cj#546> re: BBC demise


Richard Moore

        Thanks, Robert, for you clarifications re/BBC...


Date: 18 Jun 96
From: Robert Ward <•••@••.•••>
To: "Richard K. Moore" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cj#545> Death Knell of BBC Radio

Liked your article. Couple of comments:

>>  "Radio 4" is one of the five FM radio channels currently operated by BBC,
and it's rebroadcast to the world on long wave as "BBC World Service".
World Service operates as a separate channel; it uses  R4 material though, and
the two broadcast the same material overnight (i.e. midnight to around 400 GMT).
Apart from SE England which "eavesdrops", it's not receivable in most parts of
the UK.

>>  "Radio 4" is one of the five FM radio channels currently operated by BBC
in fact one of four national FM channels - Radio 5 goes out on AM only. BBC also
operates a network of local FM radio stations.

>>  BBC (hope I have this right) is funded by license fees: everyone who owns a
TV or radio in the UK pays a license fee
Nearly : radio licences were
scrapped some years ago, the licence fee is payable for TV only. Overseas
broadcasting, and especially foreign language broadcasting is funded by the
Foreign Office. It also gets income from sales of material to foreign
broadcasting organisations, and publication of books, videos, tapes etc of its
programmes and other material related to its programmes. This latter aspect has
exposed it to some criticism on the ground that the BBC's business is public
service broadcasting and as a publicly funded body (through the licence fees) it
didn't ought to be competing with conventional publishing companies (and
especially not successfully!)

>> The license fee is relatively small.  I'm not sure of the exact figure
7.37 GBP a month, or you can pay the equivalent 88.45 annually. The rate is set
by Parliament and reviewed periodically.

>>   First is a strong British tradition of thorough journalism quality
entertainment, and citizen involvement in public life
The BBC is rather a
strange beast, its philosophy still owes a lot to the "noblesse oblige"
tradition of Lord Reith. It operates under a royal charter which enables it to
be independent of the Government despite being part of the "Establishment"; the
price it has to pay for this is a commitment to be politically "neutral" -
though this of course means it quite often appears as a conservative (***NB
SMALL 'c' PLEASE***) institution. It's this strange, rather archaic quality that
is creating problems as it tries to cope with the modern environment. It dates
back to the days of "political consensus" [remember that? or maybe you're too
young ;-) ]  when politicians of differing colours could still agree that
public funding for public benefit was a reasonable thing to do.

The Thatcherite revolution has changed all that of course. Now the rule is : if
it can make a profit, flog it; if it can't, cut it. The other thing that has
changed is the technology; the BBC as a broadcasting organisation, regardless of
its institutional status and funding, has to adapt (if it's to survive) to a
world of digital cable- and satellite-borne technology with 50 channels now, 500
channels in the foreseeable future (maybe 10 years ahead?).  Internet technology
is the joker in the pack; it could mean video on demand, TV channels on demand
from anywhere in the world - OK, Internet can't support it now, but it's
feasible .... (not very successful) trials of video on demand have been carried
out, audio over Internet is here in geekdom ....

BBC has to adapt to this new world or go under. It's coping with the technology.
Funding will continue to be a problem, especially under doctrinaire
Conservatism. Given the current shakiness of the Government, it will probably
survive for the time being. The nightmare scenario (for the rest of us as well
as the BBC) would be an election with a sizeable Tory majority. Would they
actually privatise it? I'm inclined to doubt it - the BBC is still widely
perceived as a public institution created by a true public enterprise, in
contrast to the railways etc which were created originally by private capital. A
more likely scenario is move over to either direct funding by the Government
and/or funding by advertising; while abolishing the BBC as an insititution is
not likely to be very popular, removal of the licence fee could be presented as
a vote winner.


Robert Ward

        I still dispute that BBC needs to fear "going under".  I haven't
seen any case made, other than "things will be changing".  I'd still tune
into Radio 4 just as it is, no matter how much video on demand is flying