media industry

Why We Need To Be Proud of the BBC

THE ROLE OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTER will be increasingly important in the new media age. When your email inbox content defines what ads are directed at you (or, because I said I was single on Facebook, Facebook likes to ask me if I want to join dating sites), it’s going to be hard to find a media outlet which isn’t so intrusive. Or just doesn’t constantly want to sell third-party stuff to you.

Why Do We Need To Be Proud of the BBC?

There are age-old arguments that all wind back to the licence fee debate. You’ve heard it all: “Aunty Beeb is a patriarch,” “Aunty Beeb is royalist,” “Aunty Beeb is not royalist enough,” “BBC Three is trashy,” “I-Don’t-Listen-To-Classical-Music,” “Michael-McIntyre-is-Mediocre”* “BBC News is biased towards [insert party here, typically the one(s) covered in the article/report], “the BBC is old,” and on, and on, and on…

*Re: Michael McIntyre: he kinda is…I mean your mates could tell the same jokes for free

stuffed geese? golden eggs?

Of course, there’s the stinger – the stuffed geese at the top of the BBC guzzling at the trough, but it is a sad fact that the very same happens at any other large broadcasting corporation, or hierarchical company for that matter. Of course, it does not make it right or any more palatable. (Yes, the BBC are a Corporation and have to compete with their rivals to keep the best talent, in order to allow the BBC to survive in an age increasingly subsidised by ad revenue which can target audiences – us –  directly. Yes my loves, the BBC has to pay up for the marketing borne out of the advertising, which Sky’s individualist packages invented…)

(Keep your thieving) Hands off the BBC

You can tell I personally ♥ the BBC’s core, original values. It’s easy to be romantic. The BBC was my life source when the richer kids in the area had Sky. And I always wanted Sky but my parents couldn’t afford it, so we just had to wait a bit longer for the films we all wanted to see (but instead I became versed in classic 60s and 70s comedy and film noir that all the new Skyplussers now wish they were so knowledgeable about). The BBC is recognised worldwide and is seen as an example of the ideal broadcaster – no commercial ties, high quality programming.

It is worth noting just how much the 42p per day gets you in a year (and BBC Radio is free, peeps)

So, this year, £145.50 gets you quite alot.

What does the TV License pay for?

The following is such a small selection of what your license fee gets you. And for as long as the BBC can retain its independence and separation from the state when it comes to the Trust and News, it is something we must protect for as long as we can.

  • Doctor Who

  • Strictly Come Dancing

  • Top Gear

  • Wimbledon 2010, and the longest match known to man

  • Match of the Day

  • Plenty of David Attenborough

  • Toy Story 2!

  • Comedy from the Apollo in London

  • Mock The Week

  • Eastenders

  • Match of the Day

  • The One Show

  • Never Mind The Buzzcocks

  • Newsnight

  • CBBC

  • Blue Peter

  • Newsround

  • Horrible Histories

  •  Tracy Beaker

  • CBeebies

  • BBC Two

  • BBC Three

  • Honey We’re Killing The Kids

  • New comedy such as Lee Nelson’s Well Good Show

  • The Real Hustle

  • BBC Four

  • Newswipe

  • Who Killed Caravaggio?

  • BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

  • BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus

  • BBC National Orchestra & Chrous of Wales

  • BBC Concert Orchestra

  • BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

  • BBC Ulster Orchestra

  • BBC Singers

  • Proms

  • BBC Learning

  • Open University collaborations

  • GCSE Bitesize

  • 21st Century Classroom

  • iPlayer

  • Glastonbury coverage

  • A sleep-deprived David Dimbleby and ridiculous blue-screen coverage of the election

  • Pretty much everything you watch on Channel Dave, lazy Dave can’t make the effort himself you see (LOL JOKES!…but not really.)

  • BBC News 24

  • NO ADVERTISING when England score

  • + thousands and thousands more which I can’t list but Radio Times certainly can

Seriously though, £145.50 will be a drop for middle class families. In my working class household growing up, being connected to the world was a utility – not a luxury. The cost of a license also equals [ at 17.5% VAT ]:

  • Approx. two thirds of a Glasto ticket, or
  • A basic double bed, or
  • One late-deal city break in either Brussels, Nice or Bruges, or
  • 1/10 of a  MacBook Pro, or
  • 98 cups of tea at £1.50 each, or
  • Mid-range digital camera, or
  • 72% of a Daily Mail & Mail on Sunday discounted subscription at £199.96 (urrgghh)
  • 63% of a basic Sky package at £228
  • Personal favourite – why I am happy to pay for the BBC

Although Woman’s Hour, Adam Curtis, Life/South Pacific/Blue Planet, Charlie Brooker, Tracy Beaker and Steve Lamacq I would happily pay for annually alone; the BBC is blessed with the ability to be most things to most people. And although it denies it, it wants to be all things. Nonetheless, good intentions aside, it’s this status of almost impossible popularity which gets the BBC into hot water. As long as these institution in and of themselves remain, I can’t see any other online provider giving better content or value for that content in the future as we move towards old school Roman Patronism, as if we were all emperors.

The BBC educates us

As such: regard this as opinion only, although ask around and you might find a few nodding heads: the BBC has been a lifesaver exactly when the government’s resources have not. For example, the kids who went to school and are now in their twenties, who have a fair handful of GCSEs will, most probably, have spent days with the online revision aid GCSE Bitesize. This website is a stalwart in education, and online elearning. Bitesize covers curriculums and exam-board content nationwide. It is even used by teachers as a learning resource.

RF getty images

This viewpoint may ring true particularly for people born around 1989, who’ve grown alongside the desktop computer as it too developed (we remember Acorns, we remember when our school had, like, two Windows 97 systems at primary school and you were only allowed on them if you were good; we remember the first Macs, we chatted on MSN when it rained in our teen years). The BBC has been fairly quick off the mark to use mainstream technology and provide a quality information service.

This is especially significant for a network broadcaster that is neither sponsored by nor horizontally-integrated with a software company. In fact, a lot of the technicians have invented new gizmos themselves. (Red button anyone?)

As if a cut in funding wasn’t bad enough, another problem the BBC will face is how relatively easy it is to stream and download BBC content from the internet, to share files when new US drama seasons have just kicked off, and nick Maida Vale sessions from YouTube (yeah, you can still do it). It’s a shame that everyone’s a caketaker, that we want and think we deserve everything for free – especially the things we take for granted. It could be argued that the BBC have already conceded in the free-for-all by streaming the lot every week through iPlayer, and selling out to Dave and UKTVGold.

Q. What was the secret strength of the BBC?

A. Community media channels and expert content which reached people personally.

The BBC is also one of the last – dare I say last – remaining media outlets which truly reflects local communities through regional radio, news coverage, live events and websites. If the Conservatives do get away with skimming a few million quid away from the BBC, it may well be the regional radio stations that have to fight for their corners. In an age of globalisation, where identity is not necessarily moulded by birthplace, regional differences are quickly disappearing (and linguists know this well as many accents start to melt into each other).

The death of local newspapers, the proliferation of centralised news (i.e. stuff you can get yourself from Reuters and newswires if you know where to look) reaching the local papers that actually did survive; and finally, with transport and distance no longer an issue for people to communicate across ‘borders’ (the Blackberry bus stop ads depict this phenomenon quite clearly), regional radio could lose the call for its voice, and so, lose out.

(C) BBC Radio Manchester

Furthermore, as more and more people watch entertainment and gather their information from the internet, how will the BBC adapt to this shift from the television as a piece of the basic domestic furniture, to the laptop, yet still retaining budget to fish for, catch and develop real writing, production, design, acting and marketing talent for new content?

Because we know Britain’s Got Talent. The UK’s got talent, the correspondents for BBC News across the world, have got talent.

Switch on News 24, and watch journalists thrive under the pressure to stick true to impartiality and high quality, whilst gaining reliable sources and competing with other news channels who don’t mind taking you for a corporate ride before withdrawing reportage.

Just take a look at all the homegrown produce from the BBC.

Don’t let them kill the BBC, either with political footballs or with financial strangulation.

 

Diary, Friday 16th July 2010: “I will miss Jonathan Ross, and worry who the next tabloid damnation slave will be 😦

2 comments

  1. The licence fee is a bargain. Long live the twitter campaign #proudofthebbc!. Great article Janey.

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