The British. What are they like? The mad cats. After years of the desire to return to the empire of the past, they only go and destroy the very thing that kept any glimpse of their empire in the cultural mindset throughout the 20th century. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The concept of culture for many Western countries is heavily predicated on the media and the public’s very interaction with it. This is especially true for the Brits who have long been one of the largest exporters of culture with their music, drama, literature, etc. At the center of this cultural behemoth was the BBC.
To us non-Brits, they are just the tv station that used to make Sherlock and the Great British Bake Off. But to them they are much more than that; they also do the Olympics.
Supported by the television license for nearly a hundred years, its quite incredible the services that are offered for just 49 pence a day.
8 TV channels, 16 radio stations, children’s programming, regional channels, news. This doesn’t even include services that are not as highly promoted such as an actually working player, podcasts, recipe databases, educational programming, international communications and human interest stories. They provide round-the-clock fresh and original programming that isn’t just repeats of The Big Bang Theory.
But in recent years, its news content has been the subject of controversy. After being accused by the Conservative party, and subsequently the public, as being utterly biased towards a left-wing political perspective, the necessity of the TV license was brought into question. In this politically divided modern landscape, if you’re not with us then you’re against us.
This bone of contention was tossed around for years as a means for the neo-conservatives amongst the Tory party to hand over another public entity to the private sector. And so, last week the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, announced that the institution would undergo a funding restructure. It would become more closely attuned to those of Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO by having a subscription based service.
Those in favour of the decision pointed to the fact that those who do not use all of the services should not have to pay for the full subscription.
Now reader, before you start to agree with the our Nadine, I’m going to have to stop you right there.
The BBC is not and should not be thought of as a streaming service. It should instead be thought of as something similar to the health service. They are both under constant scrutiny. However, even if we only go to the GP once, the majority are happy to pay a large price for it in taxes, because those on the fringe of society and those who need it most will get the most benefit out it.
The BBC is the same. Do you think that Netflix, in the event of a pandemic induced lockdown, would ever roll out daily educational programming for months on end? Would Amazon Prime ever dedicate half an hour every day to local news stories?
The license fee is expensive yes, there is no doubt about that. Yet, I don’t think that any other media provider has such value for money. Sky Sports alone costs roughly 50 euro a month.
It’s a sad thing to see when an incorrectly perceived bias in some of its news stories tarnishes the legacy of a service that is rooted in the cultural foundation of the United Kingdom. This is a true of the decline in the public’s respect and reverence for public entities. However, instead of dismantling it completely it instead should be open to restricting and answering the public’s concerns.
As Mitch Benn once sang, “I’m proud of the BBC, they’re a part of you me. Apart from this awful weather, it’s the only thing that keeps us together.”
Here, in Ireland, it is the same story. Its easy to see the slow dwindling of interest in RTE now that viewing figures have declined and there is less of a need for such an institution. Yet, apart from TG4, it is the only station that is constantly pursuing Irish interests.
We are a small island, and I firmly believe there is a definite need for the channel. It may not be perfect but it’s better than the alternative of having imported channels that only serve as distraction pieces for the masses.
While the future of RTE is an article for another day, let us not go the way of the BBC and instead focus on how it can progress better and more suited to the modern media landscape.