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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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HomeBBC WatchThe BBC’s 100th birthday today is no cause for celebration

The BBC’s 100th birthday today is no cause for celebration

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THE BBC turns 100 today. The acronym, it’s sometimes forgotten, stood for the British Broadcasting Corporation only from January 1927, when, under director-general John Reith, its mission to ‘inform, educate and entertain’ began in earnest. The founding organisation was the British Broadcasting Company Ltd, reliant on private investment from British and US electrical companies. Food for thought, perhaps, for those who champion the licence fee as the BBC’s eternal and inviolable funding source.  

Reith sought to broadcast ‘everything that is best in every department of human knowledge, endeavour and achievement’. The BBC’s brief is somewhat narrower now: rubbing conservative noses in Diversity. With 22,000 staff and an annual budget of £5.3billion, few snouts remain unblemished. Add to the balance sheet a fake Tory Government, in office and out of power, and the ‘Beeb’ serenely maintains its default aspect: bloated, biased, condescending.

I don’t recall exactly when I reached the end of my BBC tether. There are several possibilities. It was probably its relentless, unhinged loathing of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J Trump. From a bourgeois BBC perspective this was fully justified. Trump had the audacity to preserve his country’s borders, fire up the US economy, broker peace in the Middle East, cease truckling to the CCP, and win the respect of Putin and Kim Jong-un. To cap it all, to love Britain.

Or perhaps it was Brexit. David Dimbleby’s (or his producer’s) alleged stuffing of the TV debate audience with Remain activists was a low point. And who can forget Dimbleby’s face at the end of Referendum night? A blend of seething resentment and embarrassment, posing as neutrality. You can’t blame him, I suppose. Even a half-smile, conveying the fanciful notion that life goes on post-EU, might have proved career-ending.

Of course, the litany of egregious BBC broadcasting stretches far back. We all have our own memories. For me, employing actors to dub the voices of IRA spokesmen when Mrs Thatcher had the nerve to deny them the ‘oxygen of publicity’, was unconscionable, if predictable. Sins of omission loom large, too. Where was the Europhile BBC while millions of Eastern Europeans were living under the yoke of Communism? If there was a sustained series of programmes – dramas, documentaries, discussions – highlighting their plight, I missed it.          

The steady erosion of Christianity from the public square owes much to Broadcasting House, which has cut back on and diluted Christian programmes considerably, while of course giving more airtime to other faiths. It’s worth considering the way things were. As historian Asa Briggs notes, Reith, believing Christianity to be ‘the stated and official religion of the country’, took pains to convince an ‘amazed’ Archbishop Randall Davidson of the merits of the BBC by demonstrating the wireless to him at his home. (After Davidson requested a piano recital and Reith found none was scheduled that evening, he telephoned and ordered one.)

When ‘institution’ was an affectionate compliment rather than a woke citadel, our state broadcaster was a benign exemplar, like Wimbledon or Sunday roast. Even now it can rise to the occasion, as its coverage of the Queen’s funeral showed. Sadly, however, much of its output is an insult to the concept – mandated by Royal Charter – of fair and balanced broadcasting. The BBC is an intrinsic part of the Blob. Indeed, imagine you were tasked with designing a de-radicalisation programme for leftists, or even ‘normie’ friends who go with the flow. Wouldn’t ‘Don’t watch or listen to the BBC’ be Step 1?

So, ‘Auntie’, I won’t be joining your centenary celebrations today, I’m afraid. I derived pleasure from stopping my licence fee four or five years ago, and from forthrightly telling you why. I should have done it sooner. Cancel-culture is one of many insidious ideas you’ve helped to promote. This is one form of cancellation I’d recommend to anyone.

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Stuart Major
Stuart Major
Stuart Major is an independent scholar based in Sussex.

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