Imagine the uproar if a newspaper leaked a plan to cut or package out Radio Four’s iconic programme the Archers to a commercial enterprise.
Licence fee payers would be baying for blood, and the BBC as a publicly owned broadcasting authority would be accountable and rightly so. I think the Archers is safe for now but the serious problem confronting the BBC is the attack against the concept of public broadcasting.
James Murdoch, son of Rupert and destined to inherit his father’s News Corporation media empire led the fray last year at the Edinburgh Television festival. Arguing against the BBC’s “free news on the web” Murdoch junior swung in with cold war rhetoric. He said “the expansion of state sponsored journalism is a threat to plurality and independence of news provision.” A far cry from the rural idyll of Ambridge.
I think James Murdoch probably does understand the difference between public broadcasting and the Big Brother tyranny of George Orwell’s 1984 fame but it suits his drive toward a totally privatised communications and media industry to portray the ‘beeb’ in such blood curdling terms.
What a pity that the earliest victims of the BBC’s pre-emptive first strike are two genuinely interesting and innovative digital programmes 6 Music and the Asian Network.
Broadcasting unions, including my own union Unite will campaign to save jobs and services. Already 100,000 people have joined a Facebook campaign in protest at the shutdown of 6 Music. The campaign has to be in defence of public broadcasting paid for by our licence fees and for accountability versus the ‘free market’ philosophy as personified by the Murdoch New Corporation empire, an empire that is politically partial and worryingly dominant across the globe.