Frank Field MP
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Auntie's Dying: Long Live Public Service Broadcasting

How can the BBC be saved? It certainly is not going to survive in its current form.

There are powerful commercial pressures who simply want a slice - and a growing slice - of the license fee. There's growing disquiet over the license fee poll tax. Why should poorer people pay an equal sum to richer people, especially as they are less likely to view BBC programmes?

If that wasn't bad enough, there's the digital revolution. The BBC was set up at a time when the means of broadcasting were very limited. Now there is almost no horizon to the possibilities of delivering programmes.

The BBC also contains the seeds of its own destruction. To justify the license fee it is compelled to put on programmes that attract huge audiences. Many of these programmes seem a direct attack on the public service broadcasting ethic which the BBC is there to enshrine.

Hence the pamphlet David Rees and I have just written - Auntie's Dying: Long Live Public Service Broadcasting.

Our main proposal is for the license fee revenues to go to the new public service broadcasting commission. This body would be the custodian of what we as a community might mean by public service broadcasting.

And they would make that ideal effective in the programmes that they would commission. We suggest that under this scenario, BBC Two and Four and Radios Three and Four and the World Service would survive. Most of the other BBC material would be broadcast commercially.

Commercial stations would be able to bid for public service broadcasting money so would individuals or groups.

David and I are part of the 2011 Trust which will celebrate 400 years of the King James Bible with, we hope, 400 major events testifying the impact this book has had on establishing the English language as a worldwide phenomenon. Under the proposed reforms the 2011 Trust would be able to bid for money to commission programmes celebrating this great event. We would then look for programme makers and outlets for our productions. Public service broadcasting would therefore be partly people driven.

The reform also envisages the provision of a great online library containing all the digital programmes commissioned under public service broadcasting. It would also pay for bringing previous broadcasts like the proms online so that users could choose what they wish to see when they wish to see, from a growing body of past public service broadcasts.

Some people have interpreted this as an attack on the BBC. It is, rather, a championing of Public Service Broadcasting, which the BBC was brought in to advance and on which it has a truly great record.

But that is becoming less so. The dividing lines are between those who will defend the BBC as an institution, and those whose loyalty is not to an institutional structure but to a hugely important cultural and democratic impact of public service broadcasting.

I think those who are loyal to the ideal, rather than the institution, will, in the long run, win.

For the sake of our culture and democracy I hope so.
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Showing comments 1 to 5 of 7

Your stance is poorly thought out. It is independant broadcasting and newspapers which are dying out due to flaws in the funding of media by advertising hastened by too much choice and the Internet. To try and save them by undermining the BBC is senseless, unless of course you are trying to curry favour with the owners of the media for political or personal advantage
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
I will to watch this space with interest and pledge to lend my support to any pressure group that might bring about the sorts of changes that you are suggesting. Personally I am desperate to see an improvement in the quality of public broadcasting for my own benefit and that of my children.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Fully agree with your proposals, the BBC is far too big and has a smug, patronising approach to its listeners and viewers. It seems to be composed of a self-selected group who think their views need to be imposed on the peasants below them!Much of their output could be provided by the commercial sector, and before you worry about intrusive advertising, remember that every BBC programme break now contains irritating advertisments (promoting themselves).Good luck with your crusade.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
It is the BBC's left wing bias that really annoys me.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Channels are dying. Full stop!I watch almost everything I watch days or even weeks after it is "broadcast" having recorded it to my V+ box. As I get used to I-Player, SkyPlayer and 4OD, I watch more "TV" on my computer than on TV.Channels are increasingly irrelevant. They are a medium of delivering programmes to viewers and the internet - with high-speed broadband - is a more suitable medium.The BBC and other "channels" will cease to be. There will be subscription services for sports and a lot more pay-per-view. The TV tax is anachronistic in the coming environment. We should be transferring the BBC's funding to the building of high-speed, fibre-optic broadband across the country and leaving the making of programmes to the market. The BBC can then make its archive available on-line, for free, forever.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011

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