It isn’t to much surprise that today the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt told The Telegraph that “The BBC should not interpret the fact that we haven’t said anything about the way licence fee funds are used as an indication that we are happy about it. We will be having very tough discussions.”.
The Tories have long had a perculiar hang-up when it comes to the BBC. They see the issue through a very narrow and one dimensional prerspective. Essentially, they see that no-one should have to pay a manadatory TV Licence (or tax in their words) to watch TV – especially if they don’t want to watch the channels the BBC broadcasts. Instead, their perfect situation would be to scrap the licence fee and turn the BBC into a purely private company in competition with the rest of the broadcasting market
What the Tories consistently fail to recogise is the richness, and breadth, of high-quality programming the BBC consistently delivers. It is because the BBC is an autonomous public broadcaster that it can air, for example, the recently saved BBC 6 Music. Seeing BBC 6 Music trough a Tory , or market, perspective would have led to the station being brought off air since it costs £9 million to run but only has a small dedicated band of listeners. Within a market environment no broadcaster would air this service because of its small audience, and thus lack of appeal to potential advertisers.
For the Tories, they would also argue that individuals should be able to choose who they pay for the TV service they receive – maximizing choice. But, within television broadcasting in particular the market invariably does the exact opposite – it stifles choice. For example, to watch Premiership football or Boxing an individual must – not by choice – buy the appropriate package through SKY. Plus it is not as simple as ordering the individual channels you desire. These are usually bundled into packages which you must – not by choice – buy to access the one or two channels you desire to watch. There are then of course the added costs of buying your SKY set-top box, paying to have the service installed and then paying a monthly fee. All this culminates in costs far exceeding the TV Licence in return for the one or or two channels you CHOOSE to watch, plus the hundreds of others which come as part of your package – most of which offer repeats of terresterial programming, or offer their own low-quality programming cut-up into regular segments for advertisments. The TV licence is a one-off payment and in return you get access to some of the best programming output in the world – and that is no overstatement when you consider the prestige and high regard with which the BBC is held throughout the broadcasting world.
Jeremy Hunts comments are a clear statement of intent that the ConDem Government will be gunning for the BBC, and these comments represent a test to see what, and how strong, the public opposition will be to major cuts in the BBC and the further marketisation of its services.
Yet again, I find it astonishing that the Liberal Democrats are propping up an overtly right-wing wing Tory Government obsessed with cuts, and obsessed with cutting any service which is run in the national good and not for the profit of businesses within the financial market.