The modern British Broadcasting Corporation is in decline – well past its ‘sell-by’ date?

Many of us never thought we would see the day when our deep-felt commitment to the iconic BBC would wane, but unfortunately for many it now has, wouldn’t you say?

The BBC is of course nearly 100 years old now and during those years it has been a beacon of excellence in the world of broadcasting, and has beaten all other broadcasters into a cocked-hat, not only in the diversity and memorability of the output it has created, but in the way it has been run.

It all began of course with radio and following on from that the BBC was there at the birth of television in the 1930s, played a crucial role in the nation during WWII, brought TV to the masses in the 50s, and a decade later provided colour TV.

Now, the BBC has been successful primarily because some very talented men [sorry no women so far, eh?] have been appointed as Director-General in a role that combines ‘chief executive’ with ‘editor-in-chief’ of the BBC.

The very first bloke and founder of the BBC was powerhouse John Reith and it was indeed he who created the successful operational framework for public service broadcasting in Britain that delivered programmes to educate, inform and entertain, but he had to fight tooth and nail to prevent the politicians of the day get their fingers in the pie – others since have been much less effective on that front, perhaps?

One has to appreciate that in the early days the only radio programmes were transmitted by the BBC and the only television pictures came via an aerial and from the public service provider BBC or Independent television – in modern times that has all dramatically changed particularly in the case of TV when there is a plethora of choice with hundreds of channels provided by subscription service cable and satellite providers, eh?

The millstone that has been round the neck of the BBC for many many decades now is its source of funding. The income of the corporation to run the television, radio and online services comes primarily from the government’s TV licence fee [i.e. a government TAX] paid by ALL users of live broadcast TV [fees totaling £3.83 BILLION in 2017/18 – representing ¾ qtrs. of the BBC’s income].

The major problem that the BBC always faces is that it has to regularly go cap-in-hand to the government of the day to get the fee increased as inflation rises and costs go up – the government actually ‘froze’ the licence fee in cash terms from 2010 until 2016 and since then it only goes up in line with inflation until 2022. That all means of course that government has a stranglehold influence over the BBC, doesn’t it?

Yep, and that is now having major consequences for the corporation, caused by of an issue with the social concession of universal free-of-charge TV licences for the over-75s – which has operated since the year 2000 and is received by around 4.55 million households

You see, back in 2015 when the government had its last licence fee negotiation with the BBC, intended it was said to finally provide “financial stability” for the corporation, austerity obsessed chancellor George Osborne decreed that the Treasury would no longer be responsible for providing financial cover for those free TV licences and instead that the BBC would be expected to pick-up the substantial bill itself from 2020. The beleaguered BBC was far too weak to put up any strong resistance to that ultimatum and that has been its undoing, hasn’t it?

Mind you, there should be no doubt that the government’s strategy on this matter was outrageous, since the BBC is neither a government department to be controlled by Treasury diktat, nor is it part of the Country’s welfare system that functions to deliver social benefits, is it? The government should have been told to piss off, whatever the consequences – where could that kind of transfer of welfare responsibility end, eh?

Well, the shit really hit the fan on the issue just 2 weeks ago when the incumbent Director-General of six years Tony Hall (Lord Hall) brutally announced that the BBC are going to scrap free TV licences for almost four million over-75s – it will only continue for those on benefit.

There has been widespread condemnation of the BBC for its crass decision, not least because it is not just reneging on an agreement made with government four years ago, but it is also smashing a committed promise made to 3.7 million over-75s – indeed that copper-bottomed assurance to pensioners was made by the Tories in their 2017 manifesto that got them reelected. The disturbing latter fact shows just how ineffective the current government has become when we see an institution like the BBC taking it on and giving the finger to its spending decisions, eh?

Now, all this has come about at a very bad time for the previously much loved and respected BBC, as there is now much deep dissatisfaction with both its current funding arrangement through tax, and moreover with its recent lacklustre performance.

The licence fee has been an increasing bone of contention as many viewers have other alternative ‘paid-for’ service providers, or they stream television to computers, tablets, or mobiles, so they don’t really see why they should have to pay ‘a tax’ to contribute to BBC channels and services they don’t necessarily use nor like. Enforcing the licence fee system is also problematic and large fines of £1000 are widely resented – besides much of the public and more to the point many politicians, no longer accept that licence non-payment should be a ‘criminal offence’ – it is at most a civil matter, surely?

Moreover, increasing numbers of people are dissatisfied with the BBC’s somewhat staid and slanted service output, which is targeted at quite a restricted audience, and some would say that for a supposedly neutral public service broadcaster, that at times it lacks objectivity and seems very biased in its approach to controversial topics [that would specifically include BREXIT where it has clearly been supportive of the government’s Remain line]. Also, these days one can find much better programmes elsewhere, and often its output lacks quality of thought and professionalism [the insensitive format, the debate bias, and the series of appalling blunders the BBC exhibited in its ‘gate-crash’ Tory leadership broadcast last Tuesday is a glaring case in point], while in general its output descends to the lowest common denominator in its quest to match the dross of the crap commercial channels.

The BBC seems to inexplicably believe that its viewers of predominately intelligent, discerning people, want a never-ending programme diet of cookery, house hunting & relocation, bric-à-brac & antique sales, outdated & irrelevant chat shows, incomprehensible & meaningless game shows, medical dramas and soaps seemingly used solely to promote relationship & diversity issues, repeats & re-runs of past quality items galore, low-interest sports events & with just post-time reviews of major sport goings-on, etc, eh?

That is coupled with the BBC scandalously enabling personal tax reduction by secretly paying TWO THIRDS of its highest-paid presenters and actors [freelancers] “off the books” so to speak, by channelling their earnings though ‘personal service companies’ [£74million in payments dished out over 4 years], a practice which allows both the BBC and the worker to pay less tax – that is despite the corporation pledging to stop the practice 7 years ago, eh? (The BBC had refused requests made under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose information about the practice)

[Payment via a company allows the BBC to avoid national insurance while the performer avoids income tax at source of up to 45% and instead pays corporate tax of 19%]

The BBC’s blatant sex inequality on pay has been exposed – showing that the top four male presenters across the BBC were collectively paid almost four times the total amount of the top four female presenters. That is coupled with unwarranted enormous salaries of the so-called stars, which when uncovered over a year ago, the majority of the viewing population couldn’t comprehend why [which apparently resulted in some pay-cuts – guilt & embarrassment?]

[The BBC has been  forced to publish a list of those earning above £150,000 a year but we don’t know anything about the biggest earners paid through their personal service companies, and payments made through BBC Studios etc are also hidden – LAST YEAR ALONE:

    • £1.75million to a football presenter of matches already played (was £1.8million the year before) & he also is supported by highly paid analysts including one on £420thousand (was £550thousand the year before)
    • £1.7million to a radio presenter (was £2.5million the year before when he did a TV show as well)
    • £610thousand to a radio presenter and TV chat show host (was £900thousand the year before)
    • £560thousand to a radio presenter
    • £530thousand to a newsreader and elections presenter (was £600thousand the year before but reportedly he took a pay cut)
    • £450thousand to a radio and TV presenter (was £750thousand the year before but reportedly he took a pay cut)
    • £420thousand to a radio presenter (was £450thousand the year before but reportedly he took a pay cut)
    • £410thousand to a radio presenter
    • £410thousand to a radio presenter with some TV work (was £650thousand the year before)
    • £410thousand to a TV presenter was £650thousand the year before
    • £410thousand to a radio presenter was £650thousand the year before)
    • £380thousand to a female radio presenter and TV host ( was £500thousand the year before)
    • £359thousand to a radio presenter (was £400thousand the year before)
    • £340thousand to a female radio presenter
    • £340thousand to a radio presenter (was £350thousand the year before)
    • £310thousand to a radio presenter
    • and others who have also been pulling in £300thousand or so

Radio presenters seem to be the BBC’s high paid elite – WHY? Where does the competition for their services come from that necessitates big bucks, eh?

NOTES:

    • Radio listeners DON’T actually pay ANY licence fee to use that service
    • The BBC Director General not only ALREADY draws BBC pension but ALSO gets a BBC salary AS WELL – so is on £530thousand
    • The PM gets just £149thousand TOTAL salary
    • The average salary of UK FULL TIME workers is only £35thousand]

While the BBC should not have been expected to fund free TV licences, it has nevertheless got itself embroiled in the betrayal of millions of over-75s [1.8 million over-75s live completely ALONE and TV provides a lifeline], and it will doubtless pay a high price for that, won’t it?

Why Hall thinks that the BBC will get away with biting the hand that feeds it, is anyone’s guess, but crossing the Treasury and embarrassing the government in breaking its manifesto pledge is pretty non-recoverable, don’t you think?

The most likely outcome now is that the licence fee will shortly be scrapped, the BBC will have its feet held to the fire and it will be challenged to get its future income from subscription services – then the value and quality of its output will be put to the ultimate test of consumer satisfaction. Its cosy little isolated world of the luxury of not having to perform to obtain massive unearned income will have gone – will subscriptions to Radio1, Radio2, Radio3, Radio4, Radio Five live, Radio London, really pull-in the many millions of pounds needed to support the BBC’s loaded radio presenters, do you think?

 

[Will creativity and excellence become the byword the BBC again, will talented programme makers be attracted back to the new model BBC, and will presenters start to get paid only what they are worth, do you think?]

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