Why the BBC got it wrong over Prince Philip
OK I admit it. I was once of the hundreds of thousands of people who complained to the BBC about its blanket coverage of the death of Prince Philip. Irked by the disappearance of the Masterchef final, my ire grew as BBC4 was closed down and the schedules of 6Music were shaken up over the weekend to avoid any chance of jollity.
But I don’t blame the BBC for getting it wrong. The public sector broadcaster is between a rock and a hard place. Too much coverage and middle-class liberals like me kvetch on social media, too little and the BBC’s newly appointed director general Tim Davie will find himself attacked by the right wing media, right wing MPs and, if he’s not lucky, Boris Johnson’s right wing Government.
As the former boss of the Beeb’s commercial arm, BBC Studios, Davie has spotted that it is better to anger the (re)moaners of Islington, who will keep on paying our licence fee come what may, than the people who can hit the BBC where it hurts, in the wallet.
The BBC’s funding has been an issue for many many years. There are highly vocal commentators who believe that the TV Licence Fee in an anachronism in the era of streaming, a stealth tax if you may. While the Johnson administration has shied away from reforming the way the BBC is paid for, it has taken away free licences for over 75s (which has allowed the BBC’s opponents to paint it has an organisation harassing the elderly), and has hinted that not paying your licence could cease to be a criminal offence.
Rival media organisations bristle at the BBC’s stipend, arguing in particular that the growth of BBC Online, now the leading global English language news website, has taken revenue away from its commercial rivals. It is no coincidence that the strongest criticism of the BBC comes from the Daily Mail, whose MailOnline site is the BBC’s largest UK based rival.
Tim Davie has already angered left-leaning metropolitans by cancelling the satirical programme The Mash Report, and there is a worry that the DG, who once stood as a Conservative candidate, and the Beeb's chairman, who donated £400,000 to the Tories, are too willing to kowtow to the current Government.
The coverage of Prince Philip will only add to this perception. However, if by plastering our airwaves with Royal tributes saves some more edgy programming, I’m all for it. Just don’t mess with Masterchef.