Losing the BBC?

April 4, 2021

I’m beginning to feel that it’s a generational thing, and also that it’s inevitable that the BBC as we have known it for many years is withering on the vine and will not survive much longer.

It has many enemies, particularly the Conservative party and media moloch Rupert Murdoch, and between them, they are succeeding in their long-term aim. The BBC has been weakened by political interference and political appointments and is now no longer the voice of the nation, but the voice of the government, and as such, afraid to be critical or even impartial; economically it has been on a government-imposed shoestring for many years, and had recently announced that its flagship BBC4 channel is to become ‘archive-only’ ie no new programming, only repeats.

Murdoch, possibly the most destructive and vindictive media baron ever, has always hated the BBC. His tactic is also working: he has swamped the airwaves with cheap multi-channel programming, encouraging viewers to think in terms of multiplicity of choice, which the BBC cannot match. But once there is sufficient ‘choice’ (we all need to have the choice between 400 different shampoos and conditioners, after all) especially when other companies like Disney, Netflix and Amazon follow suit, pile in and flood the market, then you can argue that people have chosen, and are paying for their TV anyway and so should not have to pay a licence fee for a state-run organisation… then it can be allowed gradually to fall to bits, as may eventually happen to the NHS as well.

Is this any great loss? I’m in my sixties, and would argue that it is. I got a free education in classical music from Radio 3, which has given me lifelong pleasure. I’ve often felt that my annual licence-fee was worth it just for this one radio channel; there was no commercial channel in my younger days to offer classical music and the gobbets of advert-surrounded music clips that is Classic FM just doesn’t bear thinking about. There was a wealth of informative documentary programmes, excellent news coverage and analysis, and my cultural education was furthered by the wealth of international films shown late-night when I was a student – all on the BBC. So yes, I feel a debt of gratitude to the BBC, even as I see it dumbing down, and giving up on what it did so well in the past.

Is it a generational thing? Yes it is: younger generations have grown up with Sky and all the other myriad commercial channels, and consume TV very differently from the way my generation did, channel-hopping and binge-viewing in ways which were just not available way back when. And the concept of programming, ie having to watch a programme at a particular time or miss it, just doesn’t exist for them with streaming providing instant entertainment whenever. And nobody, but nobody, thinks about the environmental cost of streaming. Younger generations have no debt of gratitude to BBC children’s programming when so much cheap trashy pap for youngsters is now part of the entertainment package they pay for. Bundle TV services in with broadband and the BBC is on a hiding to nothing.

In the end, yes, these are the moans of an oldie who liked things the way they were. But, as with a good deal of the things that disappear with the passage of time, it’s the baby that gets thrown out with the bathwater that worries me. Entertainment, diversion, even education via TV should not have to be dependent on selling stuff in order to exist; everything is devalued by being reduced to this level. And in unmeasurable ways, we are all the poorer for it…

6 Responses to “Losing the BBC?”

  1. cooperatoby Says:

    Hear, hear. You echo my thoughts exactly, except that I hardly listen to classical music. The BBC taught me Spanish, Russian and computing (I still have my BBC computer that I learnt Basic on and wrote a programme to foreshadow the one we installed at Suma in 1981, and which is still working). That was service to the public and to the ‘nation’. We can at least be thankful that vociferous campaigning saw off the last attempt about 5 years ago to give Murdoch a monopoly, and that they have just decided that the icence fee is still the best funding method. It really is a natiomal treasure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • litgaz Says:

      Once I start thinking about all the things I learned from the BBC, it’s hard to stop. My love of Sherlock Holmes comes from the Carleton Hobbs performances on the Home Service when I was about seven; I couldn’t wait for each new weekly episode…


  2. erikleo Says:

    Yes, Radio 3 is unique I think. The presenters are so informative and personable, then there’s the music!

    Liked by 1 person

    • litgaz Says:

      And reading your comment, I was reminded that my love of jazz I owe entirely to years of listening to Jazz Record Requests as I cooked tea on Saturday afternoons…


  3. wallyzed Says:

    I agree with pretty much everything you say here. It has taken a while, but things began to change when ITV came along in 1955. Suddenly, the idea that the BBC spoke uniquely to and for a national audience was over. John Reith’s vision of public service broadcasting now hangs by a thread, and today there is a great multiplicity of audiences, atomised and separate from one another. Sadly, the BBC seems to be becoming an anachronism, increasingly irrelevant to younger listeners and viewers. And as Britain itself fragments, and its standing in the world diminishes, the long-cherished World Service also seems to be approaching its sell-by date.

    For me, the BBC has acted as an anchor in turbulent times, helping me make sense of my citizenship of this country. If it fails, I worry about where we might all drift.


    • litgaz Says:

      Well, my feelings have changed a tad since Phil the Greek died and I was subjected to hagiography on all TV channels and all the bloody radio channels as well… I wanted Radio 3 as I lay feeling like I’d been run over by a truck after my 2nd COVID jab! I felt very strongly reminded that I was a subject not a citizen and had better know my place…

      Rant over. There is something sad about an institution I’ve valued and revered (?) over the years sinking gradually into irrelevance. For me, I think it’s about radio and TV being allowed to be educational at times, rather than just entertainment. I learnt so much from the BBC.


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