Monday, 18 October 2010

BBC World Service

For years I have cringed when British Politicians have claimed that this that or the other British institution is "The best in the world and the envy of he world" when it patently isn't. Paradoxically, the one institution that actually is the best in the world and the envy of the world is the BBC, and yet it its constantly under attack from the Tories.

Rumour has it that the World Service is to receive a cut of 25%. If this is true it is incredibly stupid. In the over-all scheme of things expenditure on the World Service is a flea-bite, and yet its reputation for comprehensiveness and impartiality does more for British prestige than all our possession of Trident, our seat on the Security Council, our allegedly Rolls Royce of a diplomatic service, our "punching above our weight" or whatever else our politicians like to boast about.

If I were in charge. rather than a cut I would give the World Service a rise of 20%, then leave them to get on with the job they do so well.


  1. The Government, including the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, need to learn that size isn't everything.

  2. It tends to be under attack at least partly because of the inherent waste - excellent service or not (and I agree it mostly is), it seems something of a parody that the entire Sky News operation, which is entirely successful in its own right, is approximately the same size as the BBC's dedicated Newsnight team. There's also considerable discontent at the BBC's political bias; it seems odd to provide state funding on a non-political basis for a broadcaster which by its own admission concedes a political bias. Numerous examples of this bias on a weekly basis have led many Conservatives to conclude that there isn't much hope of impartiality; leaving the question of what good a state broadcaster is, if it is not neutral?

    In any event, I notice that the World Service is not receiving direct cuts, but is coming directly into the BBC's budget. Do you think this is a better solution?

  3. An article in THE GUARDIAN has revealed my stupidity but now I finally understand WHY companies pay what is your answer? (there are ulterior reasons;think of Bill Gates) ALLAN MARRIOTT posted Oct 21

  4. Allan, your comment is a little enigmatic. To what question do you require an answer?

  5. Chris, re the BBC.

    I know little about the relative expenditures of Sky and the BBC, so can't comment. All large organisations, both public and private, can be criticised for waste and the BBC is no exception. I certainly do not approve of the large salaries given to some directors and presenters.

    I'm pleased that the funding of the World Service has been taken away from the Foreign Office, which lead to (unjustified, I think) accusations that it is an arm of government propaganda, but forcing the BBC to finance it out of a frozen licence fee is a sneaky way of cutting the overall BBC funding, which I think is a silly mistake.

    I repeat, the BBC is the one British institution which really is the best in the world and the envy of the world, and we should cherish it.

    The accusation of bias does not really hold up. If both Labour and the Conservatives feel the BBC is biased against them it is probable that the BBC is getting it about right.

  6. I agree with you in principle about the BBC - it's certainly a good export. I suppose the problem is that a budget deficit can be death by a thousand cuts (ask Charles Kennedy or Ming Campbell about that sort of demise!) - if we spare the BBC World Service, what else do we spare? Surely Sheffield Forgemasters could make the same claim; so could any number of employees of any public service - the list would stretch on. I think there are very few, if any, non-contentious areas of expenditure to trim; what precedent would it set if we spared the BBC World Service, but told the students that they'd have to pay the raised tuition fees? I realise that the figures are different, but I think it sets off dangerous questions about a government's care and priorities for its citizens; and it gives one area licence to profligacy whilst forcing only some to have to tighten the belt, which seems eminently unfair. In any case, the above example re: the Newsnight team says a lot about the huge level of waste - are we really to believe that one programme requires the same number of staff as an entire channel, or are there a lot of outdated practices, jobs-for-the-boys, redundant positions and cosy, slow-paced working environments at the Beeb? Whatever the answer, assuming you wish to cut public expenditure (I know you don't, but assuming that was the decision taken), it's surely only fair to ask everyone to share the burden.

    On the question of bias - I've always felt the retort that "Labour and Conservatives both complain, so it's okay" (which I've heard from many Lib Dems, although I note they're complaining a bit more now!) is a bit of an easy soundbite that skims over the reality. So I leave with the view of both the BBC's staff, and its Director General:

    BBC staff - "we're biased against Christians, and we promote left-wing views" (2006) -

    Director General - "Massive institutional bias to the left" (2010) -