Full Disclosure — I worked at the BBC, I love the BBC, I don’t see the BBC as more important than the NHS, or Schools, or the Social Care Services or various other things people might pick on as “more important” that have all suffered and are all suffering at the hands of the current UK Government and therefore by extension the hands of the British Electorate. Please don’t assume that I am a one-issue pony, just because I decided to write about this now and have written about this before; it would be my contention that the way my Government is treating this national treasure is a very visible measure of the utter contempt that they have for anything worthwhile and costly that benefits everyone.
There are aspects of the BBC Web Estate in this round of cuts (link, ironically to the BBC News website — having to report on their own slow death of a thousand cuts must be heartbreaking) that I worked on, albeit tangentially, and I know people that are going to be wondering if they have jobs anymore, though I imagine that if they are in the firing line then the BBC News management team will have given them as much warning as humanly possible and even tried to find them new homes within the Corporation where possible. These are hard-working, talented, diligent people who know that they are working for 10–20% less than the market in London will bear, and without exception they are choosing that because working at the BBC gives them something far greater than a mere salary. They feel as though they are a part of something that is truly at the heart of Britain and British Society and that they are contributing to a force for good in the UK and indeed throughout the World.
Why is our Government so desperate to punish the BBC, that is already wheezing under the weight of cuts upon cuts upon licence-fee freezes, that they want to take away £15Mn from parts of the Corporation that I can absolutely promise you have no fat or dead wood to cut, when that amount is a real body-blow to Aunty and yet represents less than 0.0034% of the annual defence budget. Put another way we spend the same amount of money every 1.21 days on Defence as the Government is trying to cut from the BBC. Compared to total public spending last year it is less than 1% of the average amount of money that the Government spent per day!
Please try and explain to me, because I really want to understand, how is this budget cut anything other than the thin end of the wedge to de-funding the BBC entirely? The UK Exchequer could give the BBC an extra £45Mn per year without raising the current national debt by as much as 0.1% — this is ideological policy at it’s worst and it is striking at one of the only major media outlets left in the World that (despite what some might say about bias) has no masters, no shareholders, and answers (or answered under the BBC Trust) to the British Public, and them alone.
You know how President Obama joked at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner:
“You’re going to miss me when I’m gone. You know you are.”
That’s how even the BBC’s most entrenched detractors are going to feel when she’s gone.
I really can’t properly explain how sad this news has made me. I really have loved the BBC all of my life and working there did not breed the contempt that is apparently supposed to be born of such familiarity; if anything it made me love the organisation all the more. Knowing Aunty’s foibles and weaknesses and humanity made her all the more impressive and real and accessible all at once.
I don’t want to pronounce her dead quite yet, but I am confronted by the very likely notion that by the time my children are adults, the BBC will be little more than a pale shadow of the amazing organisation that helped to shape my understanding of the World and later on gave me the chance to contribute to that work in the lives of others, while also giving me the opportunity to grow professionally and find my way into more senior roles and a deeper understanding of the work that I do.
My only hope is that the British electorate will come to realise the folly of casting such a pearl as this back into the sea, and choose leaders that will bring funding and investment back to the BBC as well as to the NHS and our schools and our social care services.
As one of the largest and most powerful economies on the planet, how can anyone truly believe that any government or any political agenda should be allowed to rob our country of such treasures as these, not only to the very real detriment of our nation, but also reducing us to a nation of penny-pinching bean counters filled with spiteful jealousy for anyone or any organisation that deigns to need support and that does not turn a profit. Britain has led the World in Healthcare, in Social provision and in having the finest, most envied Public Sector Broadcasting Company in History; what have we allowed to happen, and what will we allow to follow..?