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CB: You've got a very short memory, because you forget that until the BBC took the internet seriously, no newspaper had shown serious interest in developing it. It was the BBC when I was there — and it was one of the much-maligned John Birt's real contributions, both to the BBC and to the UK information society — that recognised the internet, long before anyone else did. 

CM: As a point of fact, it wasn't, because we started the internet Telegraph in 1995, I think.

CB: The BBC was absolutely at the heart of the development of the internet in the UK as a news medium. I agree there is now a problem for which the solution is not clear: with BBC Online being free, it makes it very difficult for newspapers to charge for their online services. 

This is also the case in America, where the BBC doesn't exist as an online force, so you can't pin the problem solely on the BBC. It's not clear that, if you abolished the BBC website overnight, the newspapers would suddenly be able to charge, because that isn't the case in the US. Rupert Murdoch says he wishes he could do it, but the risk is that if you start charging and everybody else doesn't, you'll lose market share and your audience. It is a real dilemma.  

CM: Isn't that part of a wider problem, which is that one of the doctrines of the BBC seems to be that it has to go on and on into every realm of communication and that this has become an absurdity? Isn't that what James Murdoch is talking about? He's talking about the idea of spectrum scarcity, when there is no longer such a thing. The BBC doctrine is that you must conquer each new piece of territory, otherwise someone else will, and then people will say, why should we pay you the licence fee? This has had a bad cultural effect for the homogenising and semi-dictatorial reasons that I talk about. It's also becoming impossible.

CB: What's becoming impossible?

CM: The BBC's ability to conquer every form of medium and to make sure it extracts money from everybody using the medium. The technological change is so great. So it's highly unlikely that in ten or 20 years you can get the money out of people — already if you look at the warning letters I get from TV licensing when I don't pay, they always explain about all the different ways in which you can watch TV and for which you should have a licence. So it's no longer just on the television, it's on the mobile phone, it's on the internet, it's on all sorts of things. The BBC is at the very simplest level going to have an enforcement problem. And at the organisational level it's going to try to run something that can't be run. This is something that already happened a long time ago, because the values that people think are worthwhile about the BBC are values which depend on an editorial voice which runs through it, which is impossible if you grow beyond a certain size. Once upon a time, the BBC, obviously under Reith, but in a different, more lefty way under Hugh Greene, had an identity. It had something that it believed in, and it propagated, and though its defenders will claim that's still the case, I don't really think it is. I think what it really is, is a massive great bureaucracy. 

Even if I thought better of it than I do, my argument is that it can't survive. I'm not saying it will die tomorrow, but it is an idea whose time has gone. It's like the British Empire in 1930 — it exists, but it's on the way out.

CB: The BBC is exactly the kind of organisation that is producing the kinds of programmes that make your 77 per cent feel proud. You listen to Radio 4 quite a lot, don't you?

CM: Yes.

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

Sue
October 15th, 2009
11:10 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.

Valentinus
October 12th, 2009
10:10 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.

IC
September 27th, 2009
5:09 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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