GUEST COLUMN: Don’t let stealth spell the end for BBC, by Roy Bainton

Picture: PA

Picture: PA

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According to BBC political editor Nick Robinson, on his election battle-bus David Cameron said of the BBC: “I’m going to close them down.”

Was he joking? However this government and Rupert Murdoch hate the BBC with a passion.

John Whittingdale, the culture secretary, called the £145 licence fee “worse than the poll tax.” Many TV viewers think they shouldn’t pay a licence fee because they watch shows on line. Others opt for online services – yet the BBC, at £12 a month, dominates the British airwaves, while Sky charges an average £47.

So let’s imagine life without the BBC. Does advertising get on your nerves? Take ITV’s two hour drama on December 27, Harry Price, Ghost Hunter. With eight commercial breaks it became almost unwatchable. If you’ve seen TV in the USA, the advertising situation is even worse, and the quality of TV in Europe, compared to the BBC, is exasperating. However, if our government diminishes our BBC, Britain’s broadcasting prowess will become a thing of the past. The British people, who once owned the nation’s gas, electricity, water, the phone system, Royal Mail, the railways and the mining industry, have just two cultural assets left - the NHS and the BBC. As with the NHS, the BBC will be demolished by stealth.

The first move has already been made by removing the Department for Work and Pensions’ cost of exempting over-75s from the licence fee and loading it directly onto the BBC itself, thus adding an annual debt of £600m. Deliberate decriminalisation would lose the BBC £200m a year. So with new, vindictively inflicted massive debts and the current seven-year licence fee freeze, like the NHS, the strangulation of the British Broadcasting Corporation, once the finest in the world, by a government which hates the people owning anything, has begun.

Because Channel 4 supports itself through advertising, few people realise that it is, in fact, publicly owned. Although responsible to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, it remains independent. Yet already George Osborne is looking at selling it off.

The UK’s media is 85 per cent right wing, and when not daily attacking the NHS savages the BBC because conservatives suffer the illusion it is in some way politically ‘biased’. And yet if that’s the case, with 96 per cent of people using the BBC every week why were the Tories so victorious in May 2015? Perhaps they hate the BBC because its success and quality defies their market ideology. The BBC’s standard is the one that world broadcasting measures itself against. If we lose the BBC, an integral part of this country’s character will have vanished.