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HomeBBC WatchDavid Keighley’s BBC Watch: Whittingdale’s White Paper will be a whitewash

David Keighley’s BBC Watch: Whittingdale’s White Paper will be a whitewash


So finally, the BBC Charter White Paper is about to be published, on a timetable that will lead to renewal at the beginning of 2017.

The Corporation, working with its natural allies across the Left, and especially in The Guardian, have been orchestrating claims that nasty, Brexit-supporting Culture Secretary John Whittingdale is going to eviscerate the Corporation.

Their fear-mongering reached incontinent fever-pitch on Sunday night during the BBC’s coverage of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards. Wolf Hall director Peter Kosminsky, an ex-BBC trainee, led a posse of luvvies (who earn their living working on BBC programmes) in angrily warning that Whittingdale’s projected reforms spelled the TV equivalent of Armageddon.

The tragedy is that this is blatantly untrue. The BBC in its current form is a beached, bloated relic from an era when television was a scarce resource. Yet emphatically, nothing so drastic as the Left claims is remotely on the cards. For that to happen, as The Institute of Economic Affairs cogently pointed out in a detailed audit last week, there would have to be a switch away from licence fee funding towards subscription.

George Osborne has already decreed that the current regressive tax which criminalises tens of thousands of deprived young families every year and clogs up the Magistrates’ Courts with needless prosecutions, is set in aspic for another decade, despite the fact that it is now completely outmoded.

In turn, that means that the BBC will remain entirely dependent on the State, a monolithic entity inhibited and constrained by the law of diminishing returns. Its entire output is dictated by its funding structure.

The Left claimed at the BAFTA Awards that the Corporation creates the best broadcasting in the world. Tommyrot. Its dramas, for example, have for decades been underpinned by trendy pscyho-babble, a hatred of anything deemed to be ‘conservative’, the rights agenda, and ‘diversity’. They are overwhelmingly and embarrassingly one-dimensional – today’s penny dreadfuls.

US series such as Breaking Bad, The Good Wife and House of Cards, all created and produced by what Kosminsky clearly believes are nasty self-interested commercial companies, deal with both moral complexity and the subtle incorporation of different political views. They are light years better.

The BBC news and current affairs output is also totally controlled by the BBC’s outmoded structure and financing. Those working for it produce programmes and copy that are under-pinned with a strong belief that what the state does is best, in line with the basic tenets of socialism. In that universe, capitalism is unequivocally bad; anything green is sacrosanct; diversity, multiculturalism and moral relativity are to be worshipped; and – perhaps above all – any measures that advance the nanny welfare state are to be championed.

That means, of course, that the European Union with its in-built, intrinsic goal to smash nation states is, along with the Labour Party, revered.

The only way of improving the BBC, as the IEA so cogently argued last week, is to open it up to subscription. If that happened, it would be forced to become responsive to what people actually want because it would have to incorporate and properly reflect their views in order to be able to sell its programmes and channels. In consequence, the Augean stables would be forcibly cleaned and the ‘auntie knows’ best ethos would be abandoned forever.

The huge problem at the moment is that everything that the Corporation does is dominated by its rigid defence of its current financing structure. Any criticism, including complaints about bias, are swatted away because any admittance of wrong-doing are perceived to threaten the whole house of cards.

The reality is that Whittingdale’s projected reforms, unless a massive bombshell emerges tomorrow, are unlikely to change any of that. If predictions are correct, yes, he wants to abolish the current BBC Trust, introduce a tougher, more independent management board, and hive off elements of complaints handling. All mildly positive.

But at the same time, the current chairman of the Trustees, Rona Fairhead, is expected to stay on, as chairman of the new management board. It is also predicted that elements of regulation will be handed over to Ofcom. If so, it will solve nothing, because Ofcom, as was noted here on TCW, is just as much part of the broadcasting establishment as figures such as Kosminsky and the BBC itself; it shares their instincts and outlook.

Above all, the licence fee is intact. The BBC has won – yet again; ten more years of intensified bias and state-sponsored politicking from the state’s broadcasting pampered, blinkered elite are already underway, as the Corporation’s biased coverage of the EU referendum vividly illustrates. Kosminsky’s remarks at BAFTA can be seen in a different light – they merely confirm what’s in store.

During the referendum, News-watch is monitoring almost all of the BBC’s news output for pro-EU bias. If you spot any examples, you can register them at a special website:

News-watch research is at

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David Keighley
David Keighley
Former BBC news producer, BBC PR executive and head of corporate relations for TV-am. Director of News-watch.

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