I’ll miss the BBC when it’s gone. The greatest public service broadcasting organisation the world has ever seen. The home of Blue Planet, Only Fools and Horses, Strictly, Dad’s Army, Six Music, I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue and so, so much more. But the writing is on the wall and Boris Johnson will be the man who signals its death knell.
The big issue will be the licence fee. It exists because of consensus, where everyone across the land accepts making an annual payment, which is effectively a broadcasting tax, in order to provide a service that provides something for everyone which, in many instances, would not exist anywhere else. Once that consensus breaks down, we lose the BBC. It is as simple as that.
The campaign to get rid of the BBC has been running for many years, perhaps decades. Newspaper proprietors like Rupert Murdoch, who used to own Sky and still owns radio stations like TalkSport and Virgin, hate the BBC. They see it as something that prevents them from making even more money. Without BBC radio, for example, everyone else would have to tune in to Chris Evans’s breakfast show and Sam Allardyce’s ‘expert’ opinions on football. The campaign against the BBC was always there. Now it’s becoming overwhelming.
I see the breakdown in consensus on social networks. As recently as last night, I saw a thread in which people were attacking the £3 increase in the licence fee and calling for the corporation to be scrapped. The BBC should take adverts, said some. The BBC licence fee should become a voluntary subscription. Neither of which would maintain the BBC as we know it.
A BBC with adverts or one that is subscription-based would simply turn the BBC into ITV. All the radio stations would immediately close and whilst the likes of Radios 1 and 2 might be taken up by commercial broadcasters, they would also sound like them, pumping out generic ‘popular’ music and nothing else. These two popular stations are the only place on radio you will hear certain types of music. Take away BBC 6 music and you have almost no new music at all, with sorry consequences for new artists.
The BBC as a purely commercial operator becomes ITV, competing for a declining advertising revenue and would broadcast an endless flow of ‘popular’ shows. This, I believe, is at the heart of the matter.
The truth is that there is no form of funding that can match the licence fee if we want to retain a world class public service broadcasting provider. So, if we reject the licence fee model, let’s accept reality and close the whole thing down. There is no halfway house.
I hope beyond hope that the BBC can be saved and maintained on the exact same basis as we know today. I do not want my news to be brought to me by a hard right propaganda channel like Fox News and I do not want to listen to dreary generic radio stations which will only play unchallenging oldie records. However, it’s me that’s in the minority, here. In a Darwinian world of broadcasting, BBC 6 Music would wither and die and we’d all have to listen, 24/7, to whoever won this years X Factor.
As a national institution, I regard the BBC as second only to the NHS. It remains the envy of the world. But we now have a government, backed by a hostile media, that wants to get rid of it. Enjoy it while you can. By 2030, I fear the BBC will be no more.