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The BBC needs root and branch reform - and that includes scrapping the licence fee

By Andrew Allison, Head of Campaigns

The BBC lied and used fake documents in lurid and false claims about the Royal Family which played on Diana, Princess of Wales' fears and fuelled her paranoia. The BBC has been woefully incompetent; it has been evasive and it covered-up the utterly reprehensible behaviour of Martin Bashir. 

They are not my words (although I could have easily written them); they are the words of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in a powerful recorded statement broadcast yesterday. He delivered it with such dignity, but he must have been fuming inside. And who could blame him? 

We are told that the culture has changed in the last 26 years; that it is much more open and accountable, but I don't believe that for one moment. Try making a complaint to the BBC without feeling like banging your head against a brick wall. You are faced with layers of bureaucracy deliberately designed to ensure that even after numerous appeals, you will give up. Even if the BBC admits that it has got it wrong, there are very few consequences for those responsible. All the BBC is interested in is protecting its funding stream and appealing to those with whom it agrees: namely the woke Guardianistas of Hampstead and Islington. 

Lord Hall, who at the time was Director of BBC News and Current Affairs, feels that he has been exonerated. He shouldn't be. He either didn't conduct a thorough investigation into the way Bashir landed the interview, or he deliberately covered it up. Which was it? When you consider the way the BBC covered-up Jimmy Savile's disgusting criminal behaviour, I firmly believe that it was the latter unless it can be proved otherwise. 

(Click here to watch a webinar we held on 4th May 2021 looking at the future of the BBC. We asked if it should be defunded or reformed. The panellists were Nick Ross, Lord Moylan, and me. It was chaired by our chairman, David Campbell Bannerman)

Earl Spencer has called for a criminal investigation into Bashir. Quite right. If a tabloid newspaper had acted in this way, the likes of Keir Starmer would be jumping all over it. Indeed, As Director of Public Prosecutions in 2012, Keir Starmer decided that 33 tabloid journalists should face criminal charges for paying public officials for information. This resulted in dawn raids. Is the Metropolitan Police going to be knocking on Bashir's door? Are they going to feel Lord Hall's collar? Not anytime soon it appears. 

The BBC's reputation is once again being torn into little pieces. More and more of us are switching off, but does the BBC really care? Yes, the corporation requires root and branch reform. That should be obvious to even the most ardent defenders of the BBC. But one of the biggest reforms must be the way the BBC is funded. Why should we be forced to fund an organisation which doesn't share any of our values? Why should we be forced to fund an organisation whose news output is slanted to the woke left? If I want to news from a woke left perspective, I can read The Guardian. And I am not threatened with a criminal conviction if I don't hand over £159 a year to help prop-up that particular newspaper. 

As I have said for years that the BBC is clinging on to an analogue funding system in a digital world. It is also in a death spiral. Unless Tim Davie can turn the ship around, he could well be the last Director General of the BBC as we know it. In many ways the BBC's demise would be sad, but no-one can say that it didn't have it coming. 


What is the BBC for? Should it be defunded or reformed?

Please join us for our next webinar on Tuesday 4th May at 6.00 pm. We have a great panel ready to discuss, “What is the BBC for? Should it be defunded or reformed?”

Confirmed panelists are:

Andrew Allison: Andrew is Head of Campaigns for The Freedom Association.

Nick Ross: Nick is a broadcaster, journalist, and campaigner. He became a household name in the UK launching breakfast TV, Watchdog and Crimewatch and flagship radio programmes including World at One, PM and The World Tonight.

Lord Moylan. Daniel was appointed a Conservative Peer in 2020. He was chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation, deputy chairman of Transport for London, and chief airport adviser to Boris Johnson as Mayor of London. A lifelong listener of BBC Radio 3, he has described the radio channel as being "infected by a sort of relentless wokeness".

The webinar will be chaired by David Campbell Bannerman, Chairman of The Freedom Association and a former Conservative MEP from 2009-2019, representing the East of England.

To register, click here

What does Oliver Dowden's panel of broadcasting, journalism and technology leaders mean for the licence fee?



By Andrew Allison, Head of Campaigns 

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, has announced that a 10-strong panel of experts will look at the future of public service broadcasting. In an op-ed for the Telegraph, Mr. Dowden said that "the BBC is just one piece of a bigger puzzle. The world has changed, and every broadcaster needs to change with it. So I’m taking a close look at the future of our entire public service broadcasting system. That includes ITV and Channels 4 and 5 – and S4C in Wales and STV in Scotland, both of which are important to those nations." He also said that the "10-strong panel won’t just be tiptoeing around the edges. They have been tasked with asking really profound questions about the role these broadcasters have to play in the digital age – and indeed whether we need them at all. It is a crucial task, given how central public service broadcasters are to our entire creative ecosystem."

This review is long overdue. Most of the output from the BBC is not public service broadcasting. It's output is very similar to other broadcasters. The Beeb chases for ratings in the same way ITV and Sky do. The rise of Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services means fewer hours of live television are being consumed as each year passes. Who knows what the broadcasting landscape will look like in 2027 when the BBC's Royal Charter is up for renewal. 

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Decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee is good, but the Government must go further

In an article published in the Daily Mail yesterday, Culture Secretary, Nicky Morgan, wrote:

"Twenty years ago Blockbuster, the then heavyweight of video rentals, turned down a £38 million merger offer from Netflix. Today Netflix is worth £50 billion, 1,300 times its offer to Blockbuster – which has gone from 3,000 stores to a museum in Oregon, for people who want to remember what video cassettes look like. Netflix now competes with the likes of Amazon, Google and Apple for dominance of the multi-billion-dollar streaming market. The result is that people now spend three times as much time watching subscription services such as Netflix than they do BBC iPlayer. More children now recognise the names Netflix and YouTube than they do the BBC. I believe, no matter how well-funded these international streaming giants are, UK public service broadcasters are vital".

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If the BBC wants iPlayer to dominate the market, end the licence fee

The BBC dominates just about every market it enters, often at the expense of smaller companies. Now the BBC wants its iPlayer to dominate the the online TV market. It wants to compete against Netflix and Amazon. 

Lord Hall, the Beeb's director general, has said that he wants the BBC to become "“the number one online TV service in the face of fierce competition”. The competition he is talking about derive their income from subscription and advertising. But of course, what he doesn't want is an end to the compulsory telly tax that gives the BBC the cash to embark on this expansionist plan. 

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