Sunday, November 11, 2012

Stop knocking the BBC – it’s the Jewel in our Crown

Without the need to resort to hyperbole of the “Greatest Nation on Earth” type we can be proud of Britain. Our staging of London2012 showed we can put on a world class show and London is the undisputed unofficial capital of the world. And much of our Media is also of international class. “The Economist” is arguably the best weekly newspaper in the English language and on a good day our serious newspapers – the FT, The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent have writing and insights that make them must reads way beyond our shores. But head and shoulders above everything is the British Broadcasting Corporation – the absolute Jewel in our Crown and not just in the media category either.

The BBC defines us and what we are good at. It has a financing model that almost defies belief in its simplicity and value. For an astonishing 40p per day per family we get the full BBC output on all its multimedia platforms. We get world class programmes on Radio and Television. We get a brilliant online presence that is leading edge. We get top Sport, The Arts, The Proms, coverage of world and local events, investigative journalism etc. etc. It is so good that it defies belief and is utterly unmatched by any commercial organisation anywhere in the world, and by any state-funded operation anywhere as well. This is not hyperbole – we all know it to be true and only the ignorant or the churlish or the blinkered would think it to be otherwise.

Is the BBC perfect – of course not. Does it have a governance system that keeps it independent and provides adequate checks and balances – probably not as well. Does it do some things it shouldn’t do and eschew some things it should – probably yes again. But the model is mostly robust and has stood the test of time and to suggest that it should be broken up is just absurd. What would you replace it with anyway? Anyone who has lived overseas – as I have in locations as different as Mainland Europe, The Far East and the Middle East - knows how strong the BBC brand is. I was in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and Tehran in 1997 and in both places I was told that the BBC World Service was the lifeline to truth.

Here in Britain the BBC is not only loved (that is NOT too strong a word) but respected and trusted. So when that respect is momentarily lost or that trust broken (how rare that is by the way!) it is right that we assuage our shock with a careful examination of what went wrong. The BBC is a vibrant and successful organism which currently has a nasty but far from fatal disease. Cure that disease and you will make the organism stronger. So let’s get on with get things back in shape again. 99% of the BBC is alive and well and doing what it has always done brilliantly. Get the very visible 1% of dysfunction right and all will be well again.


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