Yesterday the BBC received a guarantee of future income that most commercial broadcasters would give their right arms for. Tory culture, media and sport spokesman Hugo Swire welcomed what he described as "a more realistic settlement" than the inflation-busting increase that the BBC had originally requested. He then went on to offer much comfort to the big cheeses at BBC HQ by repeating their complaints that the settlement will make it difficult for the Corporation to afford the digital switchover and a major relocation of output to Salford.
Mr Swire’s sweeping endorsement of the BBC will disappoint critics of the Corporation, including this website. "The Opposition fully support the important contribution that the BBC makes to the lives of the British people," Mr Swire said. He continued: "The BBC is clearly one of our greatest organisations, and one of the most effective global ambassadors that we have."
The BBC has many strengths but many Conservatives would have liked to have heard Mr Swire lead stronger questioning of the Corporation. All of the following weaknesses need to be addressed:
- The BBC’s biases (as regularly documented by Biased BBC). Even the BBC has admitted its slanted worldview at its recent bias seminar. Charles Moore outlined the key news biases in Saturday’s Telegraph: "If (God forbid) you spoke to 100 journalists on the BBC, you would find that more than 85 were anti-American, pro-green and opposed to the war in Iraq. They would be happy making a programme about lying tobacco companies and unhappy making one about too many immigrants. Virtually every single attitude can be predicted. This week, a new year memo by the BBC’s Middle-East Editor, Jeremy Bowen, was leaked. He described the situation in Palestine as "the death of hope, caused by a cocktail of Israel’s military activities, land expropriation and settlement-building – and the financial sanctions imposed on a Hamas-led government". What about the fact that Israel has actually left Gaza, that Palestinians have misappropriated aid, that "militants" (as the BBC likes to call them) have murdered Israelis, or that a Hamas-led government with Western money might not be a very good thing? Is nothing the fault of Palestinian leaders? Look at the BBC history website’s entry on the Provisional IRA. It fails to mention the fact that they killed actual people, whereas that on the loyalist UVF (rightly) gives the number of victims and uses words like "vicious". The BBC never surprises. As someone who is rather more pro-American than pro-EU, pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian, pro-tax cuts than pro-higher public spending, and a lot more pro-Britain than pro-its enemies, I don’t like underwriting a religion I don’t believe in. It’s like being frogmarched into the pew, preached at against your will and then having your wallet emptied." The biases in arts and drama are at least as serious. The pre-Christmas drama Born Equal was risible in its left-wing cultural assumptions.
- Its regressive licence fee. The licence fee falls most heavily on poorer households whilst telephone number salaries are paid to celebrities like Jonathan Ross.
- Its tendency to crowd out smaller start-up broadcasters – George Osborne has warned about this.
Its tendency to give a disproportionate platform to extreme views. Tory MP Julian Lewis asked the most important question to Tessa Jowell during yesterday’s Commons statement: "The Secretary of State will realise that licence fee payers do not expect their money to pay for airtime to be given to racists, Nazis, Taliban and other supporters of terrorism at home and abroad. Will she build on the excellent and encouraging answer given by the Leader of the House earlier today, and state whether she has made representations to the BBC about the opinion expressed on 28 November by the head of BBC news that such views should be accorded equal respect to those of democratic representatives? Alternatively, does she agree with the Minister with responsibility for community cohesion, who rightly regarded any such shift as dangerous?"
- The dumbing down. BBC Television’s daytime schedules, in particular, are full of Cash-in-the-Attic-style programming.