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It's very clear that, whatever else the BBC is, it is not a state broadcasting organisation in the conventional sense. And one of the great acts of self-denial by parliament was to distance the BBC's funding and its control from a government department, or from parliament itself. So the BBC's independence of government, although not perfect, is extraordinary.

CM: But then the question is, if that distancing takes place, to whom is power given? The answer is to the BBC. It has this intensely privileged position, because if you can collect the money — and under the hypothecated tax you collect all money — and don't have to answer to a minister or to parliament, except via the charter, and your money is secure, because people have to pay it or they get punished, then you have the most incredible power.

CB: First of all, I agree, it is the most incredible power, and if from time to time it's abused, that is to the detriment of society. But it's not often abused. Second, I believe — but you do not — this separation creates the genuine independence of the BBC, and contributes to its strength as a broadcaster. 

It collects the licence fee, but there are other sources of broadcasting income that it has no part of: there is advertising revenue which goes to ITV and Channel 4, who are currently being heavily squeezed. Then there's the elephant in the room, which is subscription TV, dominated by the real monopolies of those twin battering rams, as Rupert Murdoch described them, sport and films. It's absolutely clear that Sky are not prepared to share these, for understandable commercial reasons. 

But the BBC's power, while it's a source of arrogance from time to time, is also the reason why it continues to make outstanding radio and TV programmes and the best online news service in Europe.

CM: I want to come back to that word "chilling". I'm not sure why James Murdoch used it, but I want to use it not in the sense of a horror film being chilling, or the Nazis being chilling, but in the sense of a libel chill — the chill that is cast by a certain sort of power. The BBC chills our culture, because it makes it so hard to compete with it. 

The classic recent example is its internet presence — all the licence fee comes through the television, and yet it's being used to subsidise something which millions of licence-fee payers don't have, which is the internet. And the effect of that is to chill the development of the internet for newspapers, because it is impossible for any newspaper to do news with the amount of money behind it that the BBC puts behind it. It produces a pretty good website, the BBC, but the damage, the chill, done to opportunity for everyone else in society is great. 

I'm not saying that particularly for the commercial interest of any newspaper that I write for, because I think that this chill has an effect right through the culture, both commercially and in other ways. It means that a certain sort of view of things can be constantly promoted through the BBC, and by implication other views aren't — that includes political views, commercial opportunities, cultural variety, what happens in different parts of the country and so on. The church naturally wishes to reiterate its power, and therefore it wishes to crush the other sects that might otherwise grow up in the little tin tabernacle down the road, and the Radio Carolines of religion, as it were. 

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December 22nd, 2009
4:12 AM
is that guy trying to demostrate the BBC is not liberal?

October 15th, 2009
10:10 AM
When are so called conservatives going to stand up and speak the truth to and about the likes of Russ Limbaugh and the other raving-loonies who are now the public face of the GOP in the USA.

October 12th, 2009
9:10 PM
IIt is always much better when Charles Moore's strange views about the BBC are out in the open rather than working corrosively and without scrutiny to undermine public service broadcasting. When he is subject to proper examination, the transparent ideological bias of his position is routinely and drearily exposed. There is a simple task for Charles Moore: Charles, close thy Telegraph and open thy Radio Times. Do what I do. Take about 1 hour on a Saturday morning and look, just look, at what you get for your license fee over the course of 7 days. Then look us straight in the eye and try telling us that we can get this cornucopia of culture, sport, news, drama, music, current affairs and entertainment for anything like that cost base and efficiency. In fact, Charles, we can't get it at all, even if we paid ten times the license fee. My father pays the equivalent of my license fee for three months of a couple of Sky Sports and movie channels, nothing more. I might have said the equivalent of HIS license fee, but he is over 75 and gets the BBC (all of it) for nothing. Yes, nothing. And you know? Two thirds of what he watches, listens to and enjoys never comes near me. And three quarters of what I watch, listen to and enjoy never goes near him. Welcome to the BBC. I have noticed, in short, a common thread among anti-BBC ideologues: they don't actually know what's on. This seems a curious position from which to attack anything and explains why they need daft episodes such as L'Affair Ross on which to hang their opposition. I do wonder if guys like Charles actually know this deep down and that's why they evade it. For dull cultureless people with year-round tans like the Murdochs it is in a sense a much more honest conflict: their implacable hatred of the BBC originates in the obstacle public sector broadcasting presents to the expansion of their wealth and global power. But my advice to Murdoch Junior would be the same: close they Friedman, open thy Radio Times. I guarantee you'll find something to assuage the unbearable lightness of being. And it will probably cost you about 14p. As for the rest of the so-called argument? Bring it on.

September 27th, 2009
4:09 PM
It is not surprising that the BBC's head of comedy is gloomy. Most BBC "comedy" programmes nowadays are puerile or revolting, without wit or humour - compare these with the shows that the BBC used to make, or the sharp US comedies shown on other channels.

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