Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

I saw this button on LJ a lot and asked my dad what the deal with the BBC was, as i hadn’t been paying attention and knew only that a lot of the bloggers i read had been displeased with the BBC throughout the whole Iraq thing.

His response:
A pretty much off the top of my head "what the deal is" about the BBC:

Years ago the government of Great Britain--and much of educated opinion--decided that commercial television would be yucky. It would be better if tv was run by people of education and taste, who would give people what was good for them. So a non-profit organization called the British Broadcasting Corporation (which already existed for radio) would decide what programs to fund and when they would be broadcast.

Of course, they would need money to do this so it was decided that every television set in use during the year would have to pay a "license fee" to the BBC. The 2004 fee is 121 pounds, or about $223, more than our tv cost, and considering that Britain is not as affluent as the United States, a good chunk of change for most people.

For a long time, the BBC had a television monopoly but beginning in the 1960s, the government has been allowing more and more competition. There are also more and more BBC networks. I am pretty sure the various competitors get their money from ads.

From listening to commercial tv and radio news, we know how superficial and sensational it can be. The BBC prides itself on not being either. If it didn't have the license fee, say its defenders, it would have to do a more superficial job, and it would face pressure from advertisers.

The BBC claims to be impartial and unbiased. If its way of looking at the world, the way it selects what is important and what is not, who it finds believable and who not, if all that happens be be pretty much the same as the worldview of the acacemic left or the left wing of the Labour Party, well, that's just because they are right (though no one EVER comes right out and says this).

And that way of looking at the world is indeed its way. That is how news is presented. That is its vision of Truth.

A good number of people don't like that. And they have trouble with the fact that they are forced to give this organization $223 each year to spread views that they disagree with. If Britain had a First Amendment, this would be a "coerced speech" problem--but it doesn't.

So skip back to a year or so ago. The BBC very much does not like George W. Bush and very much opposed Britain going to war in Iraq. As part of its coverage, it ran a story by Andrew Gilligan saying that a senior intelligence official had admitted that Tony Blair had "sexed up" a public "dossier" about what a threat Iraq was, that he had deliberately lied to the British people, in order to go to war. The official was not named but it quckly came out that it was weapons inspector David Kelly, who then committed suicide.

This created a big brouhaha, with Blair denying the charges and the BBC making a big deal of them. An inquiry was ordered, to be run by Lord Hutton, who had made a name for himself trying cases in Northern Ireland.

The report came out on January 28 and it said Blair hadn't sexed things up, Kelly hadn't said that, the BBC hadn't acted professionally, etc. (thus the play on the "Bush lied; people died" slogan: "The BBC lied; Kelly died.") Several people at the BBC have resigned, including the Chairman, Gavyn Davies, the director-general, Greg Dykes, and Andrew Gilligan.

The BBC's charter comes up for renewal some time in the next few years. Various people would like to cut back or eliminate the BBC's privileges. Some are people who don't like paying so much money for something that, given the competition that now exists, they don't use much. Some are people who don't like the idea of a relatively unaccountable organization telling people what to think. Some are people who do like the idea but think the BBC has abused its trust. Some are people whose poliitcs are different from the Beeb's. Some are people who think they could prosper if they were able to compete on a more level playing field, e.g. Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox and a number of newspapers and SkyTV in Britain.

One view:

Cultural reference: after Richard Nixon resigned, Gerald Ford became president and pardoned him, declaring, "Our long national nightmare is over."
I don’t remember what exactly i had planned to say following up on this, though it was probably my same old issue about the condescending way Leftist intellectuals try to dictate the way society should work while getting furious at the Religious Right for doing the same thing. Also about how i’m a capitalist and i dislike the idea that “X should exist, should in fact be pushed on people, even though people don’t want it, because we know it’s good for them.”

And then of course, there's Patrick Belton on government-sponsored dumbing down of culture.

Oh, and following up on the “Bush lied, people died,” there’s this InstaPundit post:
INSPECTORS LIED: People died. Fortunately, not nearly as many as would have died had Saddam remained in power.

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