Your contributions sought – a manifesto for reform of the BBC

bbc-euThe previous blog post covers yet another EU payment to the BBC to help it push the EU agenda in other countries neighbouring the bloc.   It reminded me of something I have been meaning to blog for a while, the beginnings of a manifesto for reform of the BBC.

I would really appreciate your ideas and contributions to add to the initial ideas below.  This is the first attempt I’ve made at crowdsourcing, so it will be interesting to see how this goes.

Please add your additional suggestions (or suggestions for improving the points below) in the comments so they might be considered or included in a broader piece of work I am planning concerning BBC reform.

Thanks for your help!

AM

——————

Things that need to happen to rein in the BBC if people are to ever trust the organisation and if it is ever to be deserving of public money:

  1. The Freedom of Information exemption, that is routinely abused by the BBC should be abolished.  The only thing that should be kept secret ‘for the purposes of journalism’ are sources for stories who may be at risk if they were exposed
  2. The way editorial decisions and story selections are made and interviewees are chosen should be open to public scrutiny
  3. Internal reports that are commissioned about BBC reporting and the slant of its reporters, should be open to public scrutiny
  4. The BBC Charter should be amended to stop the BBC from broadcasting the opinion of its journalists, masquerading as news
  5. News should be presented impartially giving all sides of an argument so the viewer can decide for themselves what to think
  6. BBC journalists should no longer be allowed to advance any agenda in internal BBC workshops to ‘educate’ and ‘inform’ programme makers in non-news areas
  7. The commissioning or purchase of programmes that are made to influence public thinking on particular subjects should be banned
  8. … over to you…

31 Responses to “Your contributions sought – a manifesto for reform of the BBC”


  1. 1 tux1952 03/11/2013 at 11:18 am

    The Brussels Broadcasting Corporation will only take notice if you (try) and hit them where it hurts most…
    A mass refusal to pay the licence fee, with attendant explanation(s) and publicity (ads in national/local press??) might concentrate minds and promote debate.
    I’m not holding my breath…
    Off to the pub, soon, for further cogitation…

  2. 2 adams 03/11/2013 at 11:50 am

    Privatize the BBC . It is compromised beyond redemption . It is now just a PC clone for brainwashing the ill informed British .. The compulsory tax has to go .

  3. 3 AKM 03/11/2013 at 12:00 pm

    I don’t think the BBC is any more reformable than the EU. Any rules you make will be ignored or subverted. The only effective way to reform the BBC would be to fire ALL of them and start again with new staff. However the enemy class would just start a new “long-march through the institutions” and in a couple of generations it would need to be reformed all over again.

    The problem is that the very idea of a “non-partisan” media organisation is a bad one. Humans are very bad a seeing past their biases in general, and the BBC sees no need to even try… after all they’re the good guys; C.S Lewis’s “omnipotent moral busybodies”.

    I suggest that a manifesto to reform the way we manage the broadcast media in general would be a better bet than just reforming the BBC. We should be scrapping the entire concept of a non-partisan media, and trying to think of ways we can encourage a better level of political debate on the airwaves. Maybe requiring broadcasters to declare their biases and to give the other side a fair hearing when they are discussing any controversial issue.

  4. 4 blackswansblog 03/11/2013 at 12:20 pm

    Yes, privatize the BBC. There’s no need any more for it be publicly owned – if there ever has been since the end of WWII. The only public funds should come from the FCO to finance the broadcasting of UK-centred English language programmes worldwide.

    No funds or subsidy from other sources than the broadcasting companies’ owners, other than the FCO’s contract, should be worth more than, say, 5% of an individual broadcaster’s revenue – & all contractors’ identity should be clearly disclosed at each programme.

    This would have the benefit of getting rid of the ridiculous TV tax, reduce the power to influence broadcasting by large organizations other than by each broadcaster’s publicly declared genuine owner, & spread the best of the current BBC staff around existing & newly-created private broadcasting companies to these companies’ & the general public’s real benefit.

  5. 5 theboillingfrog 03/11/2013 at 12:33 pm

    Do I take from the implications of your piece that you’re aiming to reform the BBC within its current remit of being a public broadcaster?

  6. 6 theboillingfrog 03/11/2013 at 12:35 pm

    Sorry I should have added that I only ask as it would govern the nature of my reply

  7. 7 maureen gannon 03/11/2013 at 12:35 pm

    I’ll second all you had to say on the matter AM .

    And fully agree it should be privatised, I am pass the age of paying for it so have no axe to grind on that score, the bias is so blatant, but if it is fact that Dave is common purpose we have no hope of anything being done. it is their tool.

  8. 8 TheOceanian 03/11/2013 at 12:45 pm

    Just get rid of the Tele Tax. Say reduce it to zero over 3 years, within the life of a SINGLE parliament, and let the Beeb sink or swim in the real world. (Reduced over 3 years to allow an ‘orderly’ reduction of man-power etc).

  9. 9 Anthem 03/11/2013 at 12:47 pm

    There is absolutely no justification for giving any media organisation funding from what is basically a tax in all but name in this day and age.

    The organisation should be free to behave in any way it chooses but we should be free to decide whether or not we wish to fund its behaviour.

    The Licence Fee should be abolished.

  10. 10 Autonomous Mind 03/11/2013 at 2:22 pm

    TBF, yes I was structuring this in terms of reforming the BBC and maintaining the concept of public service broadcast.

  11. 11 cosmic 03/11/2013 at 3:49 pm

    You need to go back to the reasons the BBC was founded in 1922. Here was radio, this incredibly powerful new medium and the government wasn’t going to allow it to go its own way, and realised it couldn’t control it directly, hence the quasi-autonomous and high minded charter.

    When TV came along there was eventually a commercial service running along side it. Then came a multiplicity of TV channels, satellite, cable and the internet.

    Things are very different today from when the BBC was started.

    Do we need public service broadcasting? If so why? How is it to be financed. How big should it be? How should it be controlled? Should it stray into areas which are well covered by commercial operations; the huge web site, local radio etc. What about the commercial operation selling past programs, DVDs etc?

    I think I’d slim it down by selling parts off or closing them, such as local radio, and forcing other parts to be done on a pay to view basis, not a blanket telly tax. I’d make the World Service a separate organisation or put it under the wing of the FCO. I believe the way things are done in France is to put the charge on property tax and if you don’t have a TV, you can request not to be charged.

    As it stands the BBC is very much overblown.

    I’m not sure you can reform an organisation which has developed a pervasive culture, in this case, luvvie-leftism. Having said it should be slimmed down, it’s probably easier to abolish it than reform it. Something that struck me is that a couple of people have said that the BBC really don’t regard themselves as biased at all.

    6. BBC journalists should no longer be allowed to advance any agenda in internal BBC workshops to ‘educate’ and ‘inform’ programme makers in non-news areas

    This is really very hard to stop given the current size and wide scope of the BBC. Look at 28gate and the sorts of people involved. What was it? The head of comedy, the head of childrens’ programming. There was clearly an intention to advance CAGW through a unified propaganda campaign. Just about every other programme on R4 used to put in a mention of CAGW as if it was unchallengeable fact.

  12. 12 Sam Duncan 03/11/2013 at 6:36 pm

    Sorry, AM. No broadcaster is deserving of public money. I’ve never been able to find any clear and concise definition of what “public service broadcasting” actually is, beyond what the panjandrums decide is good for the little people. It’s an almost infinitely malleable term.

    Denationalization is no answer either. We’ve seen with the likes of BT that state monopolies simply continue to behave the same as they always have, dominating the market for years, if they’re allowed to keep all their existing assets.

    The BBC must be shut down. Channel 4 might be privatized, but the BBC has to go.

  13. 13 Andy 03/11/2013 at 7:43 pm

    Go into orbit and nuke it from space. It’s the only way to be sure.

  14. 14 Tom Mills 03/11/2013 at 9:31 pm

    8. Complaints to be assessed by an independent body.

  15. 15 frightfulmess 03/11/2013 at 10:32 pm

    The BBC cannot be reformed – it must be sold off. The BBC’s main function is to keep the House of Windsor family as the head of state. If you abolish the BBC you will abolish the monarchy, which wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    Far from being left-wing the BBC is right-wing collectivist, hence the obsession with environmentalism, attacking capitalism – a creation of the landless middle class – and the ‘limits to growth agenda’.

  16. 16 Woodsy42 04/11/2013 at 12:53 am

    It’s way beyond reform.
    Personally I do see a need for a public broadcaster, but only the most basic service to do things which are not cost efective for commercial channels and prevent a ‘race to the lowest common denominator’. My plan would therefore be along these lines:
    Close the BBC.
    Create a new service with no ex-BBC management allowed. A licence fee (or tax levy) of max £20 per year per household. The new service would provide.
    A fact based national (all UK, none of the Alba or welsh variants) radio station for news, current affairs, politics, education and information – essentially the factual based bits of current radio 4, world service &t R5.
    A ‘light programme’ type service for drama, music, history, documentaries and comedy (but not mass market shows).
    A similar pair of TV channels, 1 fact based like a mix of BBc News, Parliament, BBC 2 and BBC 4 and the other a ‘light programme’ type TV channel for music, drama, leisure type documentaries, history and information programming of the sort not provided commercially.
    Maybe 10 regional radio channels – one welsh, one scottish, North west, North East etc.
    A small web site that echos only the channel subjects.
    They would be specifically barred from indulging in ratings wars and deliberate clashes of similar programmes with other channels.
    All mass market entertainment channels, from Radio 1 to BBC tV 3, sold off.
    Job done.

  17. 17 Lynne 04/11/2013 at 9:04 am

    The only reform I’m interested in is repatriation. Repatriating the licence fee money back into my pocket from which it was extorted, via state mandate, under the threat of criminal proceedings resulting in imprisonment and/or an equally extortionate fine.

  18. 18 Adam West 04/11/2013 at 11:50 am

    frightfulmess said: “The BBC cannot be reformed – it must be sold off.”

    I do agree it is beyond reform but don’t agree with selling it. We’ve paid for it countless times over. It is ours. Issue shares to every licence fee payer and let them get on with buying more or selling their share, and the BBC can operate under the Ofcom rules like any other broadcaster.

  19. 19 theboillingfrog 04/11/2013 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks for the clarification AM,

    Coming from the perspective of keeping it so that it remains funded from the public purse my thoughts are as follows…

    Unsurprisingly and understandably there are a number of comments on here that want to privatise the BBC and thus abolish the license fee. Comments where I largely sympathise with these sentiments; however there are a couple of things to bear in mind.

    The license fee is not a tax forced upon us. Television essentially is a luxury item where we can choose not to pay it by either not having one or not using it for its primary purpose. Unlike, for example the poll tax which was forced upon us and where one of the only ways to avoid paying was to remove ourselves from the electoral roll – essentially disenfranchising ourselves. A far more serious proposition.

    In addition privatising the BBC would remove it from its Royal Charter obligations. It is currently a very large organisation with a lot of influence. Yes it has an inherent left-wing bias now, but imagine what it would be like if it was suddenly given a completely free rein? It doesn’t even bear thinking about.

    And whether we like it or not, the BBC is a British brand which projects a form of “soft power” across world for the UK, a view I think reflected in comments above regarding the BBC World Service.

    The problem with the BBC is two-fold – its size and its unaccountability. Its size is enormous, it has countless television stations, radio stations, local tv and radio services, its bloated internet page, plus it publishes books, magazines and employs staff orchestras, and even once dipped its toes into the world of computers.

    Its size means power which unchecked leads to arrogance, if we are to consider BBC reform, we should reduce its size. It doesn’t need more than one television station (maybe at a stretch two), its main radio stations should be either sold off, amalgamated or scrapped. And also the need to tackle its overstaffing.

    As for unaccountability, that’s a little more tricky if it is to remain a public sector broadcaster. I agree AM with your suggestions above however as the Harrogate demands illustrate the ability to withdrawal money is a key factor in accountability – to force people to listen by means of their wallet. As anyone knows who complains to the BBC, complaining is rarely effective. This is compounded by the fact that the BBC Trust acts as the final arbiter of the BBC complaints process. An independent complaints body would be the obvious solution to this flaw. This would be an improvement though as the Independent Police Complaints Commission shows it is a solution that is far from perfect.

    Those are my initial thoughts.

  20. 20 Autonomous Mind 04/11/2013 at 12:26 pm

    Thank you for the well considered contribution, TBF. Very helpful indeed.

  21. 21 blackswansblog 04/11/2013 at 12:40 pm

    According to The Telegraph, BBC Media Action, which is part of the BBC’s Global News division, was paid £4.5 million from Brussels last year, mostly for work designed to ensure the progress of the enlargement of the EU. See:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10423013/BBC-faces-new-bias-row-over-charity-given-millions-by-EU.html

    As the article says: “Angie Bray, the Conservative MP & member of the Commons media select committee, said she feared that Brussels may be attempting to use the BBC “to further the empire building ambitions of the EU”.
    “On past form, many licence fee payers will be concerned that this is another example of the BBC finding ways of promoting its pro-EU agenda.”
    “We all know that the EU doesn’t spend funds on projects that are not all about promoting the EU. Clearly investing that kind of money in this BBC charitable project suggests that they are expecting a big result from this.”

    Well, now that Parliament has at last woken up to the EU/BBC problem, let’s see some instant action from our well-paid “representatives”, & the immediate break-up of the infernal BBC, & a UK departure from the loathesome EU!

  22. 22 Mark B 04/11/2013 at 1:41 pm

    The internet and modern digital technology has made the Licence Fee redundant as a means of funding the BBC. If I wanted to watch another TV Service Provider I would still have to get a TV Licence even if I never watched the BBC. It is this that must change. Subscription such as we see with SKY works very well. It will allow those who watch the service to pay for that services, and those who illegally watch TV without a licence to be quite rightly excluded. It is a fair and reasonable means of watching broadcast and internet TV. The technology is there and so does not have to be reinvented.

    If the Royal Mail and other public services such as water and electricity can be placed into private ownership, and these are essential services, then I see no reason why part or all of the BBC’s output can go the same way. If I do not like its content, then I can refuse to give them my money and allow market forces to the rest.

    The monies saved by not prosecuting people over non payment of the TV Licence will save both money and court time.

    Increasingly I am getting more of my news and a growing proportion of my entertainment via the internet. On YouTube, small groups of individuals are providing niche programming of ever increasing quality and content. All free. They just wish you to subscribe or go too their web-store and purchase a T-Shirt or something or other to keep them going.

    Television is changing. The BBC represents a particular sector but it should be more democratized. The Trust should be voted by the TV Licence payers. Failing that, oversight should be done by OFCOM.

    The bias in the organisation will never go away but, making it more vulnerable to market forces and public opinion will help to move it into a more neutral position.

  23. 23 David Jones 04/11/2013 at 5:25 pm

    I’m afraid it has to go – sell it – issue shares to licence holders – smash it – I don’t mind.

    Items 2 – 6 can easily be circumvented in the way that the obligation to be impartial is ignored now.

    The BBC and its people are smugness epitomised. Even when they leave to join another outfit (e.g. Talksport) they carry this with them. Insufferable!.

    They are in love with celebrity (their own of course). How many scientific or travel programmes are ruined because the camera is lingering on the features of the “celebrity” presenter and not on what he or she is talking about! I can’t remember the name but there was a programme on Roman sites and in particular on some marvelous marble carving of which we only got brief glimpses because the presenter’s face was obviously more important.

    Have you noticed that the camera is always low down so that the presenter looks down on the viewers.

    In Japan (where I lived for several years) NHK does marvelous documentaries using just a calm voiceover and letting the pictures speak for themselves.

    Most of this is an irrelevant rant – but I feel better! Sorry AM.

  24. 24 Adam West 04/11/2013 at 5:58 pm

    theboillingfrog,

    you said: “In addition privatising the BBC would remove it from its Royal Charter obligations. It is currently a very large organisation with a lot of influence. Yes it has an inherent left-wing bias now, but imagine what it would be like if it was suddenly given a completely free rein? It doesn’t even bear thinking about.”

    Whatever the intentions of the Royal Charter I guess we have different views of what it actually achieves. To me it restrains the BBC’s output and skews the telly market giving Sky a significant advantage both in terms of what they can broadcast and how much of the commercial market they can gobble up. Sky does not compete with the BBC for revenue and Sky does not have to abide by the same rules (for what they are worth). The Royal Charter also artificially inflates the credibility of the messages the BBC broadcasts.

    A BBC given a completely free rein would be great to my mind. They could say what they like and accept the consequences just like most other broadcasters have to do. The inflated and these days unjustified sense of respectability would be removed.

    Long ago the BBC transcended the derisory position of ‘state broadcaster’. Cutting it down to size would be a waste of that investment by the public and reduce the value of the brand.

    A commercial BBC will be as big or as small as the market can stand balanced against the skills of the employees and management. If Sky can bring in billions of income through adverts and subscription services the BBC could too. The brand has value, some of the products are good and if they provide good services people will buy them.

  25. 25 Robert 04/11/2013 at 6:30 pm

    Make the BBC a subscription channel. This can be done on Freeview or Yourview or even Sky. This would mean that those who wanted the BBC would have to pay for it. Why should we pay for the BBC to watch other channels?

  26. 26 theboillingfrog 04/11/2013 at 6:49 pm

    @Adam West “A BBC given a completely free rein would be great to my mind. They could say what they like and accept the consequences just like most other broadcasters have to do”.

    —————-

    In an open and free market that was set as such from the outset I would agree with that, but the BBC has been a state broadcaster for so long – the first in the world – its heritage so ingrained in our culture, its long reach so incalculable as a result it would from the start have a massive advantage.

    Its ‘prestige’ is so deeply embedded; to eliminate that will take time. To simply privatise it suddenly now would let leash a steroid induced Guardian monster that would simply overwhelm the opposition. Thus the need to cut it down to size first.

  27. 27 Bryan Tomlinson 04/11/2013 at 7:27 pm

    I’m sick of the BBC. The entertain us if we wish and they offer advice if we need to listen.
    The biggest problem is the use of the BBC as a propoganda tool for extremists in the undemocratic EU and mass uncontrolled immigration camps.
    For this reason the overpaid anti British Establishment lackeys at the BBC need to be more accountable.
    Break the BBC up.
    I’ll pay for BBC News if it is impartial but if the BBC are the Establishment’s p.r. mouthpiece let them pay for it.
    Only 16%/17% believe that the EU and mass uncontrolled immigration place no burdens on British society and they must all work for the BBC. .

  28. 28 Neil Craig 05/11/2013 at 11:39 am

    The problem with your list is that it is all regulatory – people, with the incentive will find ways round regulations. What is needed is incentives other than to suck up to the state. The obvious one is commercial incentives ie privatising the lot or letting it be funded by pay per view.

    Here is another http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/how-to-reform-bbc-without-advertising.html which would get most BBC airtime taken up by small independent companies with a multiplicity of views.

    I have also suggested a regular debate programme on issues chosen by the public. http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=x-factor This would be proper debates on which both sides would have to be properly represented not the BBC mis-definition of “debate” shown on QT.

    This would be very cheap to produce (cheaper than Mastermind and I am sure, popular. Obviously the BBC were so uninterested in it they refused even to say why they were uninterested.

    Perhaps coincidentally whenever the warming fraud has been submitted to debate it has been thrashed. I suspect the EU, windmills, mass immigration and anti-nuclear or GM scares would fare similarly. Free debate is a necessary and perhaps sufficient condition for a free society and the BBC are thus opposed to it.

  29. 29 Neil Craig 05/11/2013 at 12:07 pm

    This academic report on the statistical effect of state ownership of media, found a close correlation between state ownership and authoritarianism, corruption and many forms of government failure http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDRS/Resources/477365-1257315064764/2423_djankov.pdf

    I believe it gives an unanswerable argument for ending state ownership of BBC/C4 and can explain why the UK is the world’s slowest growing English speaking nation.

  30. 30 Adam West 07/11/2013 at 10:57 am

    theboillingfrog,

    “To simply privatise it suddenly now would let leash a steroid induced Guardian monster that would simply overwhelm the opposition. Thus the need to cut it down to size first.”

    I’m relaxed about that. I would be keen to maximise the return to the licence fee payers who have paid for it by making them shareholders. The return would be bigger if the BBC is able to trade on the reputation and assets it has built up over time. I’m sure it would slim down its operations quickly but if squashing competition is an issue I’m also sure Sky wouldn’t hesitate in complaining to Ofcom and competition regulators.

    A Guardian on steroids either could or couldn’t succeed. If it does, great! If it doesn’t, also great! A bit of creative destruction in the telly market and assets sold off muck cheap to Five, ITV or new entrants would follow in short order. It’s not that I have blind faith in consumers and market forces though, it’s that I have no faith in central planners being able to do something sensible and proportionate.


  1. 1 Cowardice | UKIP Hillingdon Trackback on 04/11/2013 at 3:27 pm
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