The Guardian and its anti-BBC views.

Guardian Media Group (GMG) say “The BBC and BBC Worldwide are encroaching into online areas where
commercially funded players could provide the content required.” [
Yahoo Pans Ofcom’s Search Plan, Says May Be Too Big – PaidContentUK]

The report also states, rather too vaguely for my liking, Yahoo! has “joined the growing ranks grumbling about the BBC’s scale.”

Really? Who the f***k are these grumblers?

The only sound of grumbling I hear (apart from that coming from gastro pubs in Farringdon) is from the British Internet Publisher’s Alliance (BIPA). This rather secretive organisation is bankrolled by large media companies, including  Rupert Murdoch’s News International (no surprise) and, oddly, the ever-so liberal – Guardian newspaper.

So whenever you read a news story or opinion in a broadsheet newspaper regarding the BBC, it’s worth checking whether its publisher declares its membership of BIPA [Check its membership list NOW!]

Those that wish to curb the power of the BBC are in a minority in the UK. Unfortunately, they are a minority who happen to work in publishing, have massive public influence and tend be vocal sods.

The Guardian has the facility to spread the BIPA anti-BBC message to the great and the good using its well-read Monday media section.

It also now has a new platform  – PaidContent – which GMG bought recently. Can the Guardian possibly resist the temptation to dominate the online news funding debate using its new baby as a tool?

BIPA would like to see a ‘level playing field in the online news environment’ – sounds okay, right? In reality, many would like to see funding withdrawn for key BBC services enjoyed by millions. At the extreme end, some even would like to see the large and very popular news site pulled completely.

Commercially, The Guardian would find it very, very, handy if license fee funding for was abolished or it service significantly scaled back – not just in the UK, but USA. BBC News is a massive player in  the US online market, a market which The Guardian is hoping to also dominate.

The reality is that is a fantastic site and the on-demand, iPlayer, stuff is great. As it does with TV and radio, the BBC sets the standard in online journalism in the UK.

It is enjoyed and relied upon to give honest and accurate information by millions of people around the world, but this means nothing to those commercial rivals at BIPA who will do anything to attack the BBC.

I suspect that many Guardian readers enjoy the BBC site and see it for
what it is – a fantastic resource which is an absolute bargain in terms of what we pay for it per a month. They would be shocked to hear that their respected newspaper is privately lobbying against it.

Commercial rivals need to get real. Work out how to raise your game and compete. Quit complaining into your chardonnay and DO NOT INSIST ON FURTHER CRIPPLING REGULATION THAT WILL EVENTUALLY KILL THE BBC.

But competing in a poor economic climate is difficult and that’s why we can expect the grumbling from commercial rivals to get louder and more frequent in the pages of newspapers like The Guardian.

4 Responses to The Guardian and its anti-BBC views.

  1. Adrian Monck July 23, 2008 at 12:28 am #

    Steve, submitting a document by invitation to a public regulator is hardly secret lobbying.

  2. Steve July 23, 2008 at 2:01 pm #

    Hi Adrian, thanks for the comment and stopping by.
    I agree, although I am sure there is plenty of private lobbying as well. How many readers are aware of the paper’s stance on this issue?
    I did a search on The Guardian newspaper website. I couldn’t use The Guardian’s own search engine because, frankly, it’s terrible [That’s one thing the Guardian could improve].
    So I searched the site using the big G and the column inches of stories relating to BBC funding is enough to paper Television Centre (and maybe Bush House). This leads us to question why this is?
    No, I didn’t find evidence of Guardian opinion writers blatantly saying that the BBC model is dead in the digital age. But what you can interpret from the huge volume of articles (not forgetting comment on the Media podcast) is that there is problem with the BBC.
    So the question is whether concern about funding of the BBC is a minority interest? Or whether it really keeps most readers awake at night?
    Just to be clear, I don’t believe the BBC is perfect.But the BBC digital offerings are worth defending and they shouldn’t be suffocated by excessive regulation. It’s a tough market, but IMHO complaints about the BBC are often the ‘sour grapes’ variety.

  3. Neil McIntosh August 4, 2008 at 5:16 pm #

    Steve – evidence for the conspiracy to which you allude is, to put it kindly, thin. And you appear to be arguing, simultaneously, that (i) the Guardian is secretly campaigning to cripple the BBC and (ii) using its pages to very publicly campaign to cripple the BBC. It’s either one or the other, no?
    Use Google a little more and you’ll find plenty of vocal *support* for the BBC inside the Guardian’s pages – here’s a fine example, found in roughly 10 seconds, from Polly Toynbee a few months ago – “Save the BBC from these Murdoch-pleasing predators”
    Search further and you’ll also find criticism of an organisation which is an aggressive, tax-funded competitor to most large UK publishers. But, despite what you say, I’ve yet to see a demand from a publisher to close down news- perhaps you could supply a link?
    While I love – and consume – lots of the BBC’s journalism, many of us argue that it does not have sufficient controls placed on its expansion on the web, or proper regulation of its budgets (see its recent, huge, overspend). The impact of that is to stifle innovation, because no rational commercial publisher will invest in a better service in a niche or geographical area if it thinks the BBC – with its deep pockets and no need to turn a profit – will enter that market too.
    Ultimately the question here is about plurality of voice, and whether or not that is endangered by the BBC’s moves into new markets such as – say – local TV news. Maybe you really are arguing the BBC is good enough to meet all needs, and that it doesn’t need competition to keep it performing. But suggesting that the BIPA is some kind of shady organisation dictating its members editorial line is, alas, bobbins, and doesn’t really move the debate forwards.

  4. Steve August 5, 2008 at 2:00 pm #

    Thanks for your comments Neil. I have to admit to missing the link to Polly’s superb article. I am a great fan of Guardian output – I print off G24, download Tech and Media podcasts, and a couple of times a week will buy the paper. I have high expectations…
    Yes, my original post a little mischievous in tone, but I am loathed to admit to imagining men with umbrellas on a grassy knolls.
    As you mention, at the heart of the debate is this “BBC stifles innovation” argument. I get slightly confused when I hear this though.
    The people who argue this case seem to be slightly selective in the application of the argument…Is the BBC currently stifling innovation on the web? If so, why? Is the BBC stifling innovation in local radio? I presume some people would say ‘yes’ to this as well, but I am not convinced by the whys.
    The BBC obviously operates in a huge number of sectors (some would say far too many different markets), but I don’t believe the BBC just marches in and will do anything until a regulator blows the whistle.
    That may well have been the case if you look back 5 years ago, but not anymore.
    Seven years ago I chaired a debate for Internet Magazine about the role of BBC Online (as it was known) and (the ISP and shopping portal from BBC Worldwide). Back then a lot of people were concerned about the role of and the fact it seemed to trade on confusion regarding its relationship with the BBC. But is dead and, perhaps, rightly so.
    The BBC is a formidable rival, but it acts to keep the whole industry on its toes. I remeber a spokeswoman from ITN telling me that having such as formidable and supremely well-resourced rival, certainly acted to raise ITN’s game.
    She said that she thought ITN is best when it is being different and not attempting to compete directly with the BBC. Many people will watch News At Ten (or is it 10.30?) because it’s NOT the BBC.
    I am wondering if The Guardian is currently looking at various sectors, particularly in online broadcasting, and all too often finding the BBC is sat at the top of the mountain.
    Instead of trying to persuade the BBC to move its, admittedly rather large “booty”, to one side. The Guardian could take its smaller, rather cute, Kylie arse and choose markets where the BBC does not dominate. There are plenty of them around. But perhaps in the US market The Guardian sees the BBC as the main competitor for the ears and eyes of liberal Americans?
    As regarding regional news, I really fear for this sector. Many local newspaper websites are too weak and low quality. ITV also appears to be withdrawing from regional news.
    But I would argue, as you may expect, that it’s even more important that the BBC actually INCREASES its local news output, to save a sector that is hitting the rocks.