‘Shocking’ scandal at the BBC

Posted in BBC, Media, Ofcom by Deputy city editor on July 19, 2007


Detector Van

It has been clever of the BBC to keep its dirty linen out of sight until after it won the new £135.50 licence settlement. Like Inspector Renaud in Casablanca, I am “shocked” – in my case to discover that the BBC has been deceiving its viewers and listeners for years! Last year, Wogan traduced a report that said Children in Need wasn’t necessarily the best way to give money to charity. Now we discover Children in Need was in on the scam.

But of course this is merely the tip of the BBC’s hidden mountain of dirty linen. The only compliance at this organisation is ideological. In the current stinking mess, the BBC has been merely ripping off those of its own viewers stupid enough to ring a BBC premium-rate telephone number. BBC contracting is even more interesting. The deals in which BBC “celebrities” like Jonathan Ross get production deals simultaneously with talent deals, would boggle the mind. Telephone scams are a mere dogpile by comparison with what else lurks within the belly of this beast. Follow the money is the rule. Except that at the BBC, we really can’t.

Huge talent contracts with the likes of Jonathan Ross are mere bagatelles compared to the details of the BBC’s property developments in London and elsewhere. You could see the hole in Broadcasting House on Google Earth (I confess I’ve not looked lately.) This is a hole that has consumed literally fantastic sums – hundreds of millions – of which we know almost nothing.

It is because there is so much to hide that the BBC refuses to open its books to parliamentary auditors. But all the bullshit meters are in the red zone. I have been following the BBC for 30 years and I reckon it is seriously rotten as only an organisation immune from normal scrutiny can be. They will not prove me wrong.

The problem with the BBC is that it can never be accountable to viewers when it spends much of its institutional life in the battle for self-preservation, founded on the continuation and level of the licence fee, bending its knee to ministers (and more recently, Alastair Campbell), and asking us to hold two contradictory notions in our head simultaneously: that the BBC is so loved, that everyone must be forced to pay for it.

A lot of us do not find the licence funded BBC very useful or believable. Nor do many believe that it really represents public broadcasting at all. It would only be public if it was owned by the public, and those who pay for it had the rights of shareholders. Which they do not. The BBC is run by a board of compliant political hacks, filled out with a cast of dunces, appointed by ministers.

And why is there only one BBC? Why not three or four competitive public broadcasters? Why this great public monopoly? It is truly Stalinist in conception. No wonder George Orwell based the Ministry of Truth on it. The BBC and its supporters (often on the payroll) tell us constantly there is no alternative and always refuse to consider any. The current system based on prosecuting 10,000 welfare mothers every month and spending tens of millions every year employing an army of goons is the worst of all possible funding mechanisms. The political correctness and party line are merely demented.

People in Britain often confuse powerful established institutions with the actual services they desire, overlooking the pitiful performance of the intitutions by worshipping them with an unquestioning, quasi-religious fervour.

Hence, we have an NHS myth which means it must never be questioned even though the NHS isn’t very good and there are lots of other ways to provide health services. We have a BBC cult in which the BBC, employing its massive power, has persuaded everyone that it is synonymous with public broadcasting, when 95% of the money they get is pissed into infinite black holes.

The Daily Mail this week reported that the BBC is publicising new hand-held detectors to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance on those suspected of not having a TV licence. This is a bizarre and actually disgusting relationship for a media organisation to have with people who are nominally its customers. The BBC so-called Trust may believe on the basis of the BBC’s own and commissioned research that the corporation enjoys massive public love and trust. If so, why not trust the public whether to pay for this or not?

Now here’s a question: what are the potential liabilities now facing the BBC? It seems to me that everyone who phoned in during one of these dodgy call-ins is entitled to their money back. You can bet the Beeb will try to wriggle out of this one. There should be some tasty fines from Ofcom, too. It has also to be noticed that a lot of this was going on when Michael Grade was chairman. Let us hope that the BBC is forced to answer some questions. This is an opportunity for John Wittingdale who is chairman of the House media committee. Don’t blow it, Johnnie.

As they say in broadcasting: Stay tuned…

Latest news. The Guardan says the BBC Trust has given the Corporation a year to “clean up its act.” So, that’s all right then.

2 Responses

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  1. RR said, on October 5, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    Nothing to add, really, Correct is the word. Useless broadcating at the expense of the public.


  2. […] But that’s not stopped the establishment rallying around the BBC with even Tories seeming to be pledging to support the continuation of the licence fee! Meanwhile, the BBC,  at vast expense, uproots dazed and confused staff, to marginal Labour constituencies in the north! You couldn’t make up who gets the money. As for the credit crunch – who knows. The BBC is  engaged in colossally expensive property developments in London, although the exposure of these is hard to divine, given the Enron-like character of its published accounts.  You can read more about BBC corruption here. […]

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