Sir Christopher Bland: A radical change in the Corporation's vision of itself

Share
Related Topics

This is a watershed moment in the history of the BBC, because it's the first time in the Corporation's long history that it has given anything up. Although the devil will undoubtedly be in the detail, it's a very sensible step, and the general principle is correct: the BBC needs to look at itself and not assume that everything it does is for eternity, and can only be done by the BBC.

I don't listen to BBC 6 Music or the Asian Network, and people who do will no doubt want to argue about their closure. I'm not sure whether they've targeted the right stations, but the fact is that the BBC should review what it does every five years as a matter of course. While the BBC's multi-channel approach to the fragmentation of the market has been sensible, I think it probably did go too far.

However, it's important to point out that this isn't a cutback: the BBC isn't getting any smaller in financial terms by doing this, it's simply redistributing money from one part to another. It's not shrinking its overall offering to licence fee payers; it's simply changing the nature of the offering.

I don't think it's an attempt to appease the Tories either, who have sensibly said they're not going to interfere with the BBC's licence fee settlement or review of its charter. The nature of the pre-election debate will be, as usual, not particularly rational, and the pre-election mode of the parties will not necessarily guide their behaviour towards the BBC once they are in power.

However, the BBC is taking a radical step by stopping some of its services in order to enhance others. In the past it has been like a great white shark, always feeling that it needs to keep on the move to survive and get bigger and bigger – so this is a significant change in the way it sees itself.

Cutting back a bit on aspects of the website won't make it easier for newspapers to take the step of charging for their online offerings, because the BBC is so far ahead already. It was the first media organisation in Europe to take online news seriously, and played a very important role in expanding the use of the internet as a means of getting news.

It's also a perfectly sensible decision to encourage Channel 4 to take the lead in providing public-service television for teenagers. If the BBC thinks that someone else in the marketplace is doing something better, whether it's a commercial or subsidised competitor, then there's a strong case for saying it's not a big enough argument for two people to have.

Those people who hate the BBC whatever it does will call these sacrifices phony pre-election nonsense, but that's because they'd like nothing better than to see the Corporation vanish. I'm not one of them, and I'd say they're missing the point. If Mark Thompson is finding £600m from the BBC's budget to put towards programming, you can't call that phony.

Of course, the Daily Mail and News International are never going to be happy until the head of the director general is served up on a silver plate, but they're wrong. The BBC remains one of the greatest cultural organisations not only in the United Kingdom but the world. It's not perfect and it makes many mistakes, but it is fantastic at what it does, and a licence fee of £142.50 is a small price to pay for it.

The writer was chairman of the BBC Board of Governors from 1996 to 2001

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Maintenance Person

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: IT Projects Engineer

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: How much difference does the wording of a referendum question make?

John Rentoul
 

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent