Public suicide

Public suicide
: The BBC is performing public suicide. Just read the British press today.

Even the pro-BBC, anti-Blair, anti-American, anti-war Independent reports a “civil war” in the company:

The BBC was at war with itself yesterday, as rival factions began to attack each other over competing versions of the events that triggered the worst crisis in the corporation’s long history.

Some of its senior managers turned on the journalist Andrew Gilligan, whose flawed reporting began the crisis, claiming that if he had not resigned last week, he would have been disciplined and possibly sacked….

Others within a divided BBC want its acting director general, Mark Byford, to continue the battle with the Government….

The Telegraph reports on managers turning on Gilligan — at long frigging last! This wouldn’t have happened if his managers had tried managing him and his editors had tried editing him a few months ago!

The Observer also calls it “civil war.” And it gives us a long tick-tock on the release of the Hutton report, showing BBC officials circling their wagons in desperate defensiveness. This under the headline, “It’s war.” The BBC is at war with itself and at war with the governmet.

: Meanwhile, at the BBC’s own news site, the story is virtually gone; just one teensy headline and a defensive one at that, with ousted boss Greg Dyke attacking Hutton. In every other corner of British news media, this is a huge story; at the BBC, it’s being buried. Now that’s news judgment.

:We are witnessing the death of the BBC, for the BBC doesn’t want to save itself. It would rather fight with itself and with the government than serve its audience and learn from its mistakes and move on. That’s because the BBC has utterly and completely lost sight of its mission and reason for being: serving and informing the public.

: In my comments below, Silver said it well:

The whole affair points to the vast difference between press in the free enterprise system and press sponsored by government.

Why was the NYTimes contrite over Blair? Because if they lost their credibility, they lost their revenue.

Why won’t the Beeb be contrite over this? Because every Brit with a TV pays their salaries (through an unbelievably stupid tax).

The world no longer needs the Beeb, and the Brits should not have to pay for it. Let the free market system determine the veracity of their reporting. The Beeb, as a ward of the state, should be abolished.

:Journalism cannot prosper, let alone survive, inside government. It is such an obvious oxymoron.

The BBC is inside the government, so it fights the government hardest.

The BBC does not have to answer to the market, so it ignores the market, also known as public, the audience, the citizenry.

The BBC thinks because there is also public anger at the Blair government, that means the public is for the BBC and the BBC isn’t even self-aware enough today to see that it is positioning itself as a direct player in politics — an utterly impossible position for a news organization, but one the BBC is welcoming.

The BBC thinks it is answerable to no one, not the market, not the audience, not Hutton, not journalism.

The BBC has turned into the monarchy of news — just as big and rich and meaningless and useless.

This will kill the BBC.

: I deeply regret this. Until very, very recently, I held the BBC in the highest esteem. When I was young, I even dreamed of working for them.

But now the BBC will get the fate it deserves.

It deserves to lose all public subsidy. It deserves to be thrown out in the marketplace to fend for itself. It deserves to face new competitors that will beat it at every measure. What Rupert Murdoch did to CNN with FoxNews, Rupert Murdoch will eagerly do to the BBC, just watch.

But the BBC brought this on itself. The BBC committed suicide.

  • JohninLondon

    “Those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad”

  • Franky

    I find it unbelievably depressing this whole saga. The BBC committed a host of errors with which it deserves the condemnation it is currently receiving (although the absence of ANY condemnation of the government is simply staggering).
    But the dissolution of the BBC is not the answer. The free-market has shown that it cannot provide high-quality innovative programing (or it provides it very irregularly); the need for guarantted profitability by its nature will make network execs less likely to take a risk on something different when they can churn out some more crummy reality show.
    Let’s look at what is produced on the BBC and shipped to the US. Let’s look at the crap that gets sent back. The BBC sends The Office, we get back Friends.
    If you’re happy with political discourse being conducted at the level of Bill O’reily or Chris Matthews, fine, watch it, but don’t seek to deprive others who look for something a little more that shouting.
    Bring out the old insults of elitist. I’ll wear it with pride if being elitist means being depressed that Everybody Loves Raymond is one of the most highly-rated programs.

  • I think you may be overstating this. There is a substantial group of people in Britain (and around the world for that matter) who like the BBC. They like it for its quality programs, lack of commercials, lack of excessive gossip news (such as the Michael Jackson and Condit type blanket coverage that effects private companies as they play for ratings), and its ability to get a wide range of stories from around the world in places most news agencies wouldn’t bother to send reporters because they know it won’t gather enough interest even though it is an important story.
    Add to the fact that most of the people in Britain think that the Hutton report is a whitewash that exonerates Blair at the expense of the BBC, and I think you are greatly exaggerating indications of its death, Mr. Jarvis.
    As a disclaimer, I am on your side in the bias the BBC showed during the Iraq war. I can remember Gilligan giving the report that there were no Americans in Baghdad and that it must be a fals report only a short time before they pulled down the statue of Saddam.

  • If I look at the big 4 nets here, they aren’t exactly the paragons of journalistic anything. Frankly, the partially gov’t run PBS beats the journalistic tar out of practically everything besides 60 Minutes.

  • Tilli (Mojave Desert)

    Say what you will: the BBC is one of the more entertaining media outlets around.
    It’ll survive.

  • CharlesWT

    On the Internet, for every opinion, you can probably can find one that is the diametric opposite…
    As of today, the independence of the most independent major network on this planet is under attack. Blair’s government is “cleared” and now arrogantly sport their kill, the head of Gavyn Davies, BBC’s chief, who resigned today.
    “The bleak future for British journalism” portends darkness for journalists everywhere – the threat to the last great open platform for hard investigative reporting. And frankly, it’s a worrisome day for me. I’m not a disinterested by-stander. My most important investigations, all but banned from US airwaves, were developed and broadcast by BBC Newsnight, reporter Watts’ program.
    Will an iron curtain descend on the news? Before dawn today, I was reading Churchill’s words to the French command in the hours before as the Panzers breached the defenses of Paris. Churchill told those preparing to surrender, “Whatever you may do, we shall fight on forever and ever and ever.” This may yet be British journalism’s Finest Hour BBC at War: M’Lord Hutton blesses Blair’s attack on BBC’s investigation of Iraq war claims: by Greg Palast (via
    The Iraqi Agora

  • Andy Freeman

    > but don’t seek to deprive others who look for something a little more that shouting.
    Bring out the old insults of elitist. I’ll wear it with pride if being elitist means
    No one is trying to deprive you of anything.
    We’re just asking you to pay for what you want.
    Or, does elitist mean never having to pay your own way?

  • Sleepytime

    Jeez!!! I think you are being a little bit dramatic here. The BBC will survive.

  • Miguel

    I’m truly appalled that the British people have permited that incredible tax. The U.K. is a real democracy, people can vote down a tax (hope I’m not being over optimistic after all), so, how could the Brittons allow this for so long? Let the Beep face the market, as several people here have said. That will teach them to respect their listeners.

  • JohninLondon

    A poll in the News of the World today reports that 55% of brits now object to the BBC licence fee.
    There is discussion elsewhere of the idea of NOT giving the BBC all the proceeds of the licence fee. It would be used to support “public service broadcasting” on other channels, not just the Beeb.
    This will be part of cutting the BBC down to size. But I would much prefer a general cut in the decades-old licence fee (it will not be abolished overnight) AS WELL AS a distribution of resoureces away from the BBC.

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    So the free market has shown it can’t provide “high-quality, innovative programing”. Damn the free market! We shall give the proles what they NEED not what they want. (Or at least what I think they need.)

  • Chris Josephson

    I can’t see why the UK, Australia, or the US need any media to be paid for by the taxpayers. The various public media (print,radio,TV) can obtain funds the way the non-public does. (Earn it.)
    I’ve never understood why public TV in the US still gets monies from the taxpayers. Did the people who run the public stations ever ask for a fair percentage of the revenue generated by the merchandise hawked to the kids (and parents) of kids’ shows?
    Take just two kids’ shows: Sesame Street and Barney. I’ve seen Sesame Street merchandise for decades. Now I see all kinds of Barney merchandise. I’d be very interested to know the amount of money (per year) this stuff brings in.
    What’s wrong with expecting shows that became popular on public TV to pay back into the system when they can and get public TV entirely off taxpayer money?

  • PJF

    Funny that CharlesWT should quote someone quoting Churchill as part of a hysterical whine in support of the BBC.
    Churchill utterly detested the BBC. Before the Second World War, the BBC supported and encouraged disarmament and the appeasement of Hitler (is anyone surprised?). Its chairman, an admirer of the Nazis, deliberately and cynically kept Churchill’s ‘warmongering’ warnings of forthcoming danger off the air. Thanks in no small part to the BBC, this country came within a figurative inch of being conquered. Invoke Godwin’s law all you like, it won’t change the facts.
    Incidentally, the French declared Paris an ‘open city’ and withdrew before the Germans got near. The ‘Panzers’ didn’t breach any defences there.

  • Gary

    Just so we know what we’re missing here in the States, how much is the tax that pays for the BBC. Is it per TV? Annually? Per month? What happens if you don’t pay? What happens if I buy a TV at the flea market? How does the gov’t know I have a TV?
    Sorry about all the questions, but this fascinates me.

  • capt joe

    how does the govt know you have a tv?
    Why the ministry of housingzz off course.

  • Andy Freeman

    > What happens if you don’t pay?
    They fine you and/or throw you in jail, just like they do for not paying any other tax. Why would a TV tax be any different?
    > What happens if I buy a TV at the flea market? How does the gov’t know I have a TV?
    They have surveillance vans[1] that look for TVs that are turned on.
    Yes, you have to pay even if you only watch other channels. I suspect that you have to pay even if you only use your TV for tapes and DVDs.
    [1] TV receiving circuits, including the ones for cable, emit signals that can be detected at a distance.

  • Bryan C

    I sincerely hope Jeff is right. The BBC was a proud and worthy organization once, but nothing short of a near-death experience and a complete revamp will fix the problems they face today.
    They’ll probably “survive” either way, but whether they survive insitutionally is a seperate question from whether they’ll survive with a reputation as respected and responsible journalists.
    Add to the fact that most of the people in Britain think that the Hutton report is a whitewash that exonerates Blair at the expense of the BBC, and I think you are greatly exaggerating indications of its death, Mr. Jarvis.
    If a signifigant number of British citizens currently think that the Hutton report is a “whitewash” then maybe it’s because they put far too much faith in the BBC’s horribly flawed coverage of the issue (and other reports that took the BBC’s information at face value.)
    Give them time to realize that they’ve been deliberately lied to by the BBC, and not Blair, and they’ll reevaluate their positions. And if some people want to go on believing things that aren’t true even after they’ve been thoroughly debunked, well, that’s human nature sometimes, but catering to that impulse certainly isn’t the purpose of a news organization.

  • Franky

    Licenses are per house, I think (on the assumption that all people in the house are part of same family). The government used to send teams out that had some sort of detector that could see if a TV inside a house was receiving a signal, and then check it with their records if the house is paying or not.
    Regarding the sarcastic post about the proles. I’ll tell you what, I’ll admit to being elitist and stick with the BBC’s output. You can shout about not being elitist and watch the Bachelorette for the rest of your life. I’m not particularly happy to identify myself as an elitist, because I didn’t get smarter, it’s just that mass culture got really stupid.
    Regarding paying for the BBC. I am quite prepared to pay for it, but I want the corporation to conitnue with the budget it currently has and I can’t see that happening in the current climate. I pay taxes for plenty of things I don’t want the government to do which presumably others think are needed and necessary.
    I can’t think of one commercial channel in the world that matches the quality and range of the BBC. The commerical channel in England, ITV, that operates against the BBC is a case in point, with a long-list of thrid-rate programs.

  • Franky

    Regarding the belief that the British people have been brainwashed by the BBC to believe the government lied to them. Not true. People don’t believe Blair’s government because we have had seven years experience of the lies. I know there’s a great deal of sympathy in the US for Bush’s roaming ambassador, who arrives with a smile. Remember how many Americans couldn’t understand why Europeans seemed to take to Clinton so much? Reverse it.
    In fact the people who are eager to believe the Hutton inquiry’s conclusions seem like they haven’t really followed the story. So government meetings occur at crucial times, and there are no notes taken?
    And let alone the mamoth distraction this has been. The BBC makes a bad report (Gilligan should have gone immediately), and is publicly crucified. UK and US intelligence services totally overstate Iraq’s capacity for WMDS, that takes a number of countries to war, and not one resignation?
    In fact those who are delighting in the sight of the BBC getting a kicking are doing a huge disservice to their countries by simply indulging in a partisan bloodletting and letting the big story slip back in to the shadows.

  • Ebb Tide

    Did the NYTimes survive Jayson Blair? Time will tell.
    Will the BBC survive Gilligan? Time will tell.
    But I don’t think it is fair to say ALL the reporters, journalists at the BBC are just like Gilligan, there are still good journalists there, the failure of the management to FISK their own ranks led to management resignations, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.
    I still listen to the BBC on my shortwave radio and I refuse to paint the entire enterprise with the tarry-brush …. let’s not kill the patient, let’s cure the disease. Long Live the BBC. (you know, the one with Jouralism Standards which we all know and love, that one.)

  • Vicki / UK

    The licence fee is

  • Angus Jung

    “I am as depressed as hell at the idea that the entire institution might be broken up by Blair’s government because of one sloppy reporter.”
    Also Bush = Hitler.

  • Eli

    from the
    BBC buys up ‘Hutton inquiry’ Google links
    Just 48 hours before Lord Hutton delivers his verdict
    on the controversy surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly,
    the BBC has begun an advertising experiment that involves
    buying up all internet search terms relating to the inquiry.
    Despite being one of the main players in the drama, anyone
    searching for “Hutton inquiry” or “Hutton report” on the UK’s
    most popular search engine Google is automatically directed
    to a paid-for link to BBC Online’s own news coverage of the
    No other news broadcaster or any newspaper has paid
    Google for this facility, leaving the corporation’s move even
    more conspicuous.,3858,4843395-105559,00.html
    eli, jerusalem

  • Joe Peden

    Angus Jung, Amen, to your response to Viki. I suppose she is in love with the British Nat. Health Service, too.
    The “one sloppy reporter” argument indicates she is a liberal, employing the “one satisfying thought” tactic.
    I like this one too, from Franky:
    “In fact the people who are eager to believe the Hutton inquiry’s conclusions seem like they haven’t really followed the story.”
    How would he know this? It would rather seem that Franky never understood the story.
    How much TV do Brits watch? Are they still able to read? [Read “Internet”. I suppose computers will be next in line for the Socialist parasites.]
    Note: reading is much more efficient than listening, for most of us, that is. No doubt the Brits can soon expect to be taxed/eye.
    Meanwhile, have the Brits given up looking around and searching, instead settling for solyent pap?

  • Andy Freeman

    > I am quite prepared to pay for it, but
    Ah, the dreaded “but”.
    > I want the corporation to conitnue with the budget it currently has and I can’t see that happening in the current climate.
    In other words, he’s not willing to pay for what it costs to deliver what he wants. He’s merely willing to pay something, but he’s still demanding TV welfare.
    Yes, govts spend money on lots of things that they shouldn’t. Absent an argument that several wrongs make a right, it’s probably best to just look at the BBC as the first step to reducing that problem.

  • Jim C.

    BBC news, at least, is dead. Their credibility is totally ruined. I hope the other BBC divisions can survive, but I’m not betting on it.
    The bottom line of all this is that if they had just admitted and corrected their initial misreporting within a short time, they would have survived. Their own hubris and delusions of grandeur have brought them down.

  • Insufficiently Sensitive

    “But the dissolution of the BBC is not the answer”.
    Maybe not, but it damn well needs a major reorganization. It needs DIVERSITY in political orientations from the highest levels to the lowest, to end its present self-realized mission of a political party with a narcissistic socialist agenda. It thinks it’s some form of noble Opposition, instead of a news bureau.
    If it’s going to be happily embedded in an ivory tower sucking on the Government tit with no accountability, it should be comprised of half Conservatives and constantly at war with itself – otherwise there’s no incentive NOT to become a propaganda organ for some top-down idealogues.
    Gilligan could only feel free to spout his slanders because of confidence in being defended by his bureaucratic superiors all the way to the top. They did – all critics of his ‘sexed-up’ broadcast were brushed off by the bosses who made no attempt to verify those slanders.
    Roll more heads.

  • Max

    Good God, what a morbid place this is.
    Is the BBC dead? Of course not, just brought to book over a single mistake and it should be stronger and more independent as a result.
    Was Gilligan wrong? A few words of what he said WERE wrong, and he should have been sacked for such a basic journalistic mistake. However, the majority of what he said was right, but that disappeared into the noise as the spin machine cranked into top gear. If Gilligan was so wrong, why is Bush now calling an inquiry to answer the points that Gilligan and the BBC raised many moons ago?
    Will the licence fee be abolished? I hope not. I do not regard it as a tax. I get eight TV networks, ten national radio networks, 40 local radio stations, 14 regional news services, a huge website, world-leading interactive television services. All for 30p (50c) a day, and all ad-free. I wouldn’t mind paying more if it guaranteed the BBC doesn’t show some of the crap programmes and mindless ads I see elsewhere.
    Is the licence fee unfair? It pays for a licence to own specialised electrical equipment, it is not designed to pay for the BBC. The fact that the Government ‘traditionally’ uses the money to off-set the cost of the BBC is their decision. At the end of the day though, it’s no more unfair than every household in the country being forced to pay for water or power.
    Is the BBC biased? No, but everyone who has an axe to grind claims it has, especially the press (who have their own agenda, especially the Murdoch press) and the anti-BBC brigade. The rumour has been repeated so often that everyone now treats it as fact. It HAS become less deferential, and has been accused of bias by both right-wingers and left-wingers, which tends to suggest it’s balance is about right. Anyway, people are intelligent enough to deal with bias, and to claim they are not is to patronise and insult them all. To listen to the rabid anti-BBC commentators anyone would think people are completely brainwashed by it. If the BBC should be destroyed for allegedly being biased, then why haven’t Sky News, Fox News and the Daily Mail been closed down?
    As for Churchill, well, in those days, the BBC was still considered a part of the civil service, and Chamberlain effectively banned the BBC from allowing Churchill on. It was as a result of such blatant abuse that the BBC’s independence was enshrined.
    Most of what I’ve read here today (and on the main blog) is ill-informed rubbish – the comment “Bush = Hitler” just sums up how lame the debate is.