The BBC is one of the two main pillars of British power

Everyone has an opinion about the BBC. One day, it was an organization to please the masses; Next, he’s arrogant, elitist, and disconnected. On the other hand, the path to “middlebrow” can also be dangerous. In the early days of radio, writer Virginia Woolf he worries that BBC studio bosses are too busy serving an audience that is not in his native Bloomsburybut in boring South Kensington.

In 2022, when the BBC is celebrating its centenary and its future is in doubt, it’s time for a little perspective. Therein lies the value of David Hendy’s new BBC story. In England, where jealous newspaper rivals and hostile politicians The institution which is familiarly called “Auntie” has been kicked out, keeping the attention and honor of the nation is an impossible task.

In its founding years, after the First World War, life was simpler. The BBC is guided by the “high Victorian paternalism” embodied by its first CEO, John Reith, a strict Scottish Presbyterian. Its goal is to “bring the best of human knowledge, effort and achievement” to every home in the country. The mission to inform, educate and entertain is the foundation of the BBC’s evolution towards a public service broadcasting model.

At various times, BBC contributes indelibly to national consciousness: the televised coronation of Queen Elizabeth II; Winston Churchill cemetery; The Life on Earth Series by David Attenborough; and the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, which brought together “Beeb” and the NHS in a regulated “Britishness” celebration. The BBC embodies national identities, but its influence reaches the world. World Service still reaches 468 million people per week, broadcasts in 42 different languages. Along with the monarchy, the BBC remains one of the two main pillars of Britain’s ‘soft power’.

The focus is part broadcast history and part social history. That listeners, viewers and broadcasters they are directly linked through Hendy’s “A People’s History”, a subtitle that is very much up to BBC standards.

The company’s new format is for prominent speakers to read aloud from a carefully edited script into a microphone in a small room on Savoy Hill, near the Strand, the BBC’s first headquarters. The event was attended by stellar writers such as JB Priestley, EM Forster and George Bernard Shaw, and David Lloyd George.

The 1930s saw an influx of new talent as thousands of refugees fled fascism in Europe. The BBC Empire Service (later renamed the World Service) and the BBC Monitoring Service (an espionage operation that collected vast amounts of information from the world’s airwaves) included the likes of Martin Esslin, Austrian writer George Weidenfeld, future publisher, and Ernst Gombrich, art historian. It was Gombrich who first suspected that Hitler was dead after listening to Bruckner’s symphony on German radio.

As a public company that since 1946 has relied on canons imposed on the public, The BBC remains financially dependent on the state, but is nominally editorially independent. This was always an uncomfortable compromise, especially in times of national crises such as the general strike, World War II and the Suez of 1956.

Alan Bullock, an Oxford historian who worked at the BBC during the war, described the relationship as “a constant tug of war”. The government’s attempts to turn the BBC into a propaganda agency failed because of passive resistance and behind-the-scenes compromise. But the BBC agreed to allow the insertion of secret codes for resistance fighters in wartime in their news broadcast. After the war, the BBC sometimes self-censored, interpreting lavishly on “controversial” issues and sticking to the 14-day rule that prohibits discussion of any issue that arises in Parliament.

As the BBC grew, with the proliferation of television and radio channels, the boundaries of good taste and good judgment were broadened. The broadcasting monopoly became unsustainable at that time. ITV forced the company to increase its television drama and documentary programming; pirate radio, operating off the coast of England, forced the BBC to tune in to pop music, employing stars such as Tony Blackburn, Annie Nightingale and the innocent John Peel.

Since Margaret Thatcher, the voices calling for the BBC to be downsized have grown louder. Successive governments have tried to pack a board of directors that oversees the BBC. The Daily Mail, critical since the 1920s, accused the BBC of sulking and “cultural Marxism”. The Rupert Murdoch newspaper has never stopped criticizing the BBC, and They rarely admit that they are in a hopeless conflict over the interests of their own rivals in the British press and television.

Top managers have been weakened by scandal, most notably the case of Jimmy Savile, the television personality of out-of-control pedophilia. These low points dwarf true technological advances like iPlayer and “Kangaroo Project”a 2007 initiative that brought together the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 into one video-on-demand service in the United Kingdom.

CEO Mark Thompson’s visionary plans were blocked by the Competition Commission after lobbying from commercial operators such as Sky and Murdoch’s Virgin Media. Come to think of it, this seems like a serious error in judgment. BBC platform operating on a large scale will offer a world-class edge over the US giants led by Amazon, Disney and Netflix, now the dominant stream.

Instead, the BBC has cut back. From 2010, The conservative government has forced the BBC to accept a 30 per cent funding cutincluding World Service fees, previously financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In a fragmented media landscape where misinformation and social media dominate, the BBC’s role is arguably more important than ever. Last year, the UK government boasts that the BBC is the most trusted broadcaster in the worldan important part of “Global Britain”‘s goal of becoming a “soft superpower”, an all too general mismatch of rhetoric and action.

Of course we have to open a debate about the mechanism of corporate financing going forward. But beware of non-intervention or, worse, self-harm. The BBC – and the nation – deserve better.




Sophie Wilkinson

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