Friday, January 30, 2004

A blow for Auntie

Most of my experience with the BBC has been via its World Service--scratchy AM broadcasts covering the news, live cricket matches, and the occasional radio play sent all over the planet. Fantastic stuff with no commercial possibility at all. I've also quite enjoyed the BBC International satellite service that is carried by StarTV (I think) in the Middle East, which has great programs like Top Gear and news that is less lobotomized than CNN.

The BBC is biased, but I don't really mind. Anything run by human beings will have its prejudices, and believing that it can be otherwise is foolish. The BBC's biases significantly degraded the quality of their Iraq war coverage, but there were plenty of other sources which I judged better and listened to instead.

So I am saddened by the blow this venerable organization has taken in the Hutton inquiry, even though I agree with the criticism leveled against it.

But their coverage of the war in Iraq was very bad, and it did extend to a very serious libel at home, and that should have consequences. If the BBC were private I'm not sure what problems they would have now (other than perhaps declining revenue through falling ratings). It is their government entanglements that makes the matter so much uglier--when you are a government funded public entity, who do you serve?

My recommendation is to privatize the company but maintain the World Service radio programming. If the BBC is to serve the public, motivate it to care about what they think.


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