Sunday, March 01, 2009

Whither the BBC

The BBC has an interesting problem.

As a "corporation", it is bound by its charter to perform certain functions ranging from providing a certain proportion of religious programming at one end of the spectrum through to creating a certain kind of ratings-chasing rubbish. In between it is expected to inform, enlightenment and entertain.

The flip side of this is our expectations of the BBC as part of the British public. We all have a soft spot for Auntie. The slightly patrician, worthy, wholesome aura that the BBC used to be known for is as comforting as toast and Marmite for breakfast. We want the BBC to take a stand, to be a moral authority. The recent kerfuffle about the DEC Gaza appeal is a case in point. Be assured, that most people in the BBC would have wanted to broadcast such an important humanitarian appeal. However, such a broadcast has to be measured against the charter and as such exercised minds both legal and editorial. In the end, the risk of breaching the charter was judged too high a price to pay.

The problem is that our tenner a month towards the maintenance of what is fundamentally a great institution has been hobbled by successive governments of various shades. The BBC is now unable to take a lead, to take significant risks.

There are thousands of very talented people trying their very best to produce programmes and other content that engage and inform, that make sixty years of historic programming accessible. After all, you, your parents and grandparents paid for it. These talented people are trying to do what they can within bounds set, creating new channels for their content and engaging with the audience.

I'm sure that casting the BBC adrift as a commercial entity is the wrong thing. Look at Sky. Certainly, the quest for value for money is a good one, but not all expenditure necessarily has an immediate payback. How do we know what of what we produce today will be of value in another fifty years time? How do we know what BBC pure research and development will be in our pockets in a few years time?

I'm not entirely sure I'm making a great point here. I love the BBC, I was practically raised by it and have huge respect for its achievements. What I want from it I guess, is just a little more boldness; not to be constrained by fear of offending the authorities.

Is that practical?

1 comment:

Alex said...

I was expecting a bit of a DaveRant[TM], but that's fair comment. I think the Beeb is cowed post-Hutton, but I'm confident they'll bounce back in due course.