Saturday, August 29, 2009

Big Brother BBC

Public service broadcasting

It's well worth reading the full text of James Murdoch's Edinburgh speech attacking our Big Brother tax-funded BBC. Because his message - self-serving though it may be - goes far beyond the BBC and our state media commissars. It is a powerful attack on the very foundations of big government:

"The consensus appears to be that creationism - the belief in a managed process with an omniscient authority - is the only way to achieve successful outcomes. There is general agreement that the natural operation of the market is inadequate, and that a better outcome can be achieved through the wisdom and activity of governments and regulators.

This creationist approach is similar to the industrial planning which went out of fashion in other sectors in the 1970s. It failed then. It’s failing now.

...while creationism may provide a comfortable illusion of certainty in the short-term, its harmful effects are real and they are significant...

... The greatest divergence between the rest of the media and broadcasting is the unspoken approach to the customer.

In the regulated world of Public Service Broadcasting the customer does not exist: he or she is a passive creature - a viewer - in need of protection. In other parts of the media world - including pay television and newspapers - the customer is just that: someone whose very freedom to choose makes them important.

And because they have power they are treated with great seriousness and respect, as people who are perfectly capable of making informed judgements about what to buy, read, and go and see."

Murdoch is talking about broadcasting, but he might equally well have been discussing healthcare, education, or many other "public services".

We're right back to the core issue here: whereas most of us think our own interests are best served if we make our own decisions, and many of us understand that approach also leads to the best outcomes overall, Big Government types maintain the commissars always know best.

Consider how the BBC Trust responded to the speech:

"Our starting point is what is in the interests of the public and the BBC agrees with James Murdoch's analysis that we need to trust them. And the public tell us that they, in turn, trust the BBC and valuethe wide range of services we provide...

The BBC's public purposes stress the importance of the well-tested principles of educating and informing, and an impartial contribution to debate in the UK."

Self-serving complacency doesn't really capture it. HTF they equate "education and informing" with dumbed-down commercial tosh like The Tudors is beyond us. And as for "impartial contribution to debate", all we can say is hah!

The whole point about the BBC is that they don't trust the public. The commissars believe that a tax-funded unaccountable BBC is all that stands between civilisation and... well... American barbarism. If, God forbid, the BBC had to compete for subscriptions and ad revenue, the unwashed masses might choose a 24/7 diet of Strictly come Dancing, Jonathan Ross, and... er... the Tudors.

As we've said many times, the telly tax should be abolished and the BBC should be privatised soonest.

Proper competition would deliver what we the punters actually want, not what the commissars say we should have. And if we loosened the rules on "impartiality" at the same time, we could get some proper diversity onto the airwaves. Why, we might even end up with a UK version of the Fox.

PS The death of local newspapers? All the more scope for local blogs. Here's a good one we came across in connection with Tyler Jnr's housemove.

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