Patrick Hall discusses why the BBC is one of Britain's great successes and must be defended.
Why does everyone hate the BBC?
It is a question I find I ask myself with increasing frequency, with considerable bafflement, and not without a hint of frustration.
You see, for me, like for so many others, the BBC is a boon. It brings us gripping dramas on Sunday nights. It brings us irreverent comedies and considered documentaries. It brings us the clinical analysis of the 10 o’clock news, the careful dissections of Newsnight, the merciless public interrogations Question Time.
The BBC is the jewel in the crown of our public institutions; and yet, this last bastion of public good is under siege from all directions.
It is no secret that the Right has long loathed the BBC. To free market zealots it is that most egregious of affronts: the successful public corporation. To others, it is a nightmare of wokeness and wetness, kowtowing to the metropolitan elite.
However, with the largest Conservative majority since 1987, the Right has never had such an opportune moment to strike at the BBC.
The assault on the BBC has already commenced. Government ministers boycott the Today programme; Dominic Cummings, who once led a think tank calling for the BBC’s abolition, is at the heart of government; the Prime Minister is toying with axing the licence fee. Make no mistake, the BBC is in peril.
Yet many on the Left view the BBC with deep suspicion, too. In the 2019 general election, Corbynites raged against Laura Kuenssberg and the supposedly biased coverage of the BBC. Online, many scream ‘defund the BBC’ in response to the corporation’s coverage of refugees and race.
I say: the Left must defend, not defund, the BBC.
The BBC is a testament to the principle of public over private. We own the BBC. It is controlled by the people. It exists to serve the public interest, not private profit. Besides the NHS, few other such institutions still exist in Britain today. It is one of our last public institutions, and we may lose it if we do not defend it.
In addition, the BBC elevates the quality of the national conversation. Sure, sometimes the impartiality feels frustrating. When we see BBC anchors calmly reporting on the refugee crisis in the Channel, we wonder why they do not share our outrage. We conclude they must be biased, because their dispassion is distinct from our passion. It can be exasperating, but I would take sober scrutiny over an indignant invective any day.
The fact is, without the BBC, we open the door to that most ghastly of American imports: a Fox News-style station. With the renaissance of Talk Radio and the LBC as forums for angry, opinionated diatribes, the prospect is not difficult to envisage. Indeed, efforts are already being made to establish such a channel by one-time Fox News executive David Rhodes. Hate the ‘biased BBC’? I’d wager you will hate the bias of Fox UK even more.
Furthermore, the BBC is a British success story. In a world of Netflix and Amazon, the BBC- again, a publicly owned corporation- stands out as a champion of British creative excellence. It is one of our most successful exports. Protecting the BBC is not just progressive, it is patriotic.
Of course, the BBC is not without its issues. It is too London-centric, it has a gender pay gap, and its insistence on impartiality sometimes translates into heavy-handedness, as when Naga Munchetty was chastised for labelling some of Donald Trump’s comments as racist.
Mistakes happen, and, like most organisations with thousands of employees, the BBC is not perfect. But that is no reason to turn our backs on it; don’t throw the Beeb out with the bathwater.
For me, and I believe for the quiet majority of the British people, the BBC remains treasured, not tarnished. We on the Left must speak out now against its opponents, or it will become just another cherished public institution we do not miss until it is already gone.
Patrick Hall is a third year student at the University of Edinburgh. He studies Politics and is an active member of the Labour Party.
He tweet at @patrickrhall.