Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, in the midst of the Downing Street woes over a party culture in a time of lockdown and CORONA virus restrictions and rules has found a way, she thinks and it also appears to the rest of the population of Great Britain, of distracting the British public from the infantile, self centred obfuscating behaviour of Boris Johnson. Who does she think she is kidding? Do anything to save the idiot, seems to be her approach and what will stir everybody up like a hornets nest, attack the BBC. So she has got her teeth into something she hates. It’s obvious.
The Guardian 17.1.2022 Jim Waterson, the Guardian’s media editor writes
The annual levy on television usage will remain at £159 until April 2024, requiring cuts to the BBC’s output. However, it will then rise in line with inflation for the next four years – a better deal than had been proposed in some press briefings from the government.
Dorries also watered down her own suggestion that the licence fee would be abolished from 2028 onwards, raising suspicions that the focus of her provocative intervention on Sunday was to distract from Boris Johnson’s woes.”
On Sunday she was virtually announcing the demise of the BBC in a leaked statement, very undemocratic, but by Monday, to Parliament, she was back tracking. Probably members of her own party had a word and explained you can’t just resign something as important to our culture and the British public as the BBC to history , just like that, in some petulant rant. Things seem to have been watered down but the danger to the .”Beeb,” is still there. Surely the British public should be allowed to have their say as a minimum requirement. It’s not like getting rid of your garden waste at the local dump.
The BBC has been with us for a century. This year is the BBC’s centenary. It officially began 1922 although its roots go back to 1920. It is a cultural icon not only for us Brits but also for the rest of the world by way of The World Service. It has brought open mindedness, the facts, clear sighted analysis of events, debate about all the important questions relating to us as human beings, politics, religion, art, music, history, drama, science, entertainment and education. Just looking at todays agenda on The World Service, Iran’s negotiations in Vienna are being discussed. Mexico, Afghanistan, Italy, Buddhism and a coup in Burkina Faso are just some of the topics covered. These programmes are broadcast to the people of these countries and in many cases provide the only news outlet and balanced analysis of what is going on. Often the BBC provides another side to what is going on in these countries.
One vital aspect of the BBC that has been so important during the COVID pandemic, is that the BBC has provided educational output for schools and families. It has provided parents ,teachers and children with the most amazing resources. Parents have been forced to try their best to educate their children at home and the BBC has been there to support and lead. It is explorative, questioning and provides high quality teaching. No educationalist , parent or pupil would argue that learning online and at home is the best situation for children to learn full time. Learning online has shown its benefits though and that it can be a useful aspect of learning and teaching. But face to face teaching with friends and fellow pupils in a school environment will always be vital for immediate teacher feedback and relationshisp and team building. The BBC has got as close as it can to providing good education and done the best anybody could expect in the circumstances.
People like Nadine Dorries can argue that the BBC format is outdated. Nowadays we communicate and get our televisual experiences in so many new ways enabled by technology. However, SKY, NETFLIX, AMAZON, DISNEY , three of the biggest providers of entertainment and information online, are companies with investors and their paramount purpose are profits. What their political, religious and societal beliefs are , who knows? Whoever pays them. They pander to the audiences they attract. We read so many reports about misogyny and racism and political and religious bias inherent in their structures and algorithms. The BBC is quite able to and is adapting to the new ways of communication. There really is no argument against it from that quarter.
The BBC is truly the nearest any body can get to fairmindedness and openness. In theory it does not have any influences making it do one thing or another. The Conservative party accuse it of being left wing liberal. But it is not. Jeremy Corbyn, especially when he was the leader of the Labour Party, came under the scrutiny of the BBC. Because it criticises and praises everybody when the situation requires, it will always be open to criticism. If the BBC says something against or questions strongly what you as an organisation think and are trying to do then of course you are going to think of it as biased.
The spurious argument that people can’t afford the licence fee of £159 a year is a red herring. Some will obviously find the fee too much for their finances. These people should be provided for by the government. That licence fee of £159 per annum, in one context sounds a lot but it isn’t. NETFLIX subscriptions cost anything from £25 per month to £45 per month depending on the package you pay for. The cheapest of those costs £300 per year the most expensive, £ 540 per year. How are poor people going to finance that if it is deemed that the £159 is too much? Certainly not from the government. The licence fee pales into insignificance. What cost freedom of speech and truth being told to power? Do we want to destroy this democratic, fair minded, educational institution over spurious arguments. Nadine Dorries might not like the BBC and I am sure many others don’t for different reasons. Do we want one hater to destroy this immensely valuable cultural organisation?
The BBC’s charter is renewed every few years. Not if Nadine Dorries gets her way though. Its premise and ethos originally looked very much like that of the British upper classes. It reflected the status quo of 1922. Our society and the world has changed and developed unrecognisably since then and so has the BBC. However, its central ethos, that it is required to be fair and honest, that central moral principle, has not changed. In 1922 it was trying to be fair and honest too. As society and the world changes obviously some changes in its royal charter are necessary to fit the times we live in.
This present charter was presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport by Command of Her Majesty in December 2016 and sets out the key purposes of the BBC. The charter begins with this statement.
“The BBC’s Mission The Mission of the BBC is to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain. The Public Purposes of the BBC are as follows.
I have taken the five key points from the charter that explain what the BBC is for in more detail.
The first point,
“To provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them:”
Everyday of every week and every year the BBC provides this impartial news through reporting but also discussion and analysis. The daily TV and radio news programmes provide the on going evolving news. Programmes such as Question Time, debate current issues involving people from all sides of the argument. They discuss questions provided by ordinary people about issues in the news. Panorama, investigates and discusses single important issues, for instance, education, poverty, housing, whatever it might be. The early morning Radio 4 programme team question vigorously and energetically government ministers, heads of business, scientists and those at the heart of current issues. They are made to explain themselves and their actions. Programmes discussing more esoteric topics such as religion , philosophy or morality might be debated in programmes such as The Moral Maze.
“To support learning for people of all ages:”
During the lock downs and the closures of schools the BBC has provided vitally important lessons for all school years. They have been providing online material for teachers for many years but during this pandemic they have really stepped up.No other organisation could have done that. The BBC ‘s independence allows it to do this. When the OPEN university began the BBC provided lectures and lessons to support Open University degrees. When eventually schools become, Open Schools, the BBC will be needed to to support everday schooling. The work done during lockdown can only be built on. Of course families living in poverty will need to be supported. Some of the funding that goes into educating every child in this country can be used to support this change without much extra money being required. The BBC also supports all our learning and teaches every individual in this country through programming about wildlife, history, science, geography, technology, art, music, drama and literature. No other organisation could dedicate itself to doing this.
“To show the most creative, highest quality and distinctive output and services.”
This refers to art, music, literature and drama. The BBC because it is funded by the taxpayer and not some for profit organisation with share holders and people with their own political agenda, they can take risks. It can afford to try things which might fail. Some of the most creative and adventurous television has come from the BBC because of this ability. Much of what the BBC produces wins awards around the world. It is not only a cultural icon for Britain but drama and documentaries relevant to many cultures and other countries has enriched the world as a whole.
“To reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities of all of the United Kingdom’s nations and regions and, in doing so, support the creative economy across the United Kingdom.”
Every region of the United Kingdom has its own regional BBC radio station. They also have regional television stations too., BBC South. BBC London and so on. The national and global output of the BBC is also available to all of the UK as well. It gives voice to diverse groups within the UK. It encourages and develops new initiatives within the regions highlighting art, businesses, music and technologies within those regions.
“To reflect the United Kingdom, its culture and values to the world:”
I mentioned above the WORLD SERVICE and how that helps educate and inform the rest of the world. It might be relevant to ask, is that a good thing? Isn’t the British Government, through The World Service, promoting propaganda to the people of various countries? Part of the statement in the charter states that the BBC must promote ,” values of accuracy, impartiality, and fairness.”
Of course this can be argued about. What does it mean? How can we actually tell if this is what the BBC is actually doing and not just propagandising? We do get feedback from the people of those countries. I know Americans tell me they would rather listen to the BBC news than their own news outputs. Friends in South America laud the importance of the BBC. I can site other examples of what people tell me. I know this is a very small straw poll but it does give an impression of how the BBC is thought of and valued round the world. We of course can make our further judgements based on what we see and hear from other news outlets and of course from what we read. The more we search and listen and look the more our own assessment is informed.
“The BBC is to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.”
How many organisations can say that?
Controlling or even abolishing the BBC is an act of cultural vandalism by those who want to escape questioning or rather the questions they don’t want to hear. Schools, and the curriculum, Universities, museums, public demonstrations, immigrants, are all in the sights of this government. Oliver Dowden a previous culture minister and now Nadine Dorries are waging a war on our culture from free speech to historical interpretation.
Late last night I listened to a radio 4 programme called The Moral Maze. Philosophers were discussing the morality of our Prime Minister and the moral judgements of our government in the wake of ,”partygate,” the perceived breaking of lock down rules during this COVID pandemic. Rules they made themselves and the population as a whole has had to follow to , often, peoples pain and personal anguish. Only the BBC would or could hold a discussion like that broadcast to the nation. They explained a murky situation to say the least. Our Prime Minister is acting immorally was the bottom line. Listening made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. What backlash would the BBC receive? Or was it so late at night and on Radio 4 and that probably very few people would actually be listening, the government might not notice? Still, the programme is out there. This is what the government wants to stop, free and open debate. The BBC is still providing it.One previous Conservative Minister, being interviewed on the programme, stridently put the point that it didn’t matter that Boris broke the rules his own rules over COVID restrictions. It didn’t matter to her these small transgressions of the government. What mattered to her are the policies they are trying to implement. The panel actually laughed at her stridency and then pointed out the immorality of her standpoint. I remember discussing the morality of ,”does the end justify the means,” as a school boy. They dismissed her off hand. These are very strange times indeed.
As well as getting rid of the BBC , which appears to be a veiled way of controlling the cultural narrative, a new policy statement for culture has been produced by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. It denies systemic racism exists and argues against what many minorities and liberal minded people see as the faults and problems in our society. The government wants to control the narrative about our country and our culture. There is a battle over Black Lives Matter, and whether statues should be removed or not. The government wants to control how we understand and explain these things. It does not want open debate and free questioning to take place. The National Trust, is another body under scrutiny by our right wing government. The National Trust wants to interpret its houses and properties form the stand point of our colonial past. Why shouldn’t we know that the immense wealth that was made to build these amazing houses and estates came from slavery? Slavery is an important strand of our nation and its wealth, power and influence. An understanding of its role should have a more prominent part in our overall understanding of our history. It hasn’t been highlighted much in the past. These opposing views to the governments narrative is out there being discussed and supported by many minority groups and political organisations. This government cannot turn the clock back and they cannot control the narrative now. Too many people and society as a whole, can see the evidence for themselves. There seems to be a cultural battle taking place on many fronts which the government will lose. They cannot eradicate the arguments and the narrative they don’t like.
So the BBC is under attack. If this government destroys the BBC they will be destroying our society and our freedom of speech and intrinsically our democracy.
The BBC Royal Charter: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/assets/files/pdf/about/how_we_govern/2016/charter.pdf
Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report March 2021
The BBC: A People’s History by David Hendy review – inside the nation’s ‘moral improver’ | History books | The Guardian
There’s too much at stake to risk losing the BBC | Letters | The Guardian
Boris Johnson accused of targeting BBC to save his premiership | Politics | The Guardian