Tuesday, 9 October 2012

end of the licence fee for post-Savile BBC?

The BBC’s chickens are coming home to roost like never before, with allegations of Jimmy Saville’s abuse of children being followed by indications of decades-long cover-ups of his and others’ activities. So is it entirely coincidental that YouTube has announced its drive to lure TV viewers with 60 new channels right now?

The idea isn’t new: YouTube launched a similar initiative in the US last year, and doubtless the UK additions have been on the drawing board for some time. But surely it would be commercial stupidity not to act just as millions of licence-fee payers wonder whether their money has been used to gag witnesses and even victims of child abuse?

I’ve had big problems with the BBC; for instance, refusing to apologise to Christians for airing Jerry Springer: the Opera despite over 60,000 complaints. And after airing the infamous pre-recorded Ross and Brand show, its first reaction was to smear its own customers by saying we hadn’t reacted until an article by Melanie Phillips alerted us to the fiasco.

Now, however, I see that the BBC itself isn’t the problem. The licence fee is the problem.

Celebrity Big Brother Series 5 logo
Remember Celebrity Big Brother Series 5 on Channel 4 where Jade Goody racially abused Shilpa Shetty? The broadcaster stuck to its guns in not removing Goody: although the controversy raised viewing figures to astronomical levels, Carphone Warehouse withdrew its sponsorship of the programme and anything Goody-related, for example her perfumes and her autobiography, were considered too toxic for high-street shelves. Millions were lost, and C4 lost the series.

Had Channel 4 been funded by licence-fee, it would have carried on regardless, much as the BBC does. The Saville child abuse row, and all the related rows waiting to explode, constitute the BBC’s Big Brother experience. After all this, don’t let "the unique way the BBC is funded" become their get-out-of-jail-free card.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Esther Rantzen: I believe interviewees - This is Gloucestershire

Gloating cruelty, foul vulgarity and a BBC that has lost all sense of shame - Melanie Phillips on the Ross and Brand broadcast


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