Jonathan Eida | Opinion
The reverberations emanating from calls to defund the BBC are gaining traction within the country at large. Increasingly, people are beginning to take issue with how the BBC is run and the decisions being made, which continually grind the gears of the public.
The criticisms of the BBC are essentially two-pronged. The first of them being levelled at the BBC comes courtesy of how they make their proceeds. The BBC is funded through public taxation, which is in itself questionable. Should the government be funding a network or should it be run as a private organisation? Personally, I feel that if the BBC cannot stand on its own two feet and face competition from rivals by itself, then the government has no business keeping it on life support. The raising of the licence fee has also caused controversy due to its price, as well as the fact that this detracts from the stated purpose of the BBC: to provide universal coverage. That was certainly the stated purpose of tax subsidies in the first place.
The second criticism comes as a product of their dual-funding mechanism. Private news networks have the creative licence to do as they please. If we look at networks in America such as CNN or Fox News, their private interests can dictate their editorial spin because the consumers opt into the stated bias.
However, the BBC seems to be in a grey area where, due to their mixed private and public status, they have the ability to float into bias but without the same scrutiny. This has led to claims of bias from both within and outside the BBC ranks. These have been especially prevalent since the Brexit referendum, but it seems only to have continued to spiral out of control since then.
A report from the IEA shed light on BBC bias specifically with regard to Brexit, although similar trends apply elsewhere too. Given that the BBC receives money from the taxpayer, it is only right that it delivers objective, unbiased coverage, which it is continually failing to do. Equally negligent are the watchdogs who are hired to ensure that that the BBC keeps within its remit. They seem to let inexcusable lapses in objectivity slip through the net all too often, with very few repercussions on the few occasions when they are caught out.
However, there is a third reason why defunding the BBC may be a good cause to pursue. It relates to the position and the prestige attached to the BBC, which has resulted in the organisation becoming perhaps the UK’s most significant cultural arbiter. An organisation with such power, aided by the government, possesses the ability to change a generation. Therefore, if it begins to overstretch its boundaries, something must be done to reign it in. With no sign of its relenting, the only alternative may be to pursue the defunding of the BBC.
The first position of power that the BBC occupies comes courtesy of its reputable name. The BBC is recognised, through years of embedding into our culture, as the media organisation. If we look since its conception at the role the organisation played in, for example, broadcasting the news announcements during the Second World War, the BBC has been a figurehead of British life. Therefore, with such a reputation preceding it, anything with a BBC seal gets waved through without the scrutiny that it deserves.
The BBC’s brand recognition also allows them to dictate the public discourse. Now, every private news organisation makes editorialised decisions as to which news to cover and which stories should be given more prime time. The diversity of such platforms makes almost for a ‘free market’ of news services, if you will – consumers can choose which of them to pay attention to. However, unlike private media companies where the bias is recognised and each competing channel has its own distinct agenda, the BBC can set the conversation for the entire country without much in the way of an alternative narrative.
Take, for example, the current illegal migrant crossings taking place over the Channel. Had this taken place in America, Fox News would have been covering the crisis wall to wall, and if people did not want to hear about it then they would presumably switch over to CNN or an alternative. In the UK, it took three months of Nigel Farage driving to Dover for it finally to be reported by the BBC. People should presumably, regardless of their opinion on the matter, be notified of what is occurring in the Channel! However, since the BBC has a bias which gets brushed under the carpet by the “neutral BBC” brand, there is no challenge to how they report different situations. This makes the BBC a very powerful entity.
Another aspect of power that is contained within the BBC concerns the influence it possesses over cultural sway. It is widely acknowledged that the most culturally influential power in the world is the Hollywood machine. The use of entertainment as a cover for left-wing political sub-narratives in Hollywood is well documented and is only increasing.
Indeed, in the UK, BBC is more than just a news outlet – it is the most significant entertainment producer in the country. It is also true that culture ultimately helps dictate politics, making the BBC not only the biggest entertainment force in the UK, but also one of the most significant political ones. If the BBC incorporates an agenda into its entertainment, it has the potential shape a generation, similar to a miniature Hollywood.
The worrying fact is that the BBC has already started this process. Just recently, the BBC announced that it would be hiring diversity bosses, with £100 million set aside over a three-year period for the project. This is a wholehearted embrace of left-wing identity politics. The decision also shows the priorities concerning the BBC at the moment, when you consider they have axed Andrew Neil’s show due to a lack of funds!
The power contained within the BBC should be concerning. With the Government acting as a wingman, ensuring that people are forced to pay taxes and criminalising the non-payment of the licence fee, there is very little to reign in the BBC when it goes astray.
If the defunding of the BBC is the only remaining solution, then it should be considered. Either way, it is time for the national conversation on the matter to begin.