‘Anti-imperialist’ attacks on BBC from the Tory press ring hollow

The press are not against monopolies, they're just looking to crush a weak rival


Another day, another avalanche of stories bashing the BBC in the Tory press.

They take their line from the dear leader, chancellor George Osborne, who yesterday told the BBC he’d like to trim the corporation’s website, and perhaps charge for use of the iPlayer catch-up service, accusing the BBC of ‘imperial ambitions’.

But just how ‘anti-imperialist’ are the Tory press when it comes to media ownership?

First, here are some of the headlines:

Osborne: BBC must curb online ambitions (Times)

‘Imperial’ BBC is threat to free press warns Osborne (Mail)

Oz hits BBC ’empire’ (Sun)

BBC must help shoulder cuts burden, says Osborne (Telegraph)

The editorial pages of the papers pick up this ’empire’ idea with zeal. The Mail’s leader column, titled ‘BBC imperialism‘, tells us:

“The BBC is supposed to be a public service broadcaster but is acting more like a rapacious commercial giant, trying to corner the market in news delivery.

Why on earth should the taxpayer have to fund this naked empire-building?”

As the Sun puts it:

“When George Osborne talks about its [the BBC’s] ‘imperial’ ambition, he’s spot on. Whether it’s the BBC’s local news sites putting local papers out of business, or its main website behaving as if it should be a monopoly provider of news, the BBC uses the cushion of the licence fee to protect itself from competition that exists in the real world – and to distort the market for everyone else.

It’s time there was a level playing field – and the BBC was brought back to reality.”

Since when, you might wonder, were Viscount Rothermere or Rupert Murdoch so concerned about monopolies?

– Rothermere owns the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, MailOnline (one of the most read websites in the world), and Metro. 

– Murdoch owns the Sun, the Times, a chunk of Sky TV20th Century Fox, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Australian, and until 2011 the News of the World. Plus, as it happens, lots of local newspapers in Australia and the US.

These unlikely anti-imperialists and champions of the little guy are right to say the BBC is treated differently to other market competitors.

Murdoch and Rothermere would never have their papers attack a business rival in these tones – they don’t want the same abuse back, and anyway, such talk can be awkward during any future merger or buyout negotiations.

The BBC is treated by these publications as a vulnerable deer on the edge of the pack, a weak but real obstacle to their own mastery of the market. After all, you can’t buy a public service broadcaster.

The next best thing is to have your friends in government ‘cut it down to size’, (as another Sun editorial put it), that’s to say, small enough not to threaten their own ‘imperial ambitions’.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

Read more: 

Top 10 BBC bashing stories from the Tory press

Murdoch-owned Times attacks BBC for ‘media empire’ monopoly

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18 Responses to “‘Anti-imperialist’ attacks on BBC from the Tory press ring hollow”

  1. stevep

    Good article, Adam.
    We can`t have impartial media like the BBC! Funded by us!
    It threatens the very foundations of modern civilisation! – large media groups funded by advertising which seek to propagandise, dumb down and render near-brain dead a population by feeding them gossip, salacious titbits that passes for news and TV programming full of mindless rubbish designed to fill space between adverts.
    The newspaper groups go further: They engage the reader with trite, sensationalist celebrity-focused rubbish, present any news and debate as narrowly as possible and then hit the reader with right-wing (in most cases!) political views to (help) make people`s mind up for them.
    If anyone doubts the value of the BBC, just listen to the depth and breadth of radio programming.
    Could the private sector emulate it? Would they want to? Of course not.
    They`re in the business of selling advertising space and by necessity, popularise programming to suit.
    Be aware of the old saying: “You only miss something when it`s gone”.

    let`s not kid ourselves, we`d all miss the BBC.
    Something socially and culturally important to the very fabric of British society will have gone. Raped by commercial doctrine and values.
    Treasure the BBC for what it is and what it stands for. Support and defend it until you`re hoarse from shouting and the ink in your pen runs dry!

  2. Torybushhug

    A constant niggle for many of us are the imbalanced nature of the audiences for QT and Any Questions.
    The BBC must address this or it will turn more of us against it’s cause.
    How do I know they are imbalanced?

    Well, if you look at the comments below various Guardian articles on the current refugee crisis, you find the overwhelming majority of comments are fiercely against us taking in any more migrants in favour of processing them in N Africa / citing most are economic and that they ought not to be leaving behind their vulnerable to fend for themselves, and the bulk of these commenters are long registered lefties. These are punctured relatively sparsely with the liberal ‘correct’ view in support of the migrants that automatically supposes the bulk are fleeing tyranny.

    However, those BBC audiences turn this completely on it’s head and you get a non representative ‘virtuous’ view. This is a hideous corruption typical of the BBC / Guardianista fraternity.
    Same with welfare reform which has 80% support in polls, but those virtue signalling BBC audiences reflect the opposite ‘unreal’ naïve hand wringers view.

  3. Torybushhug

    Many of us righties adore the BBC, things like Radio 4 make British life what it is. However, we will not have a non representative metropolitan naïve liberal view foisted on us. But one of many examples is the fact almost all Radio 4 comedy appearances are by paid up liberal lefties. The left thinks this ‘cunning’ permeation goes unnoticed, it certainly does not. In the end if the left does not demand a balanced BBC, you will harm yourselves as the right will do it for you, and some.

  4. stevep

    Utter bollocks!

  5. MaryAGriffith

    Some New Features with leftfootforward….. Go To Next Page

  6. Selohesra

    I don’t think its their Jewishness that gets then the gig its their general liberal leftiness although I wasn’t aware half of that lot were Jewish.

  7. Cole

    It’s not 1933 you know.

  8. blarg1987

    Have you actually watched QT on the issue?

    If you noticed it was very reasonable, with people saying we have to be objective our hearts saying one thing and mind saying another which is true.

    The only way you will know if the audience is bias is to get a notepad and ask each member of the audience their political leanings.

  9. stevep

    It`s right-wing rants like this that give the game away. Criticise anything left of Attilla the Hen and hope something sticks. Or diverts attention from the real debate.
    Try asking people in beleaguered regimes around the world how valuable and unbiased the BBC is and how important it is as an impartial source of information.
    You might just get an answer unclouded by years of vile, far-right propaganda spewed forth by what passes for a “free” British press.

  10. stevep

    Far right tosh and humbug.

  11. Cole

    It’s scary that there are now right wingers out there actually identifying and counting the number of Jews appearing on the BBC. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised.

  12. swat

    Its the politics of envy. The Press and Murdoch just jealous of the integrity and high standards set by the BBC. And they just want to get their hands on the privatisation of the BBC should it ever happen, gawd forbid.

  13. stevep

    Nice one.

  14. swat

    Disgraceful! What a tirade against the BBC!
    Worthy of an Alf Garnet, who strenuously denied that he was Jewish.

  15. gunnerbear

    Buckle-the-swash…..Attila the Hen is on the Rampage….. 🙂

  16. gunnerbear

    I even Chairman Mao would find the BBC a bit too left wing……….

  17. gunnerbear

    High standards of the BBC – so high they won’t even publish reports about investigations into their own dubious reporting.

  18. RMT

    Murdoch’s actually angry about the shutting down of local newspapers because without them his papers would have nothing to steal stories from and maliciously edit to follow whatever right wing lunacy he’s keen on promoting at the moment.

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