By George Cook
The BBC is unique, there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world and that is probably why the government are trying so hard to change it. As a public broadcaster, it has reported impartially for decades providing unbiased analysis of some of the greatest events worldwide. It has given has some fantastic programmes from Newsnight to Have I Got News For You mocking political events and current affairs, whatever viewpoints those parties and politicians have. But all that is under threat now.
Those in the media are outraged at the proposals to limit the BBC’s independence. Peter Kosminsky, a film a director, said at the BAFTAs on Sunday night that the government’s plans to appoint a majority of members on the BBC’s editorial board was a disgrace and would turn it into, effectively, a state broadcaster like in Russia or North Korea. Evidently, it is not only people in the media who are concerned by this. Even Conservative MPs have shown discontent with the proposals that are due out in a white paper on Thursday by, the Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale.
Yet when Kosminsky made those remarks, they were edited from the BBC’s broadcast of the BAFTAs. Arguably, it could look like a pointless gesture now. Why talk about something that was almost certainly going to cut from broadcast? But it was anything but pointless. Think about it, we know what he said through other publications and the demise of the BBC has been well documented, especially since the election in last May. Limiting the power of the BBC has long been on the agenda of the Culture Secretary, as he feels it has too much power for something that is public. Furthermore, the whole point of the BBC is to remain impartial and they even managed to do in face of such adversity from the government; they could have easily included more of Kosminsky’s remarks.
The BAFTAs may not have the appropriate forum to criticise the government, but with an issue like this, when would be? The scale and wide audience of an event like the BAFTAs is, arguably, the biggest opportunity for criticism of an issue that is going to have significant impacts on the media and culture in this country. Programmes like Strictly Come Dancing may not be shown at prime time, or even not at all. Other shows like Have I Got News For You will have the extent to which they criticise those in power limited a great deal. This will prevent criticism of not only government but politicians in general, and will also limit what can be talked about on the BBC. News bulletins will change in the time they are broadcast and what can be covered will be altered giving even more power to the right wing media, which is anything but impartial.
Since its creation is 1922, the BBC’s significance in British culture has been somewhat overlooked. It has given us Match of The Day and award winning documentaries, but most importantly, it has provided unbiased news reporting for nearly 100 years. Yet now, as all that is under threat, people are realising the great importance of the BBC for our democracy. Around the world it is revered and admired but all that is likely to change and it hard to imagine, in a few years’ time, what the BBC will look like as it approaches its 100th birthday. The powers of our government are now eroding away at everything we once held dear; the BBC, the NHS, the welfare state, powers that no government in this country should possess. The BBC is, and hopefully always will be, a broadcaster that is independently reporting on current affairs and, no matter what the circumstances, it should never fall into the hands of a government that want to erode the autonomy and freedom of the biggest bastion of our democracy.