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A plea for the BBC – Towards Indyref2…

A plea for the BBC

I see the BBC is hitting the news again with the revelations about what the corporation pays its ‘stars’. The baying anti-Auntie mob has been roused. You’ll not be surprised to learn that I have a view. Or that it may not be generally applauded. What follows is just a few thoughts I came up with when responding to a friend on Facebook. As opposed to a Facebook friend. Although he’s both. It’s complicated. Anyway…

The BBC is more than just a provider of programming. It is a model for public service broadcasting based on, among other things, the principle of universality. The idea of equal access to public services regardless of ability to pay is fundamental to my politics. It’s a socialist thing. But I make no apology for that.

It also acts as a ‘soft-touch’ regulator of the wider broadcasting market. The fact that the likes of Sky have to compete with the BBC forces them in directions they wouldn’t otherwise go if they were merely following the market.

It’s a baby/bathwater situation. But, these days, I’m pretty much resigned to the demise of the BBC It looks very much as if the mob mentality will prevail. The transnational media corporations have quite cleverly co-opted people who would indignantly deny they were aiding and abetting those corporations’ efforts to seize even greater control of the media.

I’m also resigned to the cacophony of hypocritical whining that will ensue when the consequences become apparent. But there will be no way to get that baby back. There really is no way an institution such as the BBC could be created from scratch in today’s world. The same forces that are now striving to bring it down, would never allow it to be built.

Imagine trying to create a public health service from the ground up in the early years of the 21st century. It’s just not going to happen. Which is why those of us who truly believe in the concept of universal health care, free at the point of need fight so hard to preserve NHS Scotland.

I’m not saying the BBC is as important as the health service. But a healthy society is defined by more than just the physical health of individuals. A healthy society is also defined by the principles to which it adheres. And the fundamental principle of universality is the same whether we’re talking about health care, education, mail or broadcast services.

I dislike intensely what the BBC as an organisation has become. Particularly in relation to what is arguably its most significant function of news gathering and dissemination. The BBC’s news and current affairs operations have become a sick joke. If we could harness the energy of John Reith spinning in his grave then we would be able to shut down every polluting power station in the UK. But I continue to be absolutely persuaded that the BBC, as an institution, is worth saving from the depredations of incompetent management; interfering government; avaricious corporations; and the unthinking mob that is being manipulated by all of these.

It’s a thin-end-of-wedge situation. If we are not prepared to defend the principle of universality across the piece then we let the corrosion take hold.

It’s a taking-a-stand situation. Instead of insisting on the destruction of the BBC, we should be demanding that it be restored to what it is supposed to be. To what it is at an institutional level. And if the UK won’t do that then Scotland should.

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19 thoughts on “A plea for the BBC

  1. Bugger le Panda

    Sorry Peter

    My anger at BBC is restricted to their News & Current Affairs output with an extra layer of contempt for their drama commissioning strategies.

    The News and C Affairs efforts would be more easy to replace as there is a repressed nucleus within the existing structure. Then we can really develop.

    Drama will flourish, almost spontaneously,

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      Not sure why you apologise. That’s a perfectly legitimate view. I can readily accept that the news and current affairs operations be dealt with in a particular way. I acknowledge that they are a special case. So long as we don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. My concern is to preserve the model of public service broadcasting that the BBC represents. That should be the overarching aim within which all other objectives are pursued.

      When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of sorting out the news and current affairs programming, I fear a clean sweep will be required. BBC Scotland is infected to the marrow with the undead of a pre-devolution political and cultural elite that has little connection with, or relevance to, 21st century Scotland. The whole lot has to go. With only a very few exceptions that will need to be vigorously argued for by those who think they can contribute something more than the taint of the old guard.

  2. Dan Huil

    As long as the so-called united kingdom continues the bbc in Scotland will act as Westminster’s britnat voice in Scotland. It will not change. I will not pay the bbc tax.

  3. Maurice byrne

    I refuse to pay the corrupt BBC tv tax do not watch or record as of 2014 when their lies and misleading Bullshit Broadcasting Criminals did not produce an even playing field and supported their masters in Wastemonger

    1. Fionnaidh Halloran

      I share your views exactly. As of this moment I’m waiting for the licencing board to take me to court for failure to get in touch or whatever! Which I have. I will not pay for a corrupt establishment who knowingly employed paedophiles, who have yet to apologise for doing So, though that alone would not suffice, it would be a start. Who continually lie and misinform viewers in a daily basis In their news and current affairs programmes. In their subliminal additions of THAT flag in every programme they can possible think to put it in

  4. twathater

    I agree with your comments re the impossibility of replicating the broadcaster , I also agree that the news , current affairs and political staff would have to be replaced by people who are GENUINELY neutral and GENUINELY investigative reporters and journalists which the current lot fail miserably, I have never seen such a shower of po faced individuals when ANYTHING good happens within Scotland , yet when they have to announce bad news it is done with an almost gleeful disparaging ( what do you expect ) attitude

    I would support the SG taking over the whole BBC Scotland apparatus as part of separation negotiations and renaming it Scot Broadcasting , installing a head of broadcasting but forming a public committee to oversee output and impartiality , genuine members of the public with minimum input or interference from politicians or lobbyists

  5. Douglas Young

    There is no place for any vestiges of the BBC in Scotland.
    Their influence on the referendum skewed the result and no country has ever voted down beginning independent
    And no country has been subjected to the level of propaganda in modern times that Scotland has suffered
    I will never pay for the BBC ever again but I will pay for a SBC by annual, public subscription with a public charter which strictly upholds the original three tenets of Reith

  6. Hugh Wallace

    I very much like the idea of the BBC having spent much of my childhood growing up in another country where the state broadcaster was essentially a commercial one. I dislike, intensely, what the BBC is (or has become) as in terms of news & current affairs I can detect no real difference between it & the state controlled media of the Soviet era and in terms of drama it is, and always had been, far too England-centric.

  7. bjsalba

    It isn’t just BBC Scotland.

    Yesterday R4 today program interviewed a German MEP who said the UK should not take any notice of Barnier or Verhofstadt. They failed to make it clear that the individual was an AfD MEP with no special standing in the EU parliament.

    This morning it was an Italian on the problems Italy has with migrants and NGOs. Romano Prodi was last PM of Italy 2006 2008 and has no current official standing.

    Oddballs and has-beens.

  8. David MacGille-Mhuire

    The BBC since its inception under the guiding hand of Lord “BritJock” Reith has always been the primary broadcast propaganda arm of the AngloBritNat state.

    In the seventies, I was shortlisted for recruitment at QM Drive only to be sent for a chat with a mustachioed haute English chappie in a broom closet of an office.

    Never made the cut after that perfectly pleasant blether.

    Later discovered via journalist friends there that he was the resident MI5 spook.

    Usually agree with you, Peter, and have always admired the genuine staff there struggling against the howling headwinds of the AngloBritNat ethos within this Goebbelsesque institution; but would not give it nor its employees the time of day now.

    Let them fold their reactionary Fabian tent and GTF out of Scotland taking their imperialist AngloJockBrit kit with them: All their empty, banging noisy, and empty pots and pans on the first bus to Carlisle.

    An independent SBC geared to impartial reporting and girdled by this core, non-negotiable ethic will do me very nicely with the current BBC incumbents neither fearing nor favoured when and if they are interviewed for a position with the new Scottish broadcaster.

    Somewhat startled by your apologia on behalf of this very British propagandist institution, Peter.

    Most curious.

  9. Robert Graham

    a model for public services , based on the principle of universality , access to regardless of the ability to pay , eh you might want to visit that comment again , a free BBC ok where ? .

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      I didn’t say it was free. I said access is the same for everyone regardless of ability to pay. By which I mean There are no ‘premium’ services. And no surcharges for such things as distance from a transmitter.

      It’s similar to the principle of universality as it applies to Royal Mail. You pay the same for a stamp regardless of the distance it has to travel. This means, in practice, that we all pay a little bit extra so as to ‘subsidise’ mail services for remote communities who otherwise would be excluded by the cost.

      With the BBC, we all pay a little bit extra to ‘subsidise’ services for local or niche audiences who would otherwise be denied access due to the cost.

      By spreading the cost across all of society, or the largest part of it possible, the cost to each individual of the ‘subsidy’ becomes negligible. That’s why the licence has to be compulsory. Because greedy, selfish people would opt out, increasing the burden on others. At some point, the burden becomes great enough that the system collapses. And that’s when the commercial predators move in.

      Commercial operators aren’t interested in those small, remote communities and niche audiences – unless they can make money by charging premium rates. So, for example, Radio3 becomes a subscription service. Because the cost of providing that service is now borne by the ‘community’ of classical music lovers, rather than society as a whole, the subscription is massively greater than with a universal service. Where, at the moment, we all pay maybe 10p a week for Radio3 (I don’t know the actual figure but you get the idea.) the cost to subscribers might be £5pw. Enough to exclude all but the relatively wealthy.

      And don’t shrug this off just because you imagine it doesn’t affect you. Strip out the principle of universality and ALL services become more expensive to users. The larger the number of users, the less the relative increase in charges. But there must always be an increase.

      What this means is that there is an economic imperative to make only programmes with mass audience appeal. And to make those programmes as cheaply as possible.

      Society as a whole is impoverished in a number of ways. As part of that society, all of us are adversely affected. If abolishing the principle of universality impoverishes us, the corollary is surely that we are all enriched by adhering to that principle.

      1. Brian

        Interesting debate. thanks. But tell me how the furthest reaches of Scotland are subsidised by the one size fits all license fee. Everything I’ve read suggest Scotland pays in much more than it gets out.

  10. harryhormone

    I believe the bias has always been there so I tend to agree with the arguments above for the closure and dismantling of the North British Office. However, I recently read an article in Der Spiegel about Trump and the “Alt Right” movement which I saw as a refreshing change as the journalist appeared to investigate and wrote what he wanted and I read it as an unbiased report.

    “Hard to believe” is the comment I expect to coming firing back at me, but I enjoyed the article and long for more of these, written by the SBC that David MacGille-Mhuire mentioned above.

    In the meantime I will have to make do with the ‘haggis-hunting’ and Nessie-baiting that apparently fills my life being a tru-scot!

    Cynical?, moi?

  11. James Coll

    Peter, the BBC has always been state controlled and it seems that this was willing, on the part of the BBC. I read recently that John Reith wrote the Prime Minister’s speech at the time of the General Strike 1926. He became Lord Reith later – his reward?

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      What does that have to do with the nature of the BBC AS AN INSTITUTION?

      It is disappointing that so many of the responses to this article completely ignore the core point of the article. Namely, that there is an important distinction to be made between the institution and the organisation. Responses tend to go on about programmes and/or the behaviour of people employed by the organisation – which the article made no attempt to defend.

      And when the responses do venture into the institutional nature of the BBC, we get this nonsense about it being “state controlled”. The BBC is NOT state-controlled. It doesn’t have to be. At the organisational level the BBC has come to serve the British establishment. Incompetent management has allowed the organisation to depart from its institutional foundations.

      My argument is that, while at the organisational level the BBC needs to be taken back to square one, if in the process we destroy the institutional level then we also destroy – without hope of recovery or recreation – the best functioning model we have for public service broadcasting.

      But now I’m repeating myself. I’m repeating things that respondents have already ignored. What’s the point?

  12. Ian Garvie

    I think miss our point, and I talk for a lot of the people who have replied so far. Why should we pay a licence tax, just to have westminster propaganda pumped at us? Sure the beeb do some other stuff to, but to be honest, what they produce these days isn’t worth the tax money.
    Personally, I stopped paying and watching, the day after the 2014 referendum.
    As an aside, even though I have stopped paying and watching, they have the temerity to think they can threaten me into paying. That is not public service that is public extortion.

  13. twathater

    As Peter has stated above he is not arguing for the retention of the deplorable beeb and their tractors , he has stated categorically to recreate the broadcasting facilities which currently exist would be almost if not impossible both technically and financially, hence don’t throw out the baby with the bath water ,

    My comment above indicates a way through the morass, when indy is declared, through the discussion for division of assets , the SG then takes ownership of the whole edifice and organisation of the beeb within Scotland , renames it as possibly the SBC , instigates a mass clearance of the britnat acolytes and employs genuine , genuine , genuine investigative reporters and fellow professionals to broadcast programmes and features relevant to Scotland overseen and answerable to a people’s committee

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