New BBC director general Tim Davie, who cut his professional teeth marketing Pepsi-Cola, was appointed last week to head a £5billion-a-year media empire with a guaranteed income and a news operation which is the largest of its kind in the world. Here is an early item for his in-tray.
The BBC’s annual plan for 2020/21 – required by Ofcom as part of its policing of the Corporation’s public service remit and published quietly a couple of weeks back – is a chilling exercise in self-delusion.
It provides further evidence that BBC chiefs are hell-bent on intensifying the use of the Corporation’s out-of-control news machine as a weapon of propaganda.
Taking opportunistic advantage of the lockdown, which rather predictably has generated a surge in media consumption, BBC chiefs trumpet that improved audiences in March and April are proof that its output is a vital part of national life and that continuation of its funding via the licence fee is essential.
The document also bellyaches that its income to spend on public services has dropped in real terms by 24 per cent since 2010 (what happened politically back then, one wonders, which makes that date so significant? Could it have been that Labour was voted out?); that it has been forced to make £800million of savings in the coming year; and that continuing to supply free television licences for the over-75s has cost it another £125million.
The plan runs to 78 pages and requires full reading to appreciate the monumental scale of self-delusion and leveraging of the lockdown to justify its existence and argue implicitly for more funding. This paragraph summarises the self-righteous tone:
‘The role of the BBC is never clearer than at times of national crisis. We provide the public – in great numbers, locally, nationally and internationally – with trusted, impartial news and information they can rely on. We help bring the country together, to share, to understand, to laugh and to commemorate. We examine the big decisions taken by those with responsibility over our lives, explaining the choices and making sense of the challenges. We connect people who are isolated, bringing companionship and a link to the world.’
The document was written in response to Ofcom’s annual review of BBC performance, which was published in October last year and – Ofcom being of the same mindset as the BBC itself – largely gave the Corporation a clean bill of health while, with wearying predictability, demanding that more steps be taken to ensure ‘diversity’.It also asked that more should be done to reach young people – and that editorial complaints must be handled better.
So how has it risen to such challenges?
On complaints, the BBC plan says it will become more transparent. But it does not explain how and at the same time it parrots the usual stonewall defence against those who criticise the Corporation, that opinion polls (self-commissioned, of course) show that it is the most trusted source of news in the UK.
The signs are that in reality, it is business as usual.
Exhibit A is that, as was reported on TCW, News-watch submitted a highly detailed five-page complaint about the April 27 edition of Panorama which claimed that the government was killing people by not providing enough personal protection equipment (PPE) for NHS staff. As Michael St George astutely observed on TCW on June 2, the programme resembled more a Labour Party political broadcast than investigative journalism.
The fulcrum of the News-watch complaint was that that the programme produced no concrete examples of failures of PPE provision by the government, and that in any case PPE supply was the responsibility primarily of the NHS rather than the government.
The BBC response? That a detailed, specific reply would be a wasteful use of resources.
Greater transparency? Pigs might fly.
Further issues that emerge from the Annual Plan document will be discussed in future TCW blogs, in particular a deeply sinister plan to convert news into wall-to-wall propaganda-based ‘story-telling’; to extend its so-called ‘Reality Check’ approach to news; and to deluge audiences with a blizzard of ‘climate change’ stories.