Letter: More is worse for Birt's BBC

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The Independent Online
More is worse for Birt's BBC

Sir: Mathew Horsman's review of the latest events at the BBC (11 June) seems to me to contain dangerous errors.

Horsman - and John Birt - regard it as axiomatic that the BBC must change in radical ways to respond to digital broadcasting. Save in one key respect, this is just not true. Experience to date suggests the sole achievements of technological innovation in broadcasting (notably delivery by satellite and cable) have been to make more bad programmes available to more people, and to force some people to pay for programmes they have traditionally had "free".

The right way for the BBC to justify the continuation of the licence fee is to go on making (relatively) few excellent (but separate) programmes on radio and TV. Only by doing this will the BBC distinguish itself from, and "compete aggressively with", the quite different aims of the satellite and cable operators. With a smaller budget than they can enjoy, more will inevitably mean worse. Let commercial operators go down that self-destructive route - not the BBC.

The exception is that the BBC must, of course, exploit the potential of digital broadcasting to make its programmes (on both media) even better technically and creatively than they already are.

However astutely John Birt may have analysed the broadcasting scene, it is hard to believe in his commitment to the BBC when , if the reports are true, he showed breathtaking contempt by failing to inform - still less to consult - all but the tiniest group of senior colleagues about the proposed changes, abruptly telling the rest shortly before a public announcement.