Now that the dust has settled on the General Election, the Conservative supporting sections of the press have returned to one of their favourite pastimes, bashing the BBC. The Murdoch press in particular gleefully reported that the appointment of John Whittingdale as Culture Secretary was tantamount to a declaration of war on the BBC.
The Conservatives, and their friends in the national press, have long believed that the BBC has an inbuilt left wing agenda which discriminates against them. Really? A list of some of the highest profile contributors to BBC current affairs and factual programming would have to include the likes of Andrew Neil, Nick Robinson, Michael Portillo and Jeremy Paxman. Hardly a bunch of pinko liberals!
As if often the case, the real agenda is almost certainly a commercial one. It’s no coincidence that a weakened BBC would play into the hands of Sky TV, which of course just happens to be part of Murdoch’s media empire. Sky is already benefitting from the fact that the real terms reductions to the licence fee have allowed it to outbid the BBC for high profile sports rights, most recently the Open Golf Championship.
There is little doubt that the BBC has not done itself any favours in recent years by badly mishandling a number of headline grabbing scandals, ranging from the Jimmy Savile case to the more recent Jeremy Clarkson sacking. However, for the majority of the British public the BBC still remains a trusted news brand and a valued source of entertainment.
The Government would be well advised to tread carefully on this one. At a time when David Cameron is keen to prevent any potential breakup of the United Kingdom, it’s worth remembering that the BBC is one of the few remaining institutions which everyone in Britain identifies with.