Guest Author - Joanna Czechowska
The BBC has its faults – what human institution doesn’t? The ridiculous pay of some presenters for instance and the money wasted on things such as ‘management consultants.’ There have been a few scandals with competitions being misrepresented, accusations of bias from the Left and the Right and recently a scandal involving Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand where they phoned Andrew Sachs (Manuel from Fawlty Towers) and left insulting messages on his answer phone¬ which was broadcast.
Since then, the corporation has come under regular attack from the press who think they have found an easy target. However, let us get back to the basics of what this institution really means.
The British Broadcasting Corporation was founded in 1922 as a radio station. It was publicly funded but was autonomous – meaning it was independent and not controlled by the Government. During the Second World War, it was a tremendous voice of authority, people believed what it said. The BBC was a beacon of hope to the people of Europe while under Nazi oppression.
After the war when television began to take over from radio, the licence fee was instituted whereby anyone with a TV set had to buy a licence. The current cost of this licence is £139.50 a year. For this money we get BBC1, BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4, Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4 and a news and information website.
The original charter decreed that the corporation should ‘entertain and inform’. So there should be good educational programmes, unbiased news coverage, programmes for children, comedy, drama, music and documentaries. As the BBC is paid for by everyone, there is no advertising. By contrast, Sky (owned by Rupert Murdoch) costs about £600 a year and there are constant adverts.
As the BBC does not have to pander to advertisers, it is free to be innovative and not worry too much about instant ratings. Shows such as Top Gear are free to insult any car maker they wish without having to worry they will withdraw advertising revenue.
The BBC must be evenhanded and unbiased. Each political party must be represented and they can all put forward a spokesperson on any debate. The news coverage must tell the truth as seen personally by a journalist and not just hearsay. The fact that governments of all political persuasions have complained about its coverage proves it must be doing something right!
When Mrs Thatcher (Conservative) was prime minister, the BBC was accused of bias during the miners’ strike. In the run up the Iraq War, Tony Blair’s government (Labour) claimed the BBC was acting in a biased way as an opponent of the war. Each time, the BBC said it was simply reporting the facts.
The BBC (know as the Beeb or Auntie Beeb) is the largest news organisation in the world with journalists in almost every country. It is known throughout the world as a paragon of excellence and truth.
Having living outside the UK for seven years, in my opinion the BBC makes British television the best in the world. Detractors on the right (particularly those in the Murdoch press who want people to watch Sky) say it is wrong that we are all forced to pay for the BBC. I disagree. The BBC keeps us united as a nation, free and, most importantly, entertained.