Sunday, November 02, 2008

BBC all out of friends

Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC, has quite a few things to worry about after the Ross-Brand debacle. He has forthcoming reports from OFCOM and the BBC Board of Governors on the subject, and the problem of getting his organisation back under some sort of editorial control. He should have one greater worry, however. In the recent row those speaking up in support of the BBC were noticeable by their almost complete absence. While the BBC was being pilloried by press, public and politicians there was almost no-one stepping up to remind us of the supposed value of taxpayer-funded TV. When the Mail on Sunday ran a poll to determine the level of support for the license fee the numbers were appalling from the BBC's perspective with 74% considering the current cost unjustified. There were some other interesting numbers too, with 71% of the youth audience supposedly served by Brand and Ross rejecting their behaviour. You could not imagine the BBC's 1990s campaign to promote the license fee being run today, which is pretty bad for an organisation that depends utterly on the license fee for its income.

How have things come to this pass? Well, there are three main reasons for the BBC's crumbling support. First, paying Jonathon Ross £6m a year is indefensible and the public see it as a waste of money, their money. Second, the BBC's insistence on chasing every audience segment, including those exciting by obscenity and abuse had removed any moral authority it may once have had. All any journalist has had to do to make the point is to quote the BBC's own content at its senior executives, and they have been doing that all week, including a seminal interview on the BBC’s own Newsnight with the DG where he was confronted with an appalling joke about the Queen, which I will not repeat here. Third, the systematic bias against the Conservatives has removed any support from one half of the British political divide entirely. If the BBC don't think that this will hurt them under a Conservative government then they are being hopelessly naive.

So, we have a public body that has lost the support of the public for its means of funding from the public, and which has also alienated the party currently running a double digit lead in the polls.

This is how institutions end.

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