    4 channels of what the majority want – is it a majority? 2 channels off till 7 pm. Add in the weekly 3 time repeat and distribution to other channels (Dave and so on). A few interesting programmes for the minority here and there.

    Big money squandered on lifeless bodies of management and too often. We need choice and that would be best served by pay as you view. Let the majority watch the repeated tat at their expense and relieve a lot of us from the temptation to be a criminal. And that is something that is truly appalling – to be accused of an offence for not coughing up to finance so called celebrities.

    The favourite radio channel of the world…just isn’t. World Service, is pretty much childish. Perhaps an insult to some children.

    I think the public service you refer to is configured to fleece the public.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      Indeed.

  9. Douglas Carter
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I’m fascinated by the BBC’s reticence – if not active obstinacy – in opening up its archive to buying customers.

    In the late Victorian era, Royal Navy warships were spotlessly cleaned. There was a rigorous, strident regime of having the cleanest ships on earth. The practice of gunnery damaged and fouled the paintworks and spotless decks and so some proud Commanding Officers and First Lieutenants became complicit in the practice of falsifying Gunnery expenditure – the ammunition simply discarded overboard to ensure that the ship had the best chance of remaining in its clean state. The ships existed merely to exist at that point.

    It seems to be the same with the BBC archive. It seems to exist merely to exist. The BBC jealously discourages access to researchers and those with a simple academic interest in subject matter and whilst I’m aware there are timescale and copyright restrictions on some kinds of recording, those programmes which reasonably would qualify for the expiry of those timescales remain forever hidden from ‘enemy’ eyes.

    That capacious archive is a goldmine – not just for the BBC but for the taxpaying public. Due to wont of ancient charters which brought the BBC into being, the BBC entitles itself to regard these archive recordings as belonging to ‘it’, and it’s difficult to compel them to understand these programmes belong rightly to the people who funded it.

    I know there was a stillborn project to open up the archive called ‘Project Barcelona’ recently, but the impulsion behind that has gone conveniently quiet.

    I’ve no doubt there is potential for many billions of pounds worth of sales for copies of recordings which will otherwise never again be seen by human eyes, nor heard by human ears due to the cultural reticence of the Corporation to subject their archives to interested paying parties. I would suggest this also be extended to their archive of photographs – which are doubtless equally legion. Unseen wartime photographs taken on D-Day for example. Or photos of the Beatles in their early fame.

    In a sense there is a similarity to some of the benefits arguments – when a home-owner is sitting on a house worth many hundreds of thousands of pounds and is looked on askance when in receipt of beneficial payments from the taxpayer.

    Is it not time the BBC were compelled – that’s ‘compelled’ – to take advantage of the limitless untouched riches on which they already squat, before they bleat for further funding from people who have so many preferred alternatives elsewhere? Is it not similarly time that willing customers were given the opportunity to pay for recordings and archive material that has already been long funded, but will otherwise remain forever hidden?

  10. The PrangWizard
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    It is interesting that these BBC people could not define what a Public Service Broadcaster is. It is clearly something they do not much think about, if at all.

    There needs to be radical overall change. In brief, the BBC has outgrown its remit by a wide margin, and continues its expansion plans, now around the world even more. It has become self-serving and politicised, it is unable to properly see its own faults and change in response and sees itself as answerable to almost no-one. The body which is meant to maintain an oversight and set and maintain standards, the BBC Trust, has, like the BBC lost its way.

    The method of funding is archaic, devised in a bygone age, and along with the BBC itself, must be challenged; it must be wrong for viewers and listeners to require the State’s permission to receive transmissions and be taxed in the process. We should not wait for change via technological developments.

    The BBC has conveniently divided itself into ‘brands’ which I won’t list as they are well known, the majority of which cannot surely be defined as part of the ‘core’ business, even if this could be clearly defined and accepted. If Eurostar can be offered for sale why not these; if they are viable businesses in their own right money will be raised, if not it shows there is no substantial market demand and are thus loss making enterprises, and they would then need to be closed.

    The break-up on these lines could run in parallel with a reduction of the Licence Fee over say five years to zero. What remains as Public Service Broadcasting could be financed via General Taxation.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Really good post and well put!

      Tad

  11. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    The BBC is an arrogant self-serving organisation. If you ever complain and they deem to reply they always say they have noted your comments but can find nothing wrong with their output. They seem to be applying the same technique to you MPs.

    • M Davis
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      I gave up writing to the BBC years ago, as everything I complained about they had an elongated excuse to justify their behaviour.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      You’ve noticed that too Brian.

      They spend countless millions of our money on moving to Salford, they have far many more staff covering any given event than any other broadcaster, their programmes are mainly banal, and when we complain about them, we get fobbed off as one would expect with a state machine from the old soviet era.

      Not elected, massively expensive, unaccountable, socialist-centric, and give poor service – Echoes of the EU. Little wonder the BBC are such strong supporters of the cursed place!

      Tad

      • lifelogic
        Posted December 9, 2013 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

        Indeed

  12. Bazman
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Its a good point as to where will the BBC and copyright laws fit in as internet speeds and computers advance?
    Is there some plan to stop this or should there be to help commercial programmes and films whether made by the BBC or commercial companies being watched for free? All the equipment to do this is already available in the supermarkets to do this. Maybe the TV licence could be abolished and this taxed. Or further restrictions by law on the internet by service providers to do this. As free market conservatives obviously nothing should be done and the market will solve the problem anything less would be an infringement on personal liberty and a tax like the TV licence is, but much worse.

  13. oldtimer
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    The BBC should return to the business model on which it was set up – namely become a subscription service. Clearly that did not work in its early days so the nation was landed with the licence fee. Surely, by now, the BBC should have had sufficient time to organise itself so that it can stand on its own two feet. Why should the BBC get this continued gold-plated treatment when other media have to compete for their livihood?

  14. Bob
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    You asked some pertinent questions Mr Redwood.
    Most politicians would crumble in fear when faced with the decision about BBC funding, because they’re aware of the agenda setting power and media dominance of the BBC and they’ve seen what happens to anyone who challenges them. This has to stop.

    The TV Licence system is a complete anachronism and has no justification in the
    21st century, when we have a multitude of TV channels funded by voluntary subscriptions.

    It’s time for the BBC to be cut loose from the public teat, and left to plough it’s own furrow.

  15. Chris
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Surely in our tick box society someone could provide the BBC with a definition of public service?

    • sjb
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      “The Public Purposes of the BBC are as follows—
      (a) sustaining citizenship and civil society;
      (b) promoting education and learning;
      (c) stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;
      (d) representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities;
      (e) bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK;
      (f) in promoting its other purposes, helping to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services and, in addition, taking a leading role in the switchover to digital television.”

      Article 4, Royal Charter of the BBC

  16. behindthefrogs
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    The TV licence should be abandoned. The BBC should be directly funded from taxes. There should be an increase in council tax equivalent to the cost of the TV licence and council grants from the government cut by the amount raised.

    This would mean everyone using BBC services by any means would pay for them. The costs of administering the licence including chasing non-payers would be saved.

    • forthurst
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

      “The BBC should be directly funded from taxes.”

      Good idea; abolish the BBC Trust which hasn’t lost its way as alleged above because it never knew where it was going in the first place, and then make the BBC answerable to a new Minister of Propaganda. Should he wear a uniform or deport himself in civies; I’ll leave that detail to you.

  17. Neil Craig
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I’m a Doctor Who fan and I am impressed by the BBC’s chutzpah/dishonesty in claiming it as a triumph of the BBC system.

    This is the same BBC that cancelled it for many years when there was a massive audience. The given reasons being (A) that it is science fiction and therefore inherently not posh enough for them & (B) that it was expensive to produce. It actually always made a massive profit for the beeb in overseas and book/merchandising sales but they went to a different department so didn’t count and the programme makers got no benefit.

    It is impossible to believe that a commercial organisation could have maintained such lunacy for long. At the very worst they would have sold the rights to ITV, if they were valueless to them and we would have had years more of programmes.

    If the BBC is to remain taxpayer funded they should be turned into an auction house. Auctioning off airtime, with producers then being paid per viewer, perhaps with a bonus for genuine public service programmes. That would provide very low barriers to entry and get us a lot of innovative popular programming.

    Politically the BBC is legally required, under its Charter, to be “balanced”. In fact it is probably the most totalitarian state owned broadcaster in the developed world. It has been proven that there is a close correlation between state ownership of broadcasting and authoritarianism, corruption and economic failure. The refusal of the traditional parties to hold the BBC to that legal duty does not reflect well on the alleged commitment to freedom of any of them.

    There is also the fact that the BBC absolutely refuse to broadcast formal debates on any subject (not just warming). Free debate is a necessary and perhaps sufficient condition for a free democracy – which is why the totalitarian BBC are so against it.

  18. Posted December 8, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    The BBC has many failings. For example:

    Bias:
    Its left wing bias is not only against its own regulations but, I believe, changes election outcomes.

    Its promotion of the Greens through the 1990s and refusal to allow coverage of those voices against large scale immigration and its support for the eu are a few of many examples of its perverse affect our democracy.

    For example, please consider that the BBC largely ignored UKIP for years and yet supported the Green Party out of all proportion to its actual support. Then, out of the blue, this spring, due apparently to an internal BBC memo, the BBC mounted a promotion of UKIP across most of the BBC network. Instead of UKIP – and other parties – being subject to normal political processes, the whole system was thrown into disarray.

    I happen to like most of UKIP’s policies but I resent the BBC pulling the strings in this way.

    The BBC is an unelected political force.

    Opinionated
    Despite its own rules, the BBC comments on political affairs on a daily basis. It goes further than just providing and innocuous summary of events: its journalists add value to events by forecasting outcomes, weighing up pros and cons and providing new adjectives to describe the political situation.

    I don’t doubt the quality of the journalism, but we are being asked to pay a lot of money to see and hear regular commentaries by unelected people on mainstream tv and radio and these unelected people, by my maths, get more prime airtime than any politician.

    The BBC seems to consider itself as a newspaper, rather than an accurate reporter of events. It has an ‘angle’ to the news, something which is incompatible with unbiased coverage

    Controlling Public Debate
    The BBC is by far the most dominant forum for public political debate and has bypassed the supremacy of Parliament in this respect.

    Whereas Parliament has a democratic process for appointing the Speaker (and deputies) and choosing subjects the being debated, the BBC has no such democratic input. It invites whoever it wants to invite, chairs the debate and provides the venue and, where appropriate, the live audience. It will often prologue debates with its own views and will often have the last say by summing up with no right of reply offered beyond that.

    If our media was plural this would not be a problem: Parliament would still have supremacy in this area if scores of daily tv and radio debates were dissipated across many broadcasters.

    However, we are far from having plural media, and therefore this near-monopoly of political debate threatens the whole democratic process.

    Divisive:
    The BBC has an obsession with:

    skin colour;
    the differences between the sexes;
    the differences between the able-bodied and disabled;
    the differences between rich and poor

    Advertising:
    The BBC habitually advertises films, records, plays, books etc yet it does not advertise toothpaste or bread. Yet we arguably consume more toothpaste and bread than we do movies etc. Why are some sectors advertised on the BBC yet others are not? Why does the BBC advertise at all when it is not allowed to?

    Damages Trade:
    The BBC’s dominance has a chilling affect across many sectors: national and local journalism, tv and radio; educational support; web-based businesses; information providers; etc

    The BBC has a large advertising budget on the recruitment pages of The Guardian and has been shown to provide many more links to the Guardian from its own website than to any other newspaper. The BBC ran a long promotion of the John Lewis Partnership a while ago resulting in an increase in sales at the expense of its competitors. It also majors on certain music artists at the expense of others. BBC ‘Sound of 2014 Longlist’ and the Radio 2 ‘Record of the Week’ come to mind. With the dominant BBC, these can be make-or-break interventions in the market.

    The potential of all of these sectors (and probably many more I can’t think of) are stunted due to the BBC’s dominance.

    Indoctrination:
    The BBC imposes its view on the world to us though its output. Especially worrying is its output to children through television, radio and through its connection to schools. We adults often do not notice this coaching of our children

    There is also another type of indoctrination. The BBC is effectively the only news broadcaster to provide its staff with job security. I believe (though I admit this is my theory only, based on some casual conversations with journalists) that non-BBC journalists have one eye on the BBC when they file news reports and they would tend to avoid reporting in such as way that would offend the BBC. There is also possibly a tendency for BBC attitudes to spill over into other broadcast journalism by the dominance of the numbers of BBC people at press conferences and events, when other broadcaster have much less presence..

    Willingness to break the law
    BBC Editorial Guidelines, Section 18: The Law
    General:

    Any proposal to break the law must be referred to a senior editorial figure, or for independents to the commissioning editor, who may consult Programme Legal Advice and, if necessary, Director Editorial Policy and Standards.

    The BBC is the only organisation I know of that has an official policy and procedure on how to break the law.

    Despite all of the above: the bias; the political interference; the divisiveness; the habitual breaking of its own rules and willingness to break the law; despite all of this, I cannot see how it can be easily countered.

    Recently, to its credit, The Guardian ran a story based on a poll it jointly ran with Opinium politics in September 2013 (though it is one of the shortest pieces I have seen in The Guardian).

    The results were:

    12% thought the BBC was strongly left wing
    3% thought the BBC was strongly right wing

    15% thought the BBC was slightly left wing
    11% thought the BBC was slightly right wing

    This story did not appear on the BBC. If our trains were late by this margin or if service levels for utilities were equally poor the BBC would have majored on this story. This underachievement by a major nationalised organisation should have been a big news story yet has gone unremarked.

    This shows the ability of the BBC to control the public debate.

    As well has bias by omission, as demonstrated above, it can also go on the attack. As such, if anyone tries to reform the BBC I believe they will be committing political suicide, not only for themselves but for their party.

    • Posted December 10, 2013 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      Good comments Kenneth, you touch on most of the problems. The bias and controlling debate could go on for hours: certainly there is open blatant bias, omission and often downright lies.

  19. Posted December 8, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    I would have thought the duty of a public service broadcaster would be, first and foremost, to deliver genuinely independent, unbiased, coverage of the news and current events. Unfortunately this is not happening, and the BBC is now no difference to the commercial programmes, simply vying for audience figures.
    Why does it bid huge sums for football when the commercial channels are happy to pay for it? No football fan cares which channel broadcasts football, so why waste money trying to outbid commercial channels? It should provide programmes which are not commercially viable but for which there is significant public demand and leave anything else to other channels.
    The BBC has also been accused of putting local newspapers out of business by spending far more on its websites than they could ever afford to do, which I believe is clearly wrong.

  20. Posted December 8, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I would suggest that the BBC is paid for by subscription which is now technically possible. Its unique selling point could be that it is ad-free.

    I would suggest that the only publicly subsidised output should be:

    - certain documentaries e.g. wildlife/science
    - some specialist arts and sports

    …and the BBC should apply to the Arts Council for the subsidy.

    I am not sure if tv and radio for people with disabilities should be subsidised as well. If so, then there should be a direct grant from the treasury to the BBC for this.

    I think the schools broadcasting should be commissioned directly by the Dept for Education from independent contractors or though the OU.

    I think Parliament should launch its own tv and radio service, using independent contractors so that debates can be heard live on air with scheduling etc controlled by Parliament.

    As I said in my other post, I doubt if reform of the BBC is politically possible (or at least will be very hard to achieve). However the BBC must face the issue of the licence fee which is increasingly hard to collect, so I guess something must change.

  21. Tad Davison
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    John, I hope the BBC personnel whom you saw, are reading these comments today.

    The BBC still makes the claim that they are ‘the most trusted broadcaster’. I find that difficult to swallow. Nobody’s ever asked me for my opinion, nor anyone else that I know, otherwise they’d soon hear some home truths.

    I used to think the BBC’s documentaries were worth watching, but even those have declined in recent years. The recent series on ‘The Cold War’ – something I have always taken an interest in, was lamentably short on content. I was expecting some real insight or hitherto undisclosed revelation, but anyone who came across this subject for the first time could be forgiven for thinking is was merely about two ideologies competing with each other, when in reality, there was (and still is!) far more to it than that. Even the two-part series on cold war jets barely scratched the surface. If the BBC are going to cover a subject, it must be done thoroughly. The cutting-out of great swathes of history is absolutely pathetic and hardly in keeping with a first-class documentary maker.

    To measure whether or not a broadcaster is cutting it, we need to sit and think about how much information we actually receive from them. I find if I want to get another and possibly deeper angle on any given story, I have to augment my sources by going to places like RT or Radio Free America or even the internet. For instance, I doubt if I could find much on the USA’s Military and Industrial Complex and how dangerous it is, from somewhere like Fox News, but I certainly can’t recall hearing much about it from the BBC either. But I still have to pay for shoddy, sterile journalism like it not. I find I’m having to pay for one channel, when I’m watching another, and there’s something not right about that.

    As for the plethora of cookery programmes, or those about ballroom dancing, or house refurbishment, they leave me cold. So perhaps from a personal point of view, it would be better if all BBC programmes were funded by subscription so that we only pay for whatever interests us. I expect that the money I pay to the BBC would soon drop appreciably, but if that happened with everyone, right across the board, that might just provide the impetus to up their game and actually compete, rather than the pubic to go on feeding the lazy, flabby, wasteful monolith that is the BBC in its present guise.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

    • Mark B
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      ” The cutting-out of great swathes of history is absolutely pathetic and hardly in keeping with a first-class documentary maker.”

      Absolutely. I found this when they made a documentary on Kim Philby and the Cambridge Spies. Very poor. They did not even make a passing comment on Philby’s activities in the Spanish Civil war, or make any mention of Burgess’s time at the BBC.

      Poor beyond belief.

  22. Peter Stroud
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Of course BBC funding needs to be reformed: as does the BBC organisation, and the BBC Trust. But this will never happen whilst politicians, such as Mr Cameron continue to express their undying love for the corporation.

  23. Bert Young
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    It will be interesting to see how the BBC deals with the issue of the 11% proposed pay rise for MPs . So far I have only seen comments criticising the IPC recommendation . The IPC claim is that remuneration for MPs has fallen seriously “behind” ; if this is the case , what happens to the claims other groups have made ? . I don’t begrudge pay rises when related to performance , indeed , I support them , however in the case of the representation of the people , where is the justification for this rise when the electorate demand an exit or a more isolated relationship with the EU ?. The polls are more effective than any IPC .

  24. Jagman 84
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    A true public service broadcaster would be a much smaller operation compared to the BBC. The thought of ‘downsizing’ would be out of step with the Socialist / Marxist mindset at the BBC. Cutting the funding is the only way to force such a change.

  25. lojolondon
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    John, apart from the obvious left-wing, pro-Labour bias that oozes from every pore of the BBC, I feel they do not meet any of the conditions of their Charter. And even if a programme does meet the criteria for the charter, the number of times that every programme is re-run cheapens the whole service.
    The BBC needs to be savagely cut back – One TV and one Radio channel is as much public broadcasting capability as we require, and we need to eliminate the targeted services entirely, which are totally surplus to requirements since the advent of the internet.

  26. Denis Cooper
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    To be honest when it comes to institutional biases of broadcasters I only detect small differences of degree between the BBC and other channels.

    The big difference is that the BBC Charter requires it to be impartial and it is not, and yet I am still forced to fund it or face criminal sanctions.

    For the BBC paying to view it by the minute might be the solution, and it shouldn’t be too technically difficult to implement that kind of scheme these days.

    • Bob
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      @Denis

      I am still forced to fund it or face criminal sanctions

      You only need a TV Licence if you wish to view programs as they are broadcast. Just use iPlayer and other internet catchup services then you would not be required to hold a TV Licence.

      Join the refuseniks – it’s the only way the licensing system will be defeated because our politicians live in fear of the BBC

      • behindthefrogs
        Posted December 9, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        Why should you view programs if you haven’t made a contribution to their production? Why should Ipay for your viewing? This sort of attitude proves the need to finance the BBC from taxes, preferably as I said previously the council tax.

        • Mark B
          Posted December 9, 2013 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

          No. What this proves is that the BBC needs to be funded via subscription. Being funded by taxpayers is a subsidy, which is against EU rules. BSkyB, ITV and others will drag the Government to court.

          Equal and fair playing field is required. Nothing else will do.

        • Bob
          Posted December 9, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

          @behindthefrogs

          Why should I pay for your viewing?

          Well spotted! The BBC should have a paywall, just like Sky and Virgin. Problem solved.

          You should take it up with your MP.

  27. David Careless
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I would like to see the role of the BBC substantially minimized and radically reformed to broadcast, without bias nor fear nor favour, only the news and current affairs programmes, combined with information representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK.

    The rest of the brilliantly produced music, documentaries sport and drama etc could be easily privatised and save us hard pressed Licence fee payers the best part of this loathsome tax.

    The broadcasting landscape has so changed in this digital age with a multitude of other media outlets that one can rightly choose, including free, online and subscription options.

    The BBC is no longer fit for purpose as such a gigantic state broadcaster for example:

    (1) Financial ineptitude by the hundreds of millions squandered:
    1) Gigantic waste on failed IT scheme.
    2) Lonely Planet purchase.
    3) Enormous Staff Pay-offs, much in excess of contracts.
    4) Tax avoidance staff schemes, instead of PAYE.
    5) Move to Salford enormous cost.
    6) Unbelievable high management salaries.
    7) Staff perks etc, etc, etc etc,………………..
    8) Immoral appeasement of criminal behavior and cover ups like Saville and many other scandals.
    9) There is an increasing avoidance and loathing of paying the enormous TV Licence Fee by the poor, those disenchanted, (also I note immigrants also avoid in my locality), and the Magistrates Courts largest offence it deals with, (by the hundreds of thousands annually), is the non-payment of the TV Licence. This is an absolute national scandal.

    From my perspective, and I note I am far from alone, the organisation appears so out of control abusing its impartially role as a public funded body. Indeed it really knows how to push the nose into it of the very large swathe of taxpayers not agreeing with its left slant when dealing with EU, immigration, climate change, politics and religious affairs.

    I

  28. Antisthenes
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Public service broadcasting as I see it is purely a public information service which in years gone by the BBC provided but no longer as the information technology age has made that function redundant. Now it has become a commercial television service that has an unfair advantage over other broadcasters (it can and does act like a monopoly because of the way it is funded which of course nurture waste, inefficiency and corruption) and a public propaganda service for the left, eco-loons and the like and by extension the Labour party (I should like to think that if it had employees and management who favoured the right instead I would be just as outraged at the biased. If I was not I should be). The BBC is not needed should be broken up and sold off and the TV licence scrapped (just another unnecessary tax that could be scrapped without pain elsewhere). That would be good for the economy and democracy.

  29. Richard1
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    There is no justification for a license fee funding the BBC on anything like the current scale. It should be merged with Channel 4, take in Channel 4′s advertising on one BBC channel and convert itself to a subscription service.

    In the meantime there needs to be much tougher enforcemen of the requirement for impartiality on key political issues. This should not mean BBC journalists presenters and editors should pretend to be neutral – everyone knows they arnt – but it should mean they should be obliged to give a balance of airtime to opposing views.

    • Bob
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      @Richard1

      they should be obliged to give a balance of airtime to opposing views.

      They sincerely believe that anyone who disagrees with the Guardian on any issue is a swivel eyed lunatic.

      That’s why all of their job ads are filtered through the Guardian.

  30. Wodge
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Keep your hands off the BBC.I like it as it is,with all its faults that are well and truly debated on this blog.I very rarely watch the commercial dross on ITV,and I cannot afford satelite.Since that kind Mr.Brown gave me my licence free,I am quite happy with the present situation.Radio 3 alone is worth the money!Get rid of the gross overstaffing
    ( how many journalist will be at the funeral I wonder?)and sack all the Guardian reading managers and we will have an organisation second to none in the world.

  31. BobE
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Its time to privatise the BBC

  32. Bill
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Agree with many of the comments above. The trouble is that the BBC is so large that there are parts of it we value even as there are other parts we deplore. I avoid watching BBC TV news whenever possible because the bias is so blatant – and sometimes this bias is expressed in the selection of panellists or presenters or as well as in wording of reports. Yet BBC Sport and some local radio is fine. For myself, I would start to break the organisation up as well as to cut back on the licence fee.

    Incidentally, as far as I can see the BBC is positioning itself to operate in an independent Scotland.

    Public service broadcasting: surely the BBC could stream information from the meetings of large local councils, courts (as soon as that is permissible) and other governmental functions – even if it knew audience ratings would be low. Surely we could call any dull public interest material ‘public service broadcasting’.

  33. The Masked Marvel
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood seems to have unintentionally given the BBC the nod to start demanding some form of subscription fee for using the iPlayer. They’ve been working on that for viewers outside the UK for some time, and it was only a question of how to implement it in Britain. People simply not watching live broadcasts and using it only to catch up, thus avoiding having to pay the licence fee, is an Achilles Heel the BBC can then protect.

    As for how the BBC defines public service broadcasting, they had it changed in the last rewrite of the Charter & Agreement to, essentially, ratings. Lots of eyeballs == value for money, full stop. The protestations from top mandarins Redwood cites are clear evidence of that problem. Rewriting the Charter & Agreement to properly define public service broadcasting is vital. It should be more nuanced than simply something that wouldn’t get done in commercial broadcasting. Does public service broadcasting include using the power and influence of the BBC to take over local broadcasting and news websites and squeezing out independent local outlets? Does public service broadcasting include the Divine Right to set up shop in any country, anywhere in the world, and start making news programmes with the BBC mindset targeted at those domestic markets?

    All this seems to be more important to the BBC than what they rightly refer to as what they do best. The daily rhythm of British life can still be felt, just, in the BBC’s output if one looks carefully enough beneath the noise and dross, and the unique cultural institutions it still barely, and in some cases begrudgingly, enables will be gone with privatisation. That would be a shame, so perhaps a different approach is in order. First, one must seriously deal with the inherent problems of the Corporation as it is now.

    It would be interesting to know if Mr. Redwood or anyone else asked the BBC mandarins about their true mission, the true goal of the BBC. Jeremy Paxman said in the Radio Times that the World Service was how one “spread influence”. The producers and presenters of the Today programme believe they set the day’s news agenda for the nation. How many news and current affairs producers and editors and reporters believe their job is to influence public thought? Certainly this must be addressed as well as whether or not Strictly and licensing Family Guy fall under the BBC’s remit.

    If the BBC exists for itself, to relentlessly expand the tentacles while dumbing down the product at home (Director of News James Harding’s recent speech gave us news of his plans to include more third-party content and social media contributions from the public in their newsgathering, for example), you won’t be able to fix that with a simple tweak to the license fee. The response of top management to budget cuts seems largely to have been to reduce resources for proper journalism, not the rest of it. After all, didn’t we hear budget cuts as one excuse for the Newsnight fiascos? Budget cuts haven’t harmed Gary Lineker’s salary or cut down on the number of times Victoria Derbyshire flies back and forth from London to Salford, or limited the duplication of efforts caused by flying various high-profile presenters to other countries for their own unique take on a story while half a dozen other BBC journalists are filing the exact same thing for their own fiefdoms. Only public outcry, not budget cuts, caused them to limit the massive payoffs to exiting top brass. Nor have the budget cuts reduced the largesse handed out to third parties who produce the dramas and comedies. Only BBC 2 seems to have suffered here, which brings up the question of ratings again. This has to be included in any discussion of the BBC’s purpose.

    Perhaps an even bigger problem than attempting to redefine the concept of the BBC itself is the personnel. The people who form the heart of the BBC are as problematic as the structure and mission statement, if not more so. It’s they who decide the next agenda for programming. It’s they who bring the heads of Comedy and Drama into lectures on how to report Climate Change properly. It’s they who decide that the color of a person’s skin is more important than the content of their character. It’s they who approved of bringing in Will Self as a kind of intellectual leader for Radio 4 (which he wisely turned down), without even a thought towards having to provide ideological balance. It’s they who make the decisions on tone and attitude in broadcasting, who approved, for example, of having uninformed lightweights host important national events such as the Diamond Jubilee. It’s they who hold their audience in contempt while simultaneously claiming to have their finger on the pulse.

    If one wants to reform the BBC, the obstacles are far greater than what is essentially an existential concept. Aside from all this is the byzantine nature of the corporate structure itself. How many administration and compliance personnel are there as opposed to those who actually do what the BBC is meant to do? Only a serious purge and a drastic reduction of the number of channels and the massive bureaucratic system will even begin to improve the situation and allow the BBC to properly refocus on what it does best and what it should do for true public service. The licence fee could then easily be cut in half. Somehow one doubts this is what Mr. Redwood was asking for, though.

    Reply I did not propose and do not support additional compulsory charging methods for the BBC all the time it has the licence fee. I was asking questions, not setting out a proposal for change, at this particular event. Nor did my question about the fee suddenly trigger BBC work on how to tax people who do not watch live programmes, they had thought of that for themselves!

    • A.Sedgwick
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Good piece – the anecdote that amuses/annoys me most is when the BBC sent more personnel to the 2008 Bejing Olympics than we sent competitors in a poor viewing time zone that only justified commentaries on a feed. A general TV sport pet hate is all the interviews – who cares what the players, competitors, managers, pundits think? Not me.

      • Bob
        Posted December 10, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        @A.Sedgwick

        who cares what the players, competitors, managers, pundits think? Not me.

        Nor me.

      • The Masked Marvel
        Posted December 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        Mr. Redwood, I didn’t imply that the BBC suddenly got the idea about charging for the iPlayer after speaking with you. Mark Thompson told Andrew Marr on air last year that they were working on such things, that he saw new revenue streams in the offing from the various digital platforms. His vision in that area is largely what got him the job at the New York Times. That and his rolodex of extremely wealthy and influential people outside the US. I was suggesting that as the BBC were already working on it, you might have inadvertently given them the impression that it was a valid way forward for them, rather than warning them against trying it on for size. I understand you don’t condone additional fees, but they may not, detached from reality as they are.

        It seems clear from their answers to you that they have a fundamentally different concept of public service broadcasting from most people, as well as a drastically different perspective on the concept of accountability and power. You’ve now heard them define public broadcasting as ratings and revenue, full stop. It’s unclear due to the brevity of your original post just how bad it really is, or if they included changing public opinion on certain issues in their description to you. It’s also unclear just how much reform you or any of your colleagues in Parliament believe is necessary to fix what most people here seem to believe are the most serious problems, or how much is even possible without the most drastic of measures. I realize the latter wasn’t really the purpose of your meeting or of this post.

    • Bill
      Posted December 10, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for this. Sounds as if written by an insider and confirms that matters are worse than we thought and more difficult to change than we thought.

  34. cosmic
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I think we need to go back to the beginning, when the BBC was formed in the early 20s, look at its charter and ask some fundamental questions.

    Are those reasons still valid in a very different world? Do we need a public broadcasting service and why?

    If we do:

    What should its charter and scope be? Does this reasonably include “Strictly Come Dancing” and other light entertainment?

    How is it to be governed?

    How is it to be financed?

    It seems to have grown like topsy and extended itself into all sorts of areas which were not envisioned in the early 20s, such as the internet. It definitely seems to have developed its own agenda and I suggest this has been made easier because its sheer size makes it harder to control.

    I rarely watch it or listen to it, then at friends’ houses, so I really can’t see why I should be forced to pay for it via a TV licence, a computer tax, or slipping it onto local taxes as is done in some countries. I can’t see why it shouldn’t be financed on a subscription basis.

  35. john in cheshire
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, if you have any influence in how the bbc functions into the future then perhaps you could begin to make plans to break it up and sell it off. The thing can then sink or swim by itself. I personally hope it sinks; all of it. I know we should be careful of what we wish for, but in this instance, I will (for one time only) support the precautionary principle to get rid of this monstrosity before it does any more damage to our country.

  36. Rods
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    How will they define the tv tax (licence fee) in the future?

    Where TV is going to go in the next few years from program schedules likely to go the route of other product launches to on demand with release times and dates. I can’t see how they can in an politically and socially acceptable way?

    The US as usual is paving the way with cable TV connections falling and the NFL and NBA offering live streaming of their sport franchises. Why pay a distribution fee when you have the direct demand and therefore higher potential turnover and profits? How long before the FA and FIFA go this route, only a few years I think.

    The new king will be content, not transmission services. The larger more popular content providers will go direct to market and the smaller ones will probably use syndicated services, through online distributors and retailers, but through their websites. Major new players are entering this new arena with Google, Microsoft and Amazon to name but three. Sky are diversifying into much more content production to keep ahead of the game where satellite TV subscriptions will decline. There will also be other major and minor new entrants.

    How can the BBC keep and enforce a the TV tax in such a global internet based on-demand environment? From what I can see only by unacceptable Internet based snooping of all of the citizens web activities which I think will be socially and politically unacceptable and how do you differentiate between taxable and nontaxable content? Between Internet videos from major and minor content providers and websites like youtube? If you tax the content providers how do you get tax revenue from a minor studio in a house in Turkmenistan or Timbuktu?

    Can the BBC and commercial TV survive in this new ecosystem? Only if they adapt and change their to market models and income streams, which will involve their websites becoming the center of their operations, otherwise they will just join many other companies that have disappeared where they failed to adapt to the Internet revolution.

    Major technological change always provide many new opportunities, products and services, exciting times lie ahead in this industry for providers and consumers.

  37. uanime5
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    If public service is educational or uplifting programmes for a minority, it runs the risk of the majority no longer wishing to pay for it by a tax. If it is very popular programmes to keep the majority on board, it is difficult often to distinguish these from commercial product.Why does that need a poll tax?

    Creating two categories, then declaring both of them to be wrong isn’t a valid argument for whether a public service should be maintained. You need to create a criteria to determine whether something should be maintained or not.

    Also speaking of things that are paid for by taxes MPs are still getting an 11% pay rise at a time when average wages are stagnating. Perhaps we should have a debate about whether the taxpayer should be forced to pay for so many overpaid MPs. Especially when much of the UK doesn’t vote for any candidate.

  38. John B
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    “Or how about adding the licence fee to Council Tax? ”
    This is done in France (added to the taxe d’habitation) so they feel they have a precedent to quote. It is well-know in France that ‘nobody’ with any sense buys a TV with a cheque or bank card – it’s usually cash, with a false name and address.

    I pity many students who, I believe, are misled by BBC/TV Licensing about the need to buy a TV licence. The website advice concentrates on how good is the value of the license for a mere £145. During earlier days TV Licensing used to trespass in halls of residence in October to persuade students to buy a licence. Today there is normally no need for students to do this with the move to laptops, tablets, phones etc..
    If you further explore the Licensing website it is actually admitted (in a single sentence) that a student need NOT buy a separate licence to watch live TV if they use a laptop, phone, tablet etc, which is not plugged into the mains when doing so (their parents’ licence covers this).
    Many students however are, I believe, deceived and buy a second license without need.

    It is a dead cert that the BBC will press hard for the need for second licences and other first licences as soon as they get the opportunity. They have probably already started to lobby some people.

    • Bazman
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      Many students however are, I believe, deceived and buy a second license without need? LOL! As if. Do you even think any have a TV licence?

  39. Credible
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    John,

    I don’t understand what you’re getting at. Do you simply want get rid of the BBC? If that is the case, just say so. Do you think getting rid of the BBC will make our TV programmes better and cheaper?

  40. Vanessa
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I also fail to see what makes the BBC so special that we have to pay for it separately. I do not pay my TV licence and am pleased I do not help fund the outrageous hand-outs to departing employees, the salary of another “Savile” and also the drivel they put out as entertainment.

    It really is about time this dinosaur was broken up. Just listen to HOURS or adulation for Mandella – the Terrorist. It is disgusting.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 1:17 am | Permalink

      Talking of dinosaurs Vanessa, here is a link that will really annoy you – to Scottish Communists. I think you can already guess the line that is taken with Saint Comrade Nelson.
      http://www.scottishcommunists.org.uk/

  41. boffin
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Is not the BBC Licence Fee – which is payable if any live broadcast is watched, from whatever source – nothing other than a very thinly disguised state subsidy, in blatant contravention of European competition law going back to the Treaty of Rome?

    If so, the fines which could be levied on UK PLC when the Competition Commissioner wakes up are (literally) unlimited.

    • Bob
      Posted December 10, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      @boffin

      when the Competition Commissioner wakes up

      He won’t wake up, the BBC is a weapon in his armory.

      It’s the licence fee paying public that needs to wake up.

  42. mike fowle
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    John, elections are not won on policies or even on the quality of MPs these days; they are fought and won on spin. If you want to go on funding the lefty bigots who will do anything to destroy you, you truly deserve the label of the stupid party.

  43. John B
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Here is an part of the advice given to students about the need for a TV licence in accommodation away from home:

    ” Freshers, TV, the law and you.

    As you know, once freshers move into halls, plug in and watch television programmes as they’re being shown on TV – whether on their laptop, tablet or anything else – they need to be covered by their own TV Licence. It’s the law.”

    and this:

    “But just remember, whatever you’re watching live online, you’ll need to be covered by a TV Licence – no matter what device you use. Your hall’s licence won’t cover you, and you may not be covered by your parents’ licence. Thankfully, it’s easy to buy your own.”

    If you search elsewhere however, you find this sentence (in original brackets at the end of a paragraph, before beginning another paragraph:

    “(However, if your mobile device isn’t plugged in, you’ll still be covered by your parents’ licence.)

    STUDENTS: Charge your devices and then unplug them when looking at live TV.

    • Bazman
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Its a well known fact that TV licensing laws do not apply to students, the employed or anyone else who is skint.

  44. Tad Davison
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Have just watched a brilliant report on RT concerning foreign debt and how it cripples countries. They showed how the workings of the IMF and The World Bank keeps these nations poor. The BBC simply couldn’t (or maybe won’t) do anything as hard-hitting. It seems that keeping the British people ignorant of the facts is all part of the plan, and the BBC is doing a grand job!

    I liken this to walking into a shop and buying a magazine. You choose ones that interest you, but leave the ones that don’t, well alone. In the case of public service broadcasting however, the BBC is in a golden position to use the vast resources we provide through our licence fee, not just to entertain, but to inform, and to educate. The BBC are failing, but where they fail, others like RT are filling the vacuum.

    RT also carried a story where EU ‘officials’ are joining the demonstrators in the Ukraine. Effectively helping to stir people up, and putting on the pressure to bring about regime change. I might have missed it, but I haven’t seen anything about that on the BBC News Channel. And I’m unlikely to, as I already know that to get REAL news, I have to go elsewhere, so I’d say we ABSOLUTELY DO NOT get value for the licence fee money.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

    • forthurst
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

      “RT also carried a story where EU ‘officials’ are joining the demonstrators in the Ukraine.”

      They were members of the European Parliament as well as German FM Guido Westerwelle and they were making speeches to the assembled opposition protesters which Dmitry Medvedev suggested might constitute interference in a sovereign country’s affairs.
      Clearly the EU believes we already live in a post-nation state world in which any assertion of national sovereignty can simply be ignored.

      If Ukraine signed a trade deal with the EU, there would be a collapse of manufacturing as they would lose their Russian markets, have to pay inflated green prices for gas, but would not be able to compete with Germany, therefore national bankrupcy followed by the flight of West Ukrainians into Europe and East Ukrainians into Russia. More deliberate stiring of the pot by people who are cushioned from reality. RT is a serious news channel whose budget is probably minuscule compared to that of the BBC. Some of the reporting, shows and documentaries are really very good.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted December 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        Forthurst,

        To prove the point that you made far better than I did, and as a bit of an experiment, I just watched the coverage of the demonstrations in the Ukraine on the BBC News Channel. Talk about scant and the bare minimum of information! They gave a disproportionate amount of time to the ‘want away’ brigade, but barely five seconds to the fact that there were also pro-government supporters in attendance, and nothing at all about how damaging it could be to the Ukraine economy were they to join the EU. To get the bigger picture, one has to go elsewhere, and it doesn’t cost a thing.

        That is an absolute and inexcusable travesty, and the sooner they get rid of the BBC licence fee, the better I will feel. I wouldn’t mind so much, if the coverage was comprehensive and balanced, but evidently, we’re paying a lot of money for sub-standard goods.

        I really don’t know how they’ve got the gall to describe themselves as ‘the most trusted broadcaster’. All I can say, is if people are crazy enough to subscribe to that view, they must also be extremely naïve, gullible, and extremely badly informed.

        Tad

      • Bazman
        Posted December 9, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        RT is the mouthpiece of the Russian government. A propaganda channel which it it is got to be said it is very good at. Rather than being a genuine independent voice, RT is a pet project of Russian President Vladimir Putin that is funded and directed by his government. The UK political system may not be perfect but it is possible to enjoy the human rights to protest and free speech without ending up in jail or the cemetery. Putin has long been attuned to the power of television to control the flow of information and the political agenda. One of his first acts on becoming president in 2000 was to seize control of Russia’s independent TV channels in order to ensure unchallenged, favorable domestic news coverage for his regime. It is basically a subversive channel to undermine the west. Like most people you are naive when it comes to Russia.

        • Tad Davison
          Posted December 9, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

          Really? I can sort the wheat from the chaff, but I doubt if many habitual BBC listeners can. They must miss 50% of all the news from other parts of the world. Do you think that our own media isn’t fed with BS?

          And RT broadcasts some gems. Earlier, I listened to a brilliant piece by the London-based activist and Gulf War veteran Kenneth O’Keefe, entitled ‘U.S. and Them’, concerning US foreign policy, Obama, and the role played in all the subterfuge by the banks. It’s well worth seeing if you haven’t done so already. I agreed with every word, but I just can’t get that from British mainstream channels.

          I wonder how many people really know what goes on in the middle East supposedly in our name? It is hardly something that will make us more secure. And very often, RT gives us the inside line on the EU. When they tell us that the EU is a diminishing market, and that it has brought massive deprivation to millions of people, I think they have a perfectly valid point, but I can’t recall the pro-EU BBC advising us of that fact in an even-handed way, so who really IS the propaganda merchant in this case?

          And you talk about human rights. Every so-called ‘atrocity’ committed by a foreign power or adversaries, is an excuse to tighten up on our civil liberties at home. Presently, the British government and its agencies has draconian powers at its disposal, to use as it sees fit. That’s not the Britain I want. I despise our enemies, but feel we ought not to create more of them, and it’s a sad state of affairs when we British subjects have to get our information from foreign sources because our own are so woefully inadequate.

        • forthurst
          Posted December 9, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for that, Bazman, but I did not claim that RT did not have an editorial policy, nor do I wish to go to live in Russia. However, I do not regard Russia after the collapse of the Bolshevik Empire to be our enemy, although the fact that it is ruled by Putin the patriot rather than Putin the puppet of Vladimir Berezovsky appears to jar with some people.

  45. Chris S
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I agree with others that the BBC is far too PC as well as being politically biased and extravagant. It also produces far too much low brow output and very little factual programs of interest to men (particularly on Radio 4 ).

    However, for all it’s faults, viewers get a remarkably high volume of programming for their money, especially compared with the cost/benefit of subscribing to Sky.

    Any other funding model will almost certainly produce a worse result and reluctantly I would vote for it to continue.

    I just wish a way could be found to change the political balance amongst the editorial staff and management.

    A first step could be to get Rod Liddle back and make him head of BBC News and Current Affairs. There should also be a complete ban on employing ex-ministers in any management role.

    • Bob
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      @Chris S

      viewers get a remarkably high volume of programming for their money, especially compared with the cost/benefit of subscribing to Sky.

      That’s a strange way to look at it.
      Sky is funded by voluntary subscription.
      Obviously if Sky were funded by the lisense tax then it would not need to charge subscription fees.

      Do you know how much it costs to collect the TV tax?

      ‘TV Licensing’ is a trade mark of the BBC and is used under licence by companies contracted by the BBC to administer the collection of television licence fees and enforcement of the television licensing system. The majority of administration is contracted to Capita Business Services Ltd.

      The total income from licence fees was £3.6562 billion in 2012–13 of which £597.3 million or 16.3% was provided by the Government through concessions for those over the age of 75. Thus, the licence fee made up the bulk of the BBC’s total income of £5.102 billion in 2012-2013.

      The collection and enforcement of the licence fee is the responsibility of the BBC in its role as TV Licensing Authority. The BBC pursues its licence fee collection and enforcement under the trading name “TV Licensing”, but contracts much of the task to commercial organisations. A major contractor is Capita which specialises in outsourcing for government projects. It is expected that Capita will earn £1.10bn – £1.55bn from its contract with the BBC if it runs its maximum 15 years from July 2012. Since 2004, Capita has undertaken a proportion of TV licensing administration at locations outside of the UK and has progressively increased the amount of work processed overseas each year.”

      As a starting point, the free licences granted to over seventy fives should not be funded by the welfare budget, the BBC should just waive the requirement and suck it up.

  46. Matt
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    What I don’t understand is why the commercial sector does not consistently produce better TV and radio than the BBC and thus make it redundant. It can afford to and does pay better than the BBC, it should be more agile in business terms, it should be able to invest more effectively.

  47. Mike Stallard
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    I have always been a keen Radio 4 fan. Now I find that I am increasingly turning to Classic FM.

  48. Andyvan
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Why do people pay the licence fee? Why do they buy big expensive televisions that are then taxed to pay for lefty luvvies luxury lifestyles at the Beeb?
    I don’t. I watch no broadcast tv at all. My news is delivered by a variety of websites (Russia Today is much better and less biased than the BBC offering). My entertainment is likewise obtained online for little or no cost. I save money, have far more variety and the added satisfaction of not paying for pseudo intellectuals propagandizing socialism and drooling “journalists” regurgitating government press releases. Just vote with your feet. Disconnect your tv aerial and stop paying the licence fee. The Beeb will go mental and send threatening letters which I send to the police, complaining of them demanding money with menaces (a criminal offence). If enough people did it the Beeb and the courts would implode. Remember they have to prove you watched broadcast tv programs before they can prosecute you. If they try and take you to court without that evidence you can sue them and get some of your licence fees back. You are breaking no laws if you don’t watch the broadcast drivel.

    • Bob
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Andyvan

      Why do people pay the licence fee? … If they try and take you to court without that evidence you can sue them and get some of your licence fees back. You are breaking no laws if you don’t watch the broadcast drivel.

      Absolutely right.

    • Bazman
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Even though the BBC and CNN’s coverage of crucial global issues is tainted by their susceptibility to Western governmental and corporate influence may be justified. RT is absolutely not the place to go for an alternative perspective. There is value in having an outlet for the different perspectives on major global issues that appear in some of RT’s less ludicrously slanted output. There are grounds for arguing that the failure of the Western TV news media to challenge adequately the capitalist interests that caused the global economic crisis has contributed to the financiers largely getting away with it. The problem with RT is that its flagrant hypocrisy wholly discredits its coverage of these issues. Despite its extensive coverage of “Occupy Wall Street” and the economic crisis in Europe, it makes no mention of Russia being the embodiment of crony capitalism, with massive inequalities of wealth and epic levels of corruption that have seen (some powerful people ed) steal billions from the Russian people.
      Russia? What are you all like? Go and live there. You would not last a year.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted December 9, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        Just a thought, but would you put some of the US stations in the same category as RT? Radio Free America, broadcast from the west coast is but one of many I listen to, that gives an alternative and in-depth perspective on world events not to be found on the BBC.

        I would have thought with a dedicated 24 hour news channel, the BBC could cover it all, but it’s only by tuning in elsewhere that we get to see just how much they miss. And the subjects they DO cover is so contaminated by slanted journalism, it’s a wonder it doesn’t fall over the edge!

        I’m sick of paying for this guff. In the words of Mrs T. – I want my money back!

  49. Robert K
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    The BBC should be broken up and sold to the highest bidder. In a world of internet TV and radio, Netflix, Sky and the numerous other content providers it is simply an expensive indulgence for the chatterati.
    Why should UK citizens be forced to pay for it?

  50. John
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    With a majority of comment so far claiming (correctly, in my view) that the BBC has a built in left bias, I would like to point out that there is a current BBC trust survey on this, focused on news and comment programs. Link is http://consultations.external.bbc.co.uk/bbc/news_review

    This survey closes on the 13th of December.

    Not that I think the BBC will do anything other than ignore it, just that the greater the percentage of respondents that claim left wing bias, the greater the difficulty they will have in doing so.

    • Bob
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      Thanks John

  51. Mark
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I note that today the BBC announced it had found the money for five new HD channels that it was putting into production.

    Meanwhile, the old Russian saw that there’s no news in Pravda and no truth in Novosti is proved once again as Novosti is disbanded and taken over by Russia Today – closely controlled by the Kremlin. The BBC has been taken over by a strange establishment already – and therefore fails to see the irony.

  52. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted December 11, 2013 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    Let us ask the fundamental question: in what sense is the BBC genuinely independent? For example, where did Lord Patten come from? How is it that the BBC has a ‘research’ arm that receives funding from the European Union? How is it that when a hot political story breaks, the BBC hurries to get a comment from a Shadow Minister rather than an actual Minister?

    Why not find a commercial buyer for BBC1, who would be forced to accept advertising, and run BBC2 as a special interests channel funded by a mix of licence fee, sponsorship and pay per view? That would be a lot freer, a lot cheaper, and would stop those infernal ‘opinion formers’ ramming their opinions and Nelson Mandela’s funeral down our throats.

  53. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Re: “The BBC has always experienced a difficult dilemma …….Why does that need a poll tax?”

    This is one of the key issues. If the BBC considers that above all it has to be popular then it is no different to a commercial broadcaster. For such an organisation to be publicly funded is counter-productive to the working of a free market in broadcasting as clearly it is not competing on equal terms.

    Further, if “popularity” is the criteria then how are minority interest to be served? Commercial broadcasters can not serve a minority interest if the costs can not be justified commercially.

    It would be equally wrong to say the BBC must not venture into certain areas on the grounds that they are commercially viable. It seems the sensible balance is for the BBC to emphasise breadth of coverage rather than depth. So, for instance, they should broadcast a soap opera, but no more than one. And we should see far more coverage of minority interests.

    But we must be fare to the BBC. If we expect them to reduce the number of the most popular programmes and give more coverage of minority interests, we should not then condemn them for overall lower viewing/listening figures.

    It is also worth addressing what constitutes a “minority” in this context. For instance, I think fishing is the largest participative activity in the UK, but I can not remember the BBC ever putting on a programme for leisure fishermen.

  54. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Re: “I raised with them a more interesting issue ….. so they will claim they should not have to pay a tv licence?”

    The answer is to be able to watch anything there has to be a means of paying for its creation and “distribution”. The fact that it comes via the internet rather than the ether does not change the cost of production and distribution.

    Those of us who do pay the licence fee should rightly feel aggrieved if others get programmes for free. Of, course, if the “get it free” group is tiny it does not really matter. But if there comes a point where the numbers are significant it will matter.

    The live/delayed criteria currently used to determine if a licence fee is paid dates back to an earlier age and is no longer fit for purpose. I recommend the government look into this. If there is to be a continuation of the licence fee, and I think there should be, then the rules need to be brought to date, and better to do this before it becomes a significant problem.

  55. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    As to public service broadcasting, the BBC still retain the Reethian ethos of “to educate, inform and entertain” (not sure I have the order correct, but the order does not signify priority).

    I think there is far too little informing and educating. Especially on technical issues. In fact, the BBC do not do “technical”; unless it is linked to the arts. They are happy to broadcast programmes, say, on the intricacies and evolution of portraiture, but the internal working of the combustion engine and how that has changed over the last hundred years is a no-go area, despite that it has far more relevance to us all. And informing and educating can be entertaining (in the sense that at the end of the programme you feel your time has been well spent).

    They can not even promote their own technology. So, for instance, they have spent loads of money on 3D programmes and then complain that the audiences are switching off. But if they were going to bother with 3D why did they not make programmes explaining the technology, what the viewer needs in the the way of equipment to be able to watch 3D and how to best organise their living room so they got the maximum benefit and minimised the potential disadvantages.

    I see the BBC were proud to tell you about their success with Dr. Who. But did they tell you about one-off episode (with the three doctors) was made and broadcast in 3D. I guess not, because they made dam sure nobody knew about it. It was broadcast on Freeview Channel 303, and was very good (and I say that as someone who is not really that interested in the Doctor these days). But you had to be lucky to know it was being broadcast and had to work hard to find at how to see it.

    The BBC then had the cheek to claim that they were stopping 3D programmes “because the viewers were switching off”. In fact they were never switching on in the first place! My syndical guess is it was all to do with money. The latest DG has announced more money for the arts, at a time of reducing BBC income, no doubt responding to the nudge given to him by the Chairman of the Trust who appointed him on the grounds of his expertise in the arts.

  56. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    There is so much that is wrong with the BBC, but also so much that is right.

    Much that is wrong is nothing to do with the licence fee as such. It makes commercial sense for a public service broadcaster to be funded by a licence fee as the commercial channels then have something against which they can be judged that is not based on the same commercial model. But this benefit does not work if the BBC simply tries to out-do the commercial channels. The BBC claims it seeks to be distinctly different, but in really it is depressingly similar.

    I think the benefits we should be getting from the BBC as a licence fee funded broadcaster could be achieve with a smaller BBC and a lower licence fee. This would probably best be achieved by reducing the fee in real terms over time, with a corresponding reduction in the BBC size; not a step change.

    This would have to be done in parallel with refocusing the BBC to their full remit of educate inform and entertain, and requiring that this should be for the whole audience, which does include minority interest. We should not judge them just on the size of the audience figures but also on its breadth and reach. They should also be reminded that they are first and foremost a BROADCASTER.

    I also think the BBC should also be expected to the innovative technically, as they frequently have been in the past (stereo radio and colour television, for instance).

    And none of this above will work without radically changing the way the Trust operates, which is as much a part of what is wrong as the BBC itself. I think the Trust are self serving, and in my experience their claim to be representing the interests of the viewer and listener are not matched by the reality.

    • JayBee
      Posted December 22, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      For “educate inform”, read re-educate and mis-inform.

      The bbc is guilty of bias on all counts.

      With a leftist clique determining who is employed at the bbc, the bbc’s output is always going to be biased.

      I fear that the country is no longer governed by politicians and is instead being led by the nose through bbc propaganda.

  57. JayBee
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    If the bbc was a servant of the people then why does it get involved in ratings wars with commercial channels?

    Make the bbc subscription rather licence tax funded and we will soon see how much the public revere the service offered to them.

    The bbc has four channels and should have separate channels for light entertainment with no political content (and that includes leftist comedians who shoehorn their politics into every statement), sport, young person’s and current affairs (where the bbc can be as leftist as it desires).

    The people can then subscribe to whichever channel they wish. I have a feeling that the current affairs channel would be rather under-subscribed though.

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  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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