Sunday, 7 March 2010

BBC under scrutiny

Here's what I think following the news of cutbacks at the BBC.

I've listened to a total of 5 minutes of BBC 6 Music since it started being broadcast and I've never listened to the Asian Network. As such, if they go, I won't miss them.

However, I have stumbled upon Radio 1 and BBC3 (TV) shows from time to time (this may be partly as I used to listen to Radio 1 a bit twenty years ago). Whenever I do I always regret it.

I have just got rid of my PC card which means I am now without a television. I listen to BBC Radios 3, 4 and 5Live, visit the website daily and, from there, watch streams of news and iPlayer TV shows which I might like, usually BBC1, 2 and 4 (either in arrears of their broadcast or live). All of this content is invariably very good, particularly the news coverage, which, though still trying to find the right balance of 'watchability' and informativeness is thoroughly dependable.

The upshot of all of this is that I would be happy to pay my licence fee despite the fact that I don't have a television.

I'm also happy to pay the licence fee in support of a station like Radio 6 Music or The Asian Network which I don't listen to, in the same way that I pay taxes which are channelled into state benefits.

I am not happy to pay the licence fee in support of Radio 1 and BBC3. I recently caught part of a radio interview, conducted by John Humphrys, in which he talked to young people - the core Radio 1 and BBC3 audience - about their BBC media habits. They said that in general they
  • didn't watch television
  • tend to use the internet - but not the BBC website, labelling it uninvolving
and yet they would be prepared to pay the licence fee anyway as they would get a television after leaving home because it's nice to have 'background noise' (they said they liked having adverts on web pages, which probably amounts to the same thing).

I understand that people's needs are different. In the same way that I am prepared to fund stations I simply don't use but understand as part of a social contract, I am prepared, in principal, to fund stations I neither use nor understand. To me, Radios 1 and BBC3 constitute 'background noise', a sort of conscious version of static interference. That may be their purpose - each to their own.

My problem comes when I listen to a station such as Radio1 and hear not something of interest, nor 'background noise' but something actively divisive and cynical (in particular I dislike Chris Moyles' radio show which perpetuates prejudice and dismissiveness as being cool).

If the question is 'is the BBC licence fee good value?' then I unequivocally reply yes. £150 annual subscription not only to get a wide range of fine media services (and more) but also to maintain a world-leading standard for the same and concurrently represent this country is not only good value, it's actually a bargain*.

*For context, the basic Sky bundle is advertised at £28/month or over £330 anually

No comments: