The BBC, eh? A media organisation that has apparently weathered the perfect storm that is the internet. While other media organisations have been damaged by the massive growth in media output by the development of TCP/IP, the BBC steers a straight course, thanks to the unique way it is funded. Put simply, if you use a television set to receive broadcast visual media, or use the internet to catch up on the BBC’s output, you must pay a tax. If you are caught not paying this tax, you will be fined. If you do not pay this fine, you may go to jail for up to three years. There are people who have had shorter sentences for grievous bodily harm.
That the BBC is mostly anti-Tory is axiomatic. However, the highly-paid executives and controllers also look after themselves. Faced with the prospect of Ed Miliband becoming PM and imposing the 50p income tax rate on their inflated salaries, as well as a new tax on their expensive first and second homes, it seems more than a coincidence that the BBC scheduled repeats of the Miliband lookalike Wallace and Gromit animations in the days leading up to the 2015 General Election. It did not help that Miliband was also grilled by an atypically right-wing audience on Question Time over Labour’s failure to atone for their overspending and over-dependence on under-regulated banks for tax income.
But everything is now back to normal at the BBC. The anti-Brexit, anti-Conservative bias is back, with the merciful exception of any programme Andrew Neil hosts. Neil is not getting any younger. Once he leaves our screens, it may be game over for any form of reasoned political argument over the airwaves.
The Conservatives seem intensely relaxed about this. Their view may be that so long as the opposition party is led by Jeremy Corbyn, the 2020 election, and possibly the 2025 election is in the bag, so the BBC can bleat all they want. The Tories should not be so complacent.
Labour gained seats over the Conservatives in the 2015 election in England, while they handed over seats to another opposition party in Scotland. However this was offset by the Tories slaughtering their erstwhile coalition partners the Liberal Democrats as well as taking Ed Balls’s seat among a few others, so this was largely ignored. It was Ed Balls and the Lib Dems that gave the Tories their majority, not Ed Miliband.
Politics has changed a lot in the last year. Labour may be sinking to irrelevance by its shift to the Left, re-fighting yesterday’s argument between capitalism and socialism. However, the Liberal Democrats stand poised to benefit from the new schism in British politics between Leavers and Remainers. The Conservatives are now the party of Leave, lest they lose support to Ukip. The Liberal Democrats are the party of Remain. Labour, with a foot in both camps, has no single message. Its leader and his fellow-travellers want to Leave what they see as a club of capitalist nations, but its MPs want to Remain in a group that clearly espouses internationalist social democracy. On this Western Front between Leavers and Remainers, Labour is in no-man’s land, being machine-gunned by both sides.
It may only take one economic reverse on the scale of 1992’s Black Wednesday to shift voter sentiment. From 2010 to 2015, Ed Miliband bet his party’s future on a similar economic reversal, or the coalition splitting over an irreconcilable policy difference. He lost. But then Labour has been making similar bets for decades, winning in 1964, 1974 and 1997 as a result.
What has this got to do with the BBC? Well, the BBC dominates the airwaves in political news for the general voter. They cannot help but amplify any reverse the Conservative government experiences. The resignation of the previously-invisible ambassador to the EU is an example of this. A man who clearly went native, he forgot that he was meant to be making the UK’s case in the EU and not the other way round. His advice to David Cameron over his renegotiation with the EU apparently cost Cameron both the referendum and his job as PM as he came back virtually empty-handed. The BBC portrays the resignation of this Euro-cipher as a disaster for the Government when it could be asking exactly why a Remainer should have been allowed to stay in such a sensitive position for so long.
It is said that the Tories have missed their chance to bring the BBC to heel. They should not have to. The same storms that are bringing down the mastheads of the BBC’s media rivals as technology removes differentiation in content format are also winds of change.
The barrier to entry in the media marketplace is falling. In addition to receiving broadcast media, most modern television sets can access streamed media from the internet. Put simply, if the BBC’s opponents want to defeat the quasi-monopoly of the BBC, there has never been a better time to create a BBC of their own and develop a pro-market, pro-Brexit viewership.
(Image: University of Essex)