BBC announcement is capitulation to Murdoch

BBC bosses have chosen an odd moment to pre-spin an their strategic review. They have been spooked by attacks from News Corporation and capitulated.

With the election outcome looking less certain by the day, BBC bosses have chosen an odd moment  to pre-spin an announcement due next month on their strategic review. They have clearly been spooked by attacks from News Corporation and other vested interests, and capitulated.

Today’s Times reports:

“The BBC will close two radio stations, shut half its website and cut spending heavily on imported American programmes in an overhaul of services to be announced next month.

“Mark Thompson, the Director-General, will admit that the corporation, which is funded by the £3.6 billion annual licence fee, has become too large and must shrink to give its commercial rivals room to operate.”

News Corporation had complained that the BBC digital expansion had dislocated the media market and that commercial players could not compete. Put another way, Rupert Murdoch wants to charge for online content but cannot do so while the BBC is producing a free website that outstrips its commercial rivals. As a result, 25 per cent of the staff who work on the BBC’s fantastic website are to pay the price and face redundancy while popular stations like 6 Music are facing the chop.

The origins of this appeasement to the Murdoch Empire, which will be seen as an attempt to curry favour with an incoming Tory government looking to threaten the BBC licence fee, are from James Murdoch’s speech to the Edinburgh Television Festival last August. Murdoch Jnr. accused the BBC of a “land grab” causing the Director General, and others at the top, to take fright.

The beeb has been weakened by revelations that more than 100 of the BBC’s senior staff earn £21.2 million exacerbated with over-the-top expenses. While financial hubris has been demonstrated with their expansionist plans – not least in going over budget on the rebuild of Broadcasting House. And by letting BBC worldwide buy Lonely Planet. This sense of entitlement has meant they’ve been subjected to similar coverage to that meted out to MPs.

All this makes defending the BBC harder to do. Yet defend it we must if we want to protect a public service media. A universal licence fee means that the BBC has to provide a service for everyone and one that everyone wants. Otherwise the cry will go up to scrap the licence fee. A diminished BBC is what its detractors want. Bad political judgement and financial mis-management in the past is what Mark Thompson seems intent on delivering.

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