It's Saturday and The Guardian is running yet another story about BBC funding. So what's new? Well, stories with an anti-BBC slant normally appear on a Monday and are confined to the Media section rather than splashed on the front page, so I'm already confused.
This time the Tories are saying that the BBC's growth must be curbed or it should expect the worst come the license fee renewal in 2012.
Tory spokesman, Jeremy Hunt, who The Guardian describes as an 'affable figure' and a 'moderniser' (so that's okay then – he's not one of those really nasty, right-wing types, who want to kill-off the BBC) says that the Corporation's growth represents a threat to democracy and there must be curbs placed on its websites and its executive's pay.
Of course, The Guardian reporters do NOT challenge him on the fact that the license fee remains incredible value at 39p a day ( You couldn't even buy a copy of The Guardian for the price). OR the totally unfounded portrayal of the BBC as being an evil predatory beast - which is just looking for new markets to expand into. This is a myth that is repeated time and time again.
I convinced that most normal people (i.e. those who don't work for national newspapers or media companies with commercial agendas) believe that, at 39p a day, the BBC offers pretty good value for money.
Well, there is the normal disclaimer… I am an avid listener to Radio 5 Live, I don't really care much for Radio 3 or, indeed, Radio 4. But I still want them to be there and at some stage in my life I will probably listen to it. I probably will never listen to BBC 1Xtra, but I teach some students who love it.
I've a feeling that when the Tory axe falls on the BBC, it will do so unevenly. The type of output that is loved by middle-aged white male MPs will stay, the rest will see cuts.
To give a recent example of some great BBC output, BBC Sport's Formula One Grand Prix coverage online is simply superb. I'm loving these interactive circuit guides. Even those without slightest interest in Grand Prix should check it out.
Tory-boy Hunt, backed by new mate Rupert Murdoch, would probably prefer that we didn't get to enjoy this. They would perhaps argue that a commercial provider, given the chance, will offer an even better service.
Well, in my view, this argument doesn't wash with F1 coverage – ITV had F1 last year after all. There are a lot of F1 sites out there and this assumption that they would all beneifit if the BBC didn't exist is just idiotic.
What is too often ignored is the fact that the BBC raises the game. To put it crudely, for websites to succeed they have to be good - there is nothing wrong with that when it improves quality. Anyone can create a really bad website and moan that it is terrible because we're in a recession and nobody is advertising.
Taken to its logical extreme, free market broadcasting would mean perhaps all TV channels will end up looking like Quest…. now that's scary. Only someone like Jeremy Hunt or Rupert Murdoch would want that.
In the highly fragmented online and broadcast media market, where
advertising revenue is split between numerous players, the BBC is
required now more so than ever to ensure quality.
Those who attack the BBC say that it limits commercial competition, as Hunt puts it "the BBC could be the only show in town". But this needs to be challenged.
This argument always ignores the work that the Beeb does throughout the UK in encouraging creativity and training talent (which the commercial sector benefits hugely from). And let us not forget it outsources much of its programme-making to independent production houses, which it has carried on doing throughout the recent advertising downturn.
I am convinced that the public really values the BBC and the huge variety of (mostly) high quality output. These arguments from the Tories just won't rub. But the Tory party will offer the 'carrot' to media companies of curbing BBC power in return for political support, something that The Guardian does highlight in its article.
But The Guardian has a duty to challenge Tory policy on the BBC, as it does brilliantly in just about every other area of policy. It can not and should not simply act as a mouthpiece for those critics of the BBC.
Come 2012 and the BBC license renewal, whoever is running the government will have the power to either enhance the BBC or, alternatively, cut its funding and legislate it out of existence.