Tim Luckhurst: Wrong way to fight a good cause

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The Independent Online

The temptation to sympathise with those BBC journalists who disrupted news programmes yesterday, and will work to rule from today, is powerful. The BBC retains the scale and resources to report and analyse the world in a way that few rivals can match.

But this unique good fortune, guaranteed by the licence fee, gives its journalists distinctive responsibilities. Their duty to provide a comprehensive service to the Britons who pay their salaries is compelling. This is not to say that their complaints are insincere. The BBC is unfortunate that it is confronting extraordinary challenges under leadership inadequate for the task. But the current campaign of industrial action does not make the case for more efficient use of the licence fee. Instead it penalises the audience for the sins of a management that prefers salami slicing to emphatic decisions about priorities.

The BBC must cut hard if it is to live within its means, but it should not cut its journalism. The power to hold authority to account has never been more valuable. BBC journalists should exercise it in the public interest. Disrupting flagship shows such as Today and Newsnight is an execrable way to win the argument.

Tim Luckhurst, Professor of Journalism at the University of Kent