The Final Days Of The BBC
Peter Capaldi opens the door and steps out of the TARDIS onto a shining modern piazza in central London.
“This is must be 2014!” he exclaims. “The final year before the BBC collapsed. A once great institution brought down by apart by institutional avarice, arrogance, and malfeasance. Where Daleks failed, the BBC Executives managed to kill it off.”
Fantasy Or Reality?
In August, the Telegraph reported,
“More than 180,000 people – almost 3,500 a week – appeared before the Magistrates Courts, accused of watching television without a valid £145.50 licence.
The figure has been steadily rising as TV Licensing, which is responsible for catching and prosecuting non payers, improves its ability to identify those responsible and becomes more determined in its approach.
But with Magistrates handling a total of 1.48 million cases last year, it means that around 12 per cent of their workload is now being made up of TV licensing offences.”
I love many of the programmes and experiences that the BBC produces; how generations can share Doctor Who, how parents and children emulate the Great British Bake-off at home or how we allow our children to learn the wonders of the world through the window of the BBC is part of the national fabric. Even with the programmes that I don’t watch and content I do not consume, I appreciate how other elements of society relate to and require such information and entertainment to manage and assist with their lives.
The BBC is part of our national heritage and for the licence fee I truly believe we get great value, but it is totally wrong to criminalise people for non-payment if there is just reason.
I wrote to the BBC and licensing authorities and offered part payment in protest of the management of the Corporation. Apparently I have no right to complain and I have no ability to take action without being criminalised.
How can this be right?
Decisions Without Consequence
Strategists have to decide whether to take a bottom up or a top down approach to their customers. The bottom up method is by researching and understanding your customers and offering them what they want. In the case of Sky, this was professional sports coverage and the station flourished. ITV closely monitors trends and customer behavior in developing content, as do most modern focused businesses.
Contrary to this, the top down approach is seen in many private and State owned businesses. In the case of TV Channels, the State appointed controllers decide what is good for the public, and whilst we in the UK laugh at the propagandists of North Korea or some of the Middle Eastern content that flies in the face of fact, we in the UK receive a much worse deal; we have no say, and have to pay a premium!
Executives must be aware that top down strategies only work when consumers choose to supply their custom to the company and have faith in those making the decisions. Likewise the decision-makers have to respect their customers.
With the modern BBC, this is clearly not the case as 1.5m people object to paying their license enough to be criminalised.
This is gilded decision making – whatever they do, the BBC executives are protected from market reality or consequence, and boy, have the BBC Executives made some bad decisions.
I sat with a former senior executive of a US television network and global media business when in the US a couple of weeks ago. We spoke extensively about the Corporation, and I was defending it conscientiously, however, when reviewing my arguments, past management decisions are truly indefensible.
Given that the National Audit Office calculates unwarranted, non-contracted payments to staff at over £1m, part of over £25m in severance payments to senior management, leads me to believe that there was either a culture of institutional fraud throughout the BBC, or mutual complicity by management in seeking to exploit the licence fee payer.
Either way, the checks and balances that we as licence payers would expect from an organisation handling public money were absent or deliberately breached. As an executive of a business, if I behaved in this way, I would be fired for gross misconduct; it seems that at the BBC, I would have my exit managed with a severance settlement at a significant multiple of my salary.
I could also point to strategic incompetence in Digital, the business comedy of the Lonely Planet investment (heads would roll on other organisations) and the bigger question of why on earth is the BBC seeking to issue a commercial bond, rather than offer an overseas web based subscription service as a means to reduce debt? What are the business qualifications and commercial experience of the management?
Poor Editorial Decisions
The complicity and ineptitude to the Savile and subsequent Lord McAlpine reports is well documented and I have alluded to the grossly generous payments made to those responsible for such unacceptable errors as they faced discipline, in what in any other industry or workplace would be misconduct.
Also I am mature enough to accept that despite my opinions, the BBC has a right and responsibility to broadcast a divergence of views, some of which I disagree with. Irrespective of the ongoing suppression of the Balen report and the many hundreds of thousands of pounds spent by the Corporation in continuing to avoid the publication of this (and the immediate hypocrisy that this presents to any journalist seeking to expose light from the shadows) shows that the BBC has something to hide in it’s reporting of the Middle East.
Giving A Voice To Extremists
After Tony Blair called for Al Muhajiroun to be banned after followers committed one of the UK’s most heinous terrorist attacks, on the 7th July 2005, and David Cameron having conveyed similar sentiment, what on earth possessed Newsnight to give such prominence to Anjem Choudary on the BBC’s key news and analysis show, in the aftermath of the slaying of a British servicemen by his associates?
From an editorial point of view, if Anjem Choudary is banned from most, if not all, university campuses in the UK under NUS decree against racists, banned from many European countries who have laws on hate speech, with all major politicians calling for his groups to be banned, what possibly gives the BBC the insight (or arrogance) to judge better?
“Because he had something interesting to contribute to the debate” is in the school of “at least the trains ran on time” levels of justification to excuse the inexcusable, and has no validity in the grown up world of information, education and entertainment.
The fact that Mosques are being burned and innocents murdered because of their race or religion is not done in isolation, and the BBC by offering prominence and validity of such advocates of hate, bares some responsibility for inciting this blood lust.
Civil Disobedience and Direct Action
I am one of the 1.5 million who are deeply uncomfortable paying my licence fee this year, which I have done without complaint for the past 20 years. This year I proposed to make a discounted settlement, but the authorities refused this.
Civil disobedience is not my modus operandi, however throughout history, from biblical tales to great revolutions, the call of “No Taxation Without Representation” rings as a constant.
In business, if I had invested in a company that was as mismanaged as the BBC, I would have divested some time ago.
Likewise if our politicians or public figures behaved in such way (which sadly they have done) they can be removed at the ballot box (without recompense) and face the force of the UK judicial system, incurring imprisonment.
Whilst one can always turn off or unsubscribe from commercial television, to have a compulsory obligation to continue to fund the Corporation without legitimate recourse (as Balen has proved) is immoral and improper.
Like repressive regimes, direct protest against the BBC equals criminal behaviour.
2015. The End Of The BBC?
The BBC has lost my trust, and the trust of millions more.
I hope the BBC survives, but it must realise that:
- Decisions without consequences must end
- Commercial management must make commercial sense
- Managers that have committed malfeasance must face prosecution
- Poor editorial decisions must not be rewarded
- The corporation must be accountable for editorial decisions (and publish the Balen Report)
- Broadcasting extremists as part of normal discourse is not acceptable
- The public must have greater representation at decision-making levels
Overall, the cynical view that the general public will take a commercial view that a combination of the threat of criminalization and some decent programming will outweigh the occasional acts of malfeasance, arrogance, or ineptitude, must stop, or the BBC will need to be exterminated.