Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Thursday | August 28, 2003

The War against the BBC

By Steve Gilliard

I feel bad about Kos's luggage. I usually only deal with carry on. But things happen.

Anyway, there's been a raging debate between the Tories, Murdoch and the BBC.

BBC website should be shut down, says Tory frontbencher
By Vincent Graff, Media and Culture Editor
27 August 2003

The Shadow Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, called yesterday for the BBC to close down its website, which includes some of the most visited internet pages in Europe.

"It is not clear why BBCi is on the Net when, by and large, the same services are provided by commercial operators. He thinks the BBC should only provide services that no one else does," said a spokeswoman for Mr Whittingdale.

Mr Whittingdale's call suggests the BBC will face heavy criticism from the party's "independent review" of the corporation's future, under the chairmanship of the former Channel 5 (now Five) chief executive David Elstein

This ridiculous assertion, which is really revenge for the perception that the BBC is anti-tory, is just the latest in a series of attacks on the Beeb by the British right.

Why is this argument ridiculous? Because the BBC website not only serves the UK, but users world wide. It also has a tremendous archive of data, from live broadcast of BBC radio online, to multilanguage news channels. This was the same kind of "privatize" everything argument which was used against PBS/NPR in the US.

But then, unlike US media, the BBC is not lying down.

Lorraine Heggessey, the controller of BBC1, does not show any signs of holding back when Mr Murdoch's name creeps into the conversation. "He is against everything the BBC stands for," she says. "He is a capital imperialist, isn't he? That's what he does. And all people of his political persuasion in the States are against the public sector."

Ms Heggessey, you will have spotted, is a fabulous departure from the I-speak-your-weight executives who so dominated the BBC under the last director general, John Birt. But her candour also appears to be part of a new policy at the BBC, no longer to turn the other cheek in the face of attacks from Murdoch's empire.

When Tony Ball, the chief executive of British Sky Broadcasting, of which Mr Murdoch's News Corporation is the largest shareholder, called at the Edinburgh International Television Festival this weekend for the Government to impose extraordinary restrictions on the BBC, the corporation hit back with an official statement surprising in its bluntness. Mr Ball's demand was part of "Rupert Murdoch's long and hostile campaign" against the corporation, it declared. "Thankfully for the British public, Mr Murdoch has not been successful."

Mudoch wants the Beeb out of the way so he can make more money. Which is fine, if you want to destroy the finest public institution in the UK.

It is par for the course that they want to turn the BBC into the PBS of the UK. "Challenging" read boring, programs left.

Why should this matter to Americans? Because the BBC is wildly successful. It's begun broadcasting the World Service on US public radio, it's nightly newscast on PBS and BBC America are widely watched, while Fox News is a joke and FX's biggest shows are about horndog plastic surgeons and crooked cops.

In the last year, the BBC's news services have provided a crucial look at American foreign policy. One I and many people rely on daily.

The British right is making war on the BBC because it tells stories they don't want to hear, not only at home, but to Americans.

Posted August 28, 2003 01:40 PM | Comments (59)


Bush Administration
Business and Economy
Foreign Policy

© 2002. Steal all you want.
(For non-commercial use, that is.)