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.