Friday, January 19, 2007

The Government Vs The BBC

I happen to be a big fan of the BBC. Ok, so it doesn't always get things right, sometimes it can seem to be a mouthpiece for the government. Having said that, broadly speaking, I believe that it takes a reasonably independent viewpoint on things and produces high quality output (particularly when you compare to the current Big Brother scandal). Perhaps it's greatest success in recent years was the revelations surrounding the Iraq dossier that led to several key players losing their jobs (a disgraceful piece of government intervention if ever there was one). The Hutton report, and it's aftermath, was a disgraceful attempt by the government to shut down opposition to their illegal invasion of Iraq. Ever since the revelations by the BBC, the government has been eager to stick the boot in and now that time has come.

The government has decided that the BBC will only receive a below-inflation rise in the licence fee. This is particularly damaging for the BBC as it will be responsible for ensuring that the population is equipped for the digital switch-over. According to some reports, the BBC will have to find and extra £600m to pay for free set-top boxes for those over 75 and a further £200m to publicise the switch. It doesn't take a genius to see that this will hit the BBC pretty hard. Furthermore, the unions are already jumping up and down about possible job cuts and threatening to take action if they are put forward.

This decision has clearly put the BBC in a very delicate position. It will need an enormous amount of skill and judgement to manage the BBC through these difficult times. The risks of the BBC being torn apart are not to be underestimated, particularly if job cuts are proposed. However, the government will be sitting back, happy in the knowledge that they have got their revenge on the BBC for daring to undermine the state. Meanwhile, one man is sure to be licking his lips at the prospect of a weakened BBC........