The BBC’s heyday is long behind it. Ahead lies the inevitably long process of figuring out just what sort of publicly funded programming the organisation should make, and therefore, how much money it should still receive from the licence fee payer.
It’s not a secret that the BBC is guilty of London-centric, left-liberal bias. Its own presenters and staff have been quite open about the fact. What is surprising is that the organisation manages, with a straight face, to maintain the “holier than thou” attitude not just towards the British public, but towards fellow broadcasters and other journalists.
The number of times I’ve heard, “But we’re the BBC…” or something to that effect. Yes, it has a large audience, but I would suggest that without the significant public subsidy which is enforced by the threat of fines or imprisonment, the BBC would struggle to make itself self-sustaining.
In fact, the public subsidy has caused the groupthink. If your revenue stream is not threatened, in a competitive marketplace, how can you be upheld to good quality programming standards and value for money? Furthermore, the BBC distorts the market by being able to throw public money that its competitors couldn’t dream of spending at problems. Salaries for the “top stars” rise inexorably, while the commitment to unbiased news programming seems to have all but gone out of the window.
In fact, if you watch the BBC during this election period, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Ukip wasn’t standing many candidates at all. Despite Ofcom’s ruling that Ukip is now a major party, some elements of the BBC seem to have relegated us to a bit-part player in this election. It is as if they’ve decided for us all: it’s the Tories or Labour. Don’t worry about the others.
Apart from the SNP that is. At this election, despite most of the country being unable to vote for it, the SNP has obtained a significant chunk of coverage on the national news. This week I was treated to Nicola Sturgeon donning an apron in front of TV cameras. There’s a disproportionate amount of coverage of the SNP, and indeed the responses to it, except for Ukip’s. To make it clear: as the only party committed to the revision of the Barnett formula, and English Votes for English Laws, I believe only Ukip MPs in the House of Commons would be willing to stare down the SNP. But you wouldn’t think that to listen to some of the BBC’s coverage.
But a wounded animal often lashes out, and I think with the recent, seemingly endless scandals surrounding the Beeb, as well as its decreasing relevance in a social-media age, that perhaps BBC producers reckon this is one of the last elections during which they can make a serious impact.
That may explain why even their comedy programmes like Have I Got News For You are indulging in making false quips about my presence in South Thanet – where BBC cameras have been following me around like a flock of seagulls on a packet of crisps for the last few months. And yet apparently, according to one Sunday Times journalist, I’ve only ever been there once.
Because of the BBC’s arrogant, lackadaisical attitude, its political journalism is being reduced to the lowest common denominator. They’ve been to a handful of my public events in South Thanet, they’ve been given unique access to the Ukip office operation, and yet what the BBC chose to air in its nightly news about the seat last night was a few shaky shots of some bussed-in activist hurling abuse at me on the street. Well, believe it or not, I don’t get routine abuse in South Thanet. That’s why even when you look at the unflattering polls, Ukip is ahead on the raw data in the seat. We’re going to win, whether anyone likes it or not.
I think that after this election, all of the political parties need to come together and discuss the role of the BBC. We know it has undue influence over public opinion in our country. We know it has access unlike any other broadcaster. And we know it does it all while claiming the public interest. So why don’t we allow a big, public consultation on the BBC and its licence fee, and see what happens?
After all, most of the public don’t realise that between 2007 and 2013, the charitable arm of the BBC apparently took around £22m from the European Union – a fact that the BBC doesn’t exactly advertise. But what it means, and serves to emphasise, is that the BBC has an institutional world view that is at odds with about half of the population of this country, and in its current form, is completely unfit for purpose.