Are you backing the BBC? Arts and Lit Editor Jeremy Brown reflects on the successes of the nations beloved media corporation in light of recent government threats following the publishing of the Green Paper.
[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]eletubbies. Postman Pat. Blue Peter. Like most British children, I grew up with the BBC, and its hug of lovable characters. Many years later, a huge percentage of my time is still (quite happily) lost in brilliant BBC output. If I even started to reel out the names of programmes we all know and love, I’d be here until the next Charter Renewal in 2026. From Blackadder to Blue Planet, Spitting Image to Sherlock, the range of ground breaking entertainment they have produced over the years is, quite frankly, unparalleled.
“A BBC that doesn’t inform, educate and entertain is not the BBC the public know and love” – Tony Hall, BBC Director General
But in the past week a twitterstorm has blown over the country in the aftermath of the (nice-sounding but ominous) Green Paper, with #backtheBBC gaining over 22,000 tweets. The government is reviewing the changing position of the BBC, and in these times of economic uncertainty people are recognising the threat to their national treasure. News and entertainment has changed dramatically in the past decade, with social networks, Buzzfeed and Netflix all offering new challenges to the corporation. And it definitely is worth considering the BBC from the tax-payer’s point of view: it costs us around £3,725 million – there’s no denying that’s a big number.
So is the BBC worth it?
Yes! Firstly, when you split it up, that big number suddenly becomes a little number: under 40p a day. For unlimited access to a wealth of entertainment and information, I’m already finding it hard to dispute.
And there’s far more to this story. Specifically as a comedy fan, it’s hard for me to ignore the incredible array of opportunities the Beeb has given to stand-ups and sitcom writers, especially through its wide portfolio of panel shows. From political and topical news programmes like Mock the Week to game shows like Would I Lie To You, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, and it’s fuelled my love of all things humorous. I’ll be forever grateful that comedians like David Mitchell could launch their careers through appearances on BBC panel shows.
In fact, a large number of celebrities have acknowledged the importance of the BBC. Exeter’s beloved JK Rowling was just one of many big names to sign a letter calling for the Prime Minister to protect the BBC. And it’s not just about the great entertainment on offer: Dara Ó Briain went so far as to describe the BBC as Britain’s “greatest ambassador”, and I completely agree. Wherever you are, wherever you go, our country’s reputation is maintained by a solidly dependable (and brilliantly creative) organisation, which is adored by millions.
BBC News is a shining example of this. In its consistent devotion to avoid bias, it has become the home of refreshing, trustworthy broadcasting. Just one glance across the Atlantic tells you all you need to know: Fox News is a sickening (and scary) alternative. And the fact that Liz Kendall was recently asked about her weight in an interview with a tabloid newspaper clearly shows the threat posed by less accountable journalism.
Fox News is a sickening (and scary) alternative
The Green Paper is therefore a massive threat to all this brilliance. But it has some positive points too. Above all, it questions the BBC’s bloated bureaucracy, spearheaded by the all-seeing BBC Trust. But as Tony Hall – the Director General – notes, “a BBC that doesn’t inform, educate and entertain is not the BBC the public know and love”. In other words, they should cut the waste, not the schedule. In a time of massive fundings cuts to the arts, where our key cultural institutions are floundering in a sink-or-swim scenario of epic proportions, our free museums and great organisations should be protected at all costs.
Yes, we sometimes pay taxes for flippant TV which is potentially not to our taste. But in a world driven by economic progress and scientific advancement, isn’t it nice that high quality comedy, drama and news is so readily available? And after all, if the public really is distracted by bread and circuses, then perhaps politicians should think twice before attacking Bake Off and Strictly.
For more information on support for the BBC click here.
Jeremy Brown, Arts and Lit Editor