In defence of the BBC


The BBC is under fire once again. Newsnight, a current affairs programme, have dropped a clanger over a child abuse scandal by using an unreliable witness to falsely identify Lord McAlpine as a perpetrator. Clearly an error and a failing; the Director General has fallen on his sword and others will do doubt follow.

Once again, both traditional and social media is awash with claims of bias, cover-up and general incompetence within the BBC. Many clamour for the end of the license fee and to make the BBC fend for itself by raising advertising revenue.

Is that what we really want? If you view a Sky channel, or indeed other commercial channels, the programmes are almost unwatchable because of frequent, elongated ad breaks. Commercial radio is equally dire; most stations play pap designed to capture the “housewife with young kids” audience punctuated with ads that are repeated ad nauseum. Niche radio stations play better music but there are always the ads.

Compare the above to the output of the BBC. Four TV channels that regularly show the best tv in the world. Plus dedicated news channels. A multitude of national radio stations ranging from chart music to classical to current affairs. Then there are all the local radio stations serving the area they broadcast in. The World Service continues to provide a trusted news source to foreign countries. None of these have a single advert.

So why does the BBC offer such a wide-ranging output? Because it remains true to its uniquely British traditions and follows the principles of the first Director General, Lord Reith.
“Reith summarized the BBC’s purpose in three words: educate, inform, entertain; this remains part of the organisation’s mission statement to this day.” (Wikipedia)

To conclude. Yes, one programme has made mistakes. This does not mean the BBC as an organisation is bad, rotten to the core or biased. The people who call for the BBC to be broken up, made commercial and scrap the licensing fee should ask themselves a simple question: On one hand there is an institution that provides a huge amount of programming and enjoys a world-wide reputation for quality. On the other hand, there is Sky, Fox News, commercial radio with constant advertising. Which do you prefer?

Auntie may have her faults but she has many virtues. I’m sticking with her. You should too.

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About ReidIvinsMedia

After working for many years in Higher Education I've decided to drop out and join, eventually, the self-employed. Here I blog about my interests which include education, politics, backpacking, poker, photography and real ale.
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3 Responses to In defence of the BBC

  1. Abandon TV says:

    “…Auntie may have her faults but she has many virtues. I’m sticking with her. You should too…..”

    The tone of your post is that of someone trying to *persuade* the reader to fund and generally support the activities of the BBC.

    However, as I’m sure you are aware, the BBC’s current method of securing funding involves the INITIATION OF FORCE against the public to override all public debate, freedom or choice on the matter. Therefore as far as the BBC is concerned there is no debate, no freedom and no choice as to whether or not we fund and therefore support their activities.

    Liking the output of the BBC is one thing, and it is clear that you do like their programs – and that is fine………… but if you also support their method of securing funding then (by definition) you do NOT support other people having a choice in whether or not to support the BBC, in which case why are you pretending to even debate the matter?

    Debate, opinion, desire, choice etc mean very little if the *initiation of force* is also part of the equation.

    Are you saying that you would *like* everyone else to pay for your favourite broadcasting corporation…. or are you saying that you wish everyone else to be *forced* to pay for your favourite broadcasting channel whether they want to or not?

    This distinction is subtle, but profound. And important!

    If you support the current BBC strategy of securing funds through force (via their ‘compulsory license fee’ system) then your should have made this more clear by writing something like this:

    “…Auntie may have her faults but I personally think she has many virtues too. Therefore I’m happy to pay the license fee. I want you to be forced to pay it too…..”

    Whenever force is part of the equation (as it is in the case of the license fee) words like ‘should’ are just too fuzzy (as in ‘…..I’m sticking with her. You should too….’). Should what? Should ‘stick to her’? What does that mean in real terms? Does it mean ‘should be forced to fund it’? If so then we need to make that clear. …etc etc

    Sorry to be so nitpicky – but I hope you see how important clarity and precision is in this case.

    Clarity and precision is important because if you really *do* support the BBC’s use of force against the rest of the population then you cannot claim to be part of any genuine ‘debate’. There can, after all, be no ‘debate’ whenever one side is prepared to initiate force against the other.

    If you really do support the BBC’s use of force (ie the compulsory license fee) then whatever argument anyone else puts across is futile because you are advocating for force to be used against them to make them pay anyway.

    Anyone who advocates for this use of force (including the BBC themselves) can only *pretend* to be ‘debating’ these issues in order to *appear* civilised.

    An analogy: Suppose a man takes a woman on a date and he pretends to wine and dine her and seduce her into bed, but he already knows that if she refuses to have sex with him later on he will initiate force against her to make her have sex with him. In this case he is not really wining and dining her – it’s all for show and behind the charm and the smiles is the willingness to initiate force – therefore there is no ‘debate’ at the end of the day… the woman has no choice, even if she is made to FEEL as if she does have a choice for the majority of the evening.

    This is a big problem with modern society. In so many aspects of society we feign civilised behaviour towards other people, while blatantly advocating for force to be initiated against them.

    The way to test if we are behaving immorally, while pretending to be civilised, is to use clear language (no euphemisms allowed!) and to get real and get personal!

    Suppose I tell you that I do not wish to fund the BBC. Are you willing (in a moral sense) to come round my house and threaten and intimidate me? Are you prepared to INITIATE FORCE against me to make me pay for the BBC – even if I strongly object to paying?

    Is it right to advocate for a third party (such as the BBC) to behave in ways which WE would find immoral and totally unacceptable behaviour ourselves?

    When was the last time YOU threatened other people in order to force them to pay for things which you want but which they do not?

    I’m guessing you don’t behave in that way – ever. I’m sure if you are honest you can see just how immoral and unacceptable the behaviour of the BBC is in reality…..

    Behind their slick idents, their cuddly presenters and the endless self congratulation lies their use of force, bullying, extortion…. Being funded by such immoral methods, it is any wonder they have become a magnet for immoral people engaged in despicable behaviour? Of course not! Moral outrage is what keeps society civilised – but only when market forces can operate freely.

    The minority of evil people in society (and it IS a minority) will never be able to thrive UNLESS we allow the initiation of force (which is always controlled by the few) to override the free market (which is always controlled by the many) – whenever and wherever this happens evil starts to grow like mould at the back of the cupboard…. they don’t call it *culture* for nothing!

    • Firstly, thanks for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated.

      You’re right, I wouldn’t initiate force against you…or anyone else.

      However, I have to point out that the BBC doesn’t use force either. It is a democratically elected goverment that decided both the level of the licence fee and how it is enforced.

      You do have a number of choices. For example, pay the fee and watch tv. Or don’t pay the fee and don’t watch tv but use DVD or the net instead to watch programmes. Likewise, Internet radio stations instead of terrestial ones.

      For myself,I believe the license fee is incredible value for money (compare it to Sky’s charges for example). If the license fee was to be abolished the end result would be that the BBC would have to fund itself by subscription fees and/or advertising. Inevitably the range, variety and quality of new programes would decrease in order to capture a mass market. There would be far more re-runs of programmes as well because they are cheap to broadcast. Try watching Sky 1, Dave, QVC and the like. Is that really want you want to see?

  2. Abandon TV says:

    “….However, I have to point out that the BBC doesn’t use force either. It is a democratically elected goverment that decided both the level of the licence fee and how it is enforced…..”

    A ‘democratically elected government’ is perhaps the most obvious example in the known universe of the initiation of force. What on earth do you think you are voting for, if not the initiation of force?!

    You are not just voting for candidates or parties or even specific policies …. you are voting for candidates or parties to INITIATE FORCE against the rest of society in order to implement their policies by force.

    Just as with the BBC ‘license fee’, it’s easier to figure out the true morality of ‘voting’ by cutting out the middle man – in this case the government and its armies of enforcers – and imagining behaving exactly as you advocate for them to behave.

    For example, let’s say you and I are debating the pros and cons of various proposed social programs, policies, laws. You want policy X to be implemented and you want everyone else to pay for it. So far so good… there’s nothing wrong with just *wanting* other people to behave in certain ways or pay for certain things which you desire.

    However, I object to your ideas and I give you various moral and practical reasons why I think your proposals are a bad idea – or at least not something which *I* am interested in….. or interested in paying for!

    At this point you make a phone call and ten minutes later a bunch of men show up in a van dressed in matching blue costumes and armed with clubs and tasers. You ask me again if I am going to accept your policy and fund it, letting me know that if I don’t the men will kidnap me and lock me up in a cage.

    At this point I hold my hands up and say, “OK you win….. I surrender to your threats of force and reluctantly agree to pay up and obey”.

    This is the reality of voting.

    And it means that the moment you ‘vote’ you are no longer debating and trying to persuade other people to accept your social policies in a peaceful and civilised manner…

    …when you ‘vote’ you are (by definition) attempting to use violence (or threats of violence) in order to FORCE other people to accept your ideas about how they should behave, how they should live, how their wages should be spent etc.

    Of course when you ‘vote’ you’re attempting to get a *third party* to act violently and coercively on YOUR BEHALF (as your ‘elected representatives’) but that does not make the violence and coercion any less immoral – how could it?

    If you would not pull a gun (or a club, or a taser) on me during a political debate then you should not vote for the state to threaten me with guns, clubs or tasers either. It’s not exactly ‘moral rocket science’.

    Voting can only be a morally acceptable activity IF it is a peaceful, voluntary non coercive affair.

    To be morally acceptable and civilised, voting must fulfil these two conditions:

    1) we only vote in situations where voting is a peaceful and voluntary affair, where the consent of all involved is clearly given (it is not simply assumed).
    2) we never vote for intimidation, coercion, force or violence to be be initiated against other people.

    Can you honestly state that you think is it OK to violate either of these conditions?

    If you agree with these two conditions then you shouldn’t vote or champion the BBC ‘license fee’ because they both fail to meet either condition.

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