With damning findings confirming Martin Bashir conned Princess Diana to secure his infamous 1995 interview – through forged bank statements and other lies – scandal yet again haunts the BBC
Due to the levels of deception and cover-up involved, this latest episode undoubtedly joins other BBC scandals in the pantheon, from Jimmy Saville’s child sexual abuse to the gender pay gap controversy. However one spins it, with such a chequered record, there’s clearly something very wrong with the BBC.
It’s worth considering why. Undeniably, the BBC’s £5 billion budget is a key part of the problem. Largely funded off the backs of the British people via the extortionate licence fee levy, the vast sums the Corporation has available to spend encourages a culture of arrogance and impunity.
Whereas any normal business operating under commercial conditions has to fear the risk of boycott or divestment in response to scandal, the compulsory nature of the licence fee means no matter how bad things get, at the end of the day, the BBC knows things will always be okay.
Connected to this, unfortunately this non-existent link between the BBC and market conditions (ordinary viewers) also means that the BBC feels little need to reflect the desires of audiences – hence its imposition of a trigger warning on legendary sitcom Blackadder and even more absurdly the removal of the politically incorrect but popular show Little Britain from iPlayer.
Seen through this unaccountable prism, despite criticism over these matters, it’s no surprise then that seemingly no attempt has been made to rectify this widely held perception that the BBC is biased against the views of those from more traditional, non-metropolitan areas.
Mostly staffed by old friends from university, it is unsurprising that the BBC is run like a cabal, primarily watching out for each other’s backs. Unfortunately, with the Corporation so wrapped up in its own sanctimoniousness, without drastic change, it seems unlikely that things will ever get better on its own.
Perhaps in response to this litany of failures, in spite of the personal risks, there’s evidence that the people are starting to take action into their own hands, with levels of licence fee non-payment having risen by about 50% in the last decade.
Alas though, with a KGB style enforcement regime – so efficacious in its pursuits that 30% of all female convictions are secured over this issue – the vast majority of people still pay the licence fee through gritted teeth. This necessarily includes, most ridiculously, those who never actually watch the BBC, but who do live-stream content such as Sky Sports.
So as regrettable as this latest BBC scandal over Martin Bashir is, let’s hope this moment can mark a turning point by raising attention to the BBC’s many ills. With a rapidly changing media landscape – with new technologies and outlets popping up all the time – the days of the BBC continuing to swan around with impunity is simply no longer justifiable, if it ever was.
Rebecca Ryan is campaign director of Defund the BBC
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