Over the last couple of weeks we've seen the new coalition government gearing up for an attack on the BBC. First we had the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt calling for a cut in the licence fee. Currently the full cost of the BBC licence fee stands at £145.50. This works out at just under 40p per day.
So for the same price as a tabloid newspaper containing a substantial amount of advertising, celebrity gossip and a small amount of actual news (biased of course) you can get access to the wealth of content provided by the BBC. This includes a host of television and radio channels, both national and regional, digital services including the iPlayer catch-up service, the best news website anywhere and much, much more. No contest in my opinion. To be honest I'd pay the licence fee for CBeebies alone and I think anyone with children would probably agree with me. If you're going to talk about value for money I don't think you'd find a better example than the BBC.
So let's forget about cuts to the licence fee. We all know times are tough and it's probably going to get a lot worse before it gets better, but now is a time when people are staying in more and more out of necessity so let's make sure we at least have something to watch.
Jeremy Hunt has also started talking about more transparency on pay for the top celebrities and executives. I'm with him on this one. I've already said that the BBC is value for money, but it could be better still. Some of the top stars and executives are paid too much. But it's more than that, I think the BBC needs to cut back on some of it's unnecessary expenditure. I'll give you an example:
During the recent 2010 world cup we saw Lineker and Hansen et al. sitting in a studio outside a football stadium providing expert analysis on the world cup matches. The keyword here is "outside". They weren't in the stadium soaking up the atmosphere they were sitting in a studio outside the stadium. Why is licence payer money being spent on sending a group of TV presenters and an accompanying crew to South Africa for a month with all the associated costs to do a job that could have been done equally well from home?
It smells a little bit like a jolly to me. That money could definitely have been better spent. Had it been it would have made life more difficult for those seeking to criticise the BBC.
It's not just football and other sporting events where this happens though it seems even news programmes nowadays have to be filmed on location. It's all quite unnecessary if you ask me. Reporters go on location, presenters should be in a studio at television centre.
Slightly more worrying is the fact that we've also had Michael Gove calling the BBC's impartiality into question. This is nothing new of course, we've had many years of Labour criticising the BBC whenever it said something they didn't like. But when you put that together with the following quotation from Jeremy Hunt I start to get a little uncomfortable:
There’s a moment when elected politicians have an opportunity to influence the BBC and it happens every five years. It is when the licence fee is renewed.
No thanks! I don't want elected politicians trying to influence the BBC. Especially not when part of the BBC's job as I see it is to hold those same politicians to account.
As I've said the BBC is by no means a perfect institution, but it's doing a great job. If we want that to continue then we need to tell our elected representatives to keep their hands off the BBC.