The BBC – public or private?


I was on a radio debate with Sammy Wilson the other day, discussing the idea of whether to ditch the BBC licence fee and make payment voluntary. You want BBC, you pay;  you don’t want BBC, you don’t pay. Sammy had the advantage over me of possessing an Economics degree ,whereas I was hopeless at Maths. But just because you’ve a degree in something doesn’t mean you know what you’re talking about.

Sammy, needless to say, was all for making fee-payment voluntary, like your Sky subscription. Or put another way, he was all for privatising the BBC. His main reason seemed to be that the BBC was full of lefties. ‘Strewth and zounds. Has he ever listened to it? All the research done shows the BBC to be some considerable distance from being a nest of pinkoes.

I have my own reservations about the BBC. As I pointed out, it is the British Broadcasting Corporation, and so presents the world through British eyes. I’m an Irishman and that view on many occasions is different from mine. The BBC’s presentation of the Falklands/Malvinas episode was a long way from the balanced picture it boasts of  presenting. And the banning of the Real Lives programme featuring Martin McGuinness (and Gregory Campbell) showed how Thatcher was intent on using the Corporation as a political weapon. And then there was the famous broadcasting ban on Sinn Féin – free speech my arse. In short, Thatcher did all she could to destroy the BBC or at least bring it firmly under the control of her government, right down to the effective firing of the Director-General, Alastair Milne.

But for all its flaws, the BBC does produce programmes of a quality which few other broadcasting organisations  in the world can match. If you want to appreciate how good the BBC is, live abroad for a while and see what TV is like in somewhere like the US. The matter, as I tried to explain to Sammy, comes down to want and need. Private radio and TV  live or die by their listening/viewing figures, and so in the end they give the public what it wants. The BBC, while governed like the rest of us by economic reality, does have the kind of elbow room where it can think of what the public needs as well as what it wants. There’s a danger of paternalism there, of course; but the fact that the organisation isn’t working solely on a making-a-profit agenda means it can – and sometimes does – tell us things  we need to think about, as distinct from chewing-gum-for-the-eyes. Ask yourself: what’s the name of the biggest private broadcasting figure in the world? Rupert Murdoch. Need I say more?

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11 Responses to The BBC – public or private?

  1. paddykool February 28, 2015 at 9:56 am #

    I heard yourself and Sammy on the radio.The fact is that Sammy just wants his own agenda…whether right or wrong and because he can count doesn’t mean he knows a whole lot about many other things.He’ll try and tell us that David Attenborough, who ran BBC 2 does not know what he is talking about.While David travelled the world, studying and educating us all, Sammy was here in this little time warp. siding with the unenlightened..It is not hard to figure….

  2. Colmán February 28, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

    I don’t think this is a matter for concern. The BBC should be devolved to the local assembly as well as OFCOM. We are capable of running our own affairs. All powers must be devolved.

  3. Sherdy February 28, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

    Sammy complains the BBC is run by lefties, but from his viewpoint David Cameron and George Bush are lefties.
    From his neocon point of view everyone who has an original thought in their head qualifies as a troublemaker.
    Although you can’t beat Sammy away from radio and television interviews, he wants total control of all media outlets, so no one will have access to any other thoughts or ideas, hoping that others will ‘think’ like he does.
    Hopefully nobody else in the country will have such a blinkered idea of free speech.

  4. Am Ghobsmacht February 28, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

    When you’re so right leaning surely everyone seems as a leftie.

    Having lived abroad for all these years in a few different countries all I can say is that the BBC is something to be treasured, it’s programs and portfolio of talent eclipse a fair whack of the world’s media offerings.

    I’m sure Sammy and the Caleban would love it to be replaced with Fox news or such like the irony being that the uber-Britishers of NI would be responsible for destroying a British institution.
    If only Britain wasn’t so ‘British’…

  5. Iolar February 28, 2015 at 7:36 pm #

    The BBC, public or private needs to be addressed in the context of alternatives. How independent is ‘independent’ broadcasting from commercial domination? In the past week shrill voices have been raised in relation to some trade union leaders articulating the need for industrial action. Much has been said and written about the need to reform the public sector yet generous subsidies, courtesy of the tax payer, to business syndicates are not subject to critical analysis and remain without challenge in the media.

    Reports from the European Court of Human Rights about cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are readily available as are reports from Amnesty International, yet the British Government continues to depend on draconian legislation, public immunity certificates and a failure to release files on contested murders based on ‘national security’ concerns.

    Control and censorship in the media prevent a range of alternative perspectives being taken into consideration. Should anyone be in any doubt about support for powerful established interests, a cursory glance at newspapers on any Sunday will provide sufficient evidence about the manner in which information is controlled and displayed in a dubious consensus of opinion. Conflicting opinions on contentious issues are routinely excluded by broadcasters.

    There is a need for alternative structures in the media which reflect cultural diversity and control at community, regional and national level. Such structures need to reflect, independence not nationalism, self-determination not servility, and the need for progressive change as a basis for true democracy. Now that would be good news.

  6. Norma wilson February 28, 2015 at 9:43 pm #

    You can always switch off! Watch RTE.

    • Ceannaire March 1, 2015 at 12:22 am #

      Erm, I watch RTE and other channels, Norma. I pay a TV subscription for them. I don’t watch BBC and still, somehow, have to pay a subscription to it – for something I neither need nor use.

  7. Perkin Warbeck March 1, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    Sockdologists, both of the chartered and the cost variety, have always found Sammy ‘Samuel’ Wilson a particularly riveting subject for examination.

    For them, whose sphere of interest is the moment, either pivotal or defining, in other word, The Moment, S. Samuel Wilson embodies the concept as well if not better than most contemporaries, at this moment in t., going forward.

    For an example of The Moment in global terms, take P for Patton. That would be General George S. Patton who, in this month of March seventy years ago, marched the fifth division of his third army across the Rhine in an easterly direction.

    In a Hitchockian gesture, on completing his 39th step across the bridge, he halted, unbuttoned his flies and did what his surname ordained him to do, he, erm, urinated into the Rhine.

    This was as pivotal a defining moment as any sockdologist could hope for or indeed, dream of. For, as soon as Onkel Dorf got wind of the word in the basement of his bunker in Kamp Paranoia he knew the jig was up.

    And Old Onkel Dorf knew his jigs from his reels. Indeed, if only circumstances had been different he could well have made it as a River Dancer in his tag. Not all that long afterwards, he sent for his doktor, his dog and his phial of cyanide.

    The dog it was that first died. Having been administered with the deadly potion first, as a test case. Such was the prevailing persecution complex in the, erm, suspicious mind of Der Fuhrer at that m. in time, going forward. The fact that the dog in question was his faithful Alsatian of many years, no, not Old Shep, but rather Blondi, made no difference to Onkel Dorf. He wanted to know that he had not been sold a pup in the form of bogus cyanide.

    While some psychoanalysts contend that Der Fuhrer suffered from a congenital Wooden Heart problem others maintain that it was in fact A Heart of Glass which was his malady.

    Whatever, sockdologists are of one mind that this indeed was the pivotal or defining moment for the German Shephard baptised Blondi if not WW2 itself.

    Or as the dogs in the streets of Memphis, Tn are known to bark: ‘Muss i den, muss i den, zum Stadtele hinaus’.

    Nearer home in Norneverland and on a somewhat smaller scale, S. Samuel Wilson was at the epicentre of the pivotal or defining moment in the 30 Year Dirty War.

    He was on holidays at the time; indeed, by all appearances, he still is. It is said that where other politicians surround themselves with Spin Doctors, S. Samuel Wilson prefers to hire himself a Trip Adviser. Thus, the answering music on his telephonic system is ‘A Vacation Once Again’.

    He has perfected the art of travelling while standing still. Indeed, it was this unique talent of his, of being able to journey without quite going anywhere, which attracted the Dimbleby of in-depth TV questioning to his office as Lord Haw Haw/ Mayor of Belfast at the time. It was flagged widely beforehand as ‘Dimbleby meets Dumblebore’.

    Thus, the stage was set for what, indeed, turned out to be the p. or d. moment of the Norneverland Neverender. The occasion when the Cathode Ray Tube came into its own in the Wee Six, much in the way Sugar Ray Robinson iced The Cauliflower Kid in the sixth in Madison Square Garden.

    On one side of the modest Lough Neagh-sized desk which has the Mayoralty office in the Belfast City Hall as its natural habitat, sat the conservatively attired Ali G (for it was he !) in designer shiny tracksuit and wooly bobble hat while on the other side the office incumbent exuded a pure Yankey can-do kick-ass aura of relaxation and menace in his short sleeved shirt of invincible black.

    Truly, was S. Samuel Wilson living up to his American heritage: this is a not unimportant point to be noted shortly.

    Ali G: Is you Irish?
    S. Samuel: No, I’m British.
    Ali G: So, is you ‘ere on ‘olidays?

    Sockdologists the world over to this very day still feel a frisson of barely controllable excitement when ever they review that pivotal and defining interview. In truth, it has even acquired a term within the respected profession of sockdology to describe the phenomenon: The Dimbleby and Dumblebore Delirium.

    Mind you, it was not the first time that Sockdology International had focused its attention on the Island of Ireland. A high-powered delegation were here on its behalf on the occasion of the foundation of the (gulp) Progressive Democrats, alas now, of late and lamented memory.

    It was the initials which, erm, initially attracted them : PD which coincided with what their profession is about:the pivotal and the defining. And when the delegation left somewhat abruptly afterward the chatterati were taken aback. Not least by their cryptic observation made in the departure lounge of Dublin Airport (nee Collinstown): This IS the pivotal and defining moment of the PDs.

    Meaning, their goose is already cooked, they are going nowhere.

    Who is to say today the sockdologists were wrong?

    Though they did not express themselves so bluntly. What they cryptically muttered was: ‘She is just not Horrid enough’.

    It took Perkie’s inner philologist a bunch of time to figure that one out, but figure it out he did, even if the figuring out was unshapely and like a Tellytubby, all over the gaff.

    The She they had in mind was the Tonaiste, first of the PDs and later the Free Southern Stateen itself. And the H-word was their take on the legendary discount store in Knighstbridge.

    Harrod’s (for it is it !), they were aware, once had a policy of keeping a weighing scales just inside the main door. This was a crucial element in their Entry Policy. To do with appearances and the keeping up, thereof. On one notorious occasion a female retail therapist was refused admission when she topped the scales at (gulp) 18 stones.

    But of course that Neanderthal policy was knocked for six once the Dworkin Class got around to putting a flea in the ear of the flea marketeers of London SW1. Too late, alas, for the Tonaiste and other political heavy weights.

    To conclude with a word of the etymology of another word ‘sockdology’. To delineate the profession of those who makes the study of pivotal and defining moments their life’s work.

    It originated in the 19th play ‘Our American Cousin’ which is famous for two reasons: one, it prompted the theatrical truism ‘there are no small parts, only small actors’. Secondly, Abraham Lincoln didn’t see it through.

    Like S. Samuel Wilson’s prepared scripts the play is replete with delightfully twisted aphorisms, like ‘birds of a feather gather no moss’. Mainly put into the mouth of the egregious Lord Dundreary , a title said son of Uncle Sam is said to have sights on.

    Pe sceal e, half way through scene 3 in Act 2, the line guaranteed to get the greatest guffaw in the Theatre (includlng Ford’s) occurs. John Wilkes Booth, an actor, knew this and prepared accordingly. The decibel lever at that moment , he had calculated, would be best guaranteed to drown out the single-shot from his derring-do Derringer.

    – Don’t know the manners of a good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out,old gal – you sockdologising old man-trap !

    BANG !

  8. michael c March 1, 2015 at 10:41 am #

    People on here may be unaware but in the 1980s Sammy portrayed himself as “red Sammy”.He was on Belfast city council and was fawned over by the likes of Paddy Devlin and Seamus Lynch as some sort of unionist”labour” man.He even claimed that had he been in England he would have been Labour and this at a time when the British labour party would have been far to the left of todays version.When people hear his outpourings today do they not see how they were fooled at the time.

  9. Endgame March 1, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    Do Nationalists in the North not have a TV listing of 1. RTE1. 2. RTE2. 3. TV3. 4. TG4. 5. Setanta Sports. 6. 3e. 7. UTV “Ireland”. 8. UTV. If that was my TV I certainly would not be paying a licence to the British Broadcasting Corporation in the same way I wouldn’t pay for a passport from a neighbouring country.

  10. Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr March 2, 2015 at 9:59 am #

    Heres a perfect example of how impartial the BBC is…….. NOT !

    No mention here of burning the Irish flag or nationalist posters (as displayed in the pictures on the page). Of course thats all fine and acceptable. Its only bad when its other nations flags!

    The BBC and its license fees should have been removed at the GFA. You cannot have equality when one side is trying to brainwash the population and show that the OO parades, burning flags are all perfectly acceptable. I do not wish to pay for this propaganda.