The statist, defeatest and biased BBC is on the wrong wavelength

‘So what do you think, eh?” I turned to the BBC’s art critic, the brilliant, bulging Professor Branestawm lookalike Will Gompertz. We were standing on the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit in Stratford; London was spread beneath us like a land of dreams – was that France I could see in the distance? – and yet I was nervous. This sculpture is a masterpiece, far better and more rewarding up close than it appears at a distance. The steel loops are an arterial red, writhing and shifting against each other beneath the blue sky. Anish Kapoor already has many fans, but he has excelled himself with this vast fallopian ampersand, this enigmatic hubble bubble, this proud vertical invitation to London 2012.

The Orbit is a decisive assertion of the city’s status as the world capital of culture and the arts. That’s my view, anyway, and I am sticking to it, though I am conscious that not everyone agrees. There are plenty of people who absolutely hate the thing, just as most Parisians initially despised the Eiffel Tower (and didn’t Charles Dickens campaign against the building of Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster?). I have heard it compared to a catastrophic collision between two cranes, a mutant helter-skelter, a mangled trombone, and worse. So of course I waited with bated breath for the verdict of the BBC.

Did Gompertz like it as much as I did? My friends, he did not. Or at least, he liked it, but he had two complaints. “It’s not big enough,” he said, “and surely it should be free.” Not big enough! Free! There you have everything that is wrong with the BBC and with this country. The thing is already colossal – about twice the height of Nelson’s column. If we went much higher we would have to re-route the planes out of City airport. And yes, it costs something to go up – though less than it costs to go up the London Eye – but what is the alternative? The alternative is that the whole operation would have to be subsidised by the taxpayer when it is one of the (many) saving graces of this structure that it has been very largely financed by private sponsorship.

In his criticisms, Gompertz was revealing not the instincts of an art critic – but the mentality of the BBC man. Unlike the zany eccentric ArcelorMittal Orbit, the zany eccentric Gompertz is almost entirely publicly funded. It is up to you whether or not to go up the Orbit – though I thoroughly recommend it. You have no choice about funding Gompertz. Everyone who possesses a TV has to pay more than £145 to put him on air. The BBC is unlike any other media organisation in the free world, in that it levies billions from British households whether they want to watch it or not. No wonder its employees have an innocent belief that everything in life should be “free”. No wonder – and I speak as one who has just fought a campaign in which I sometimes felt that my chief opponent was the local BBC news – the prevailing view of Beeb newsrooms is, with honourable exceptions, statist, corporatist, defeatist, anti-business, Europhile and, above all, overwhelmingly biased to the Left.

Of course they are: the whole lot of them are funded by the taxpayer. Eurosceptic views are still treated as if they were vaguely mad and unpleasant, even though the Eurosceptic analysis has been proved overwhelmingly right. In all its lavish coverage of Murdoch, hacking and BSkyB, the BBC never properly explains the reasons why other media organisations – including the BBC – want to shaft a free-market competitor (and this basic dishonesty is spotted by the electorate; it’s one of the reasons real people are so apathetic about the Leveson business).

The non-Murdoch media have their guns trained on Murdoch, while the Beeb continues to destroy the business case of its private sector rivals with taxpayer-funded websites and electronic media of all kinds. None of this might matter, if we were not going through a crucial and difficult economic period. The broad history of the past 30 years in the UK is that the Thatcher government took us out of an economic death-spiral of Seventies complacency. Spending was tackled, the unions were contained, the City was unleashed, and a series of important supply-side reforms helped to deliver a long boom; and when the exhausted and fractious Tories were eventually chucked out in 1997, it was Labour that profited – politically – from those reforms.

The boom continued, in spite of everything Blair and Brown did to choke it. They over-regulated; they spent more than the country could afford; they massively expanded the public sector; they did nothing to reform health or education or the distortions of the welfare state. And so when the bust finally came, in 2008, this country was in no position to cope. We now have the twin problems of dealing with the debt, and recovering competitiveness – and neither of those is easy when the BBC is the chief mirror in which we view ourselves. If you are funded by the taxpayer, you are more likely to see the taxpayer as the solution to every economic ill.

If you are funded by the taxpayer, you are less likely to understand and sympathise with the difficulties of business; you are less likely to celebrate enterprise. I have sometimes wondered why BBC London never carries stories about dynamic start-ups or amazing London exports – and then concluded gloomily that it just not in the nature of that show. It’s not in their DNA. Fully 75 per cent of the London economy is private sector – and yet it is almost completely ignored by our state broadcaster.

Well, folks, we have a potential solution. In a short while we must appoint a new director-general, to succeed Mark Thompson. If we are really going ahead with Lords reform (why?), then the Lib Dems should allow the Government to appoint someone to run the BBC who is free-market, pro-business and understands the depths of the problems this country faces. We need someone who knows about the work ethic, and cutting costs. We need a Tory, and no mucking around. If we can’t change the Beeb, we can’t change the country.

4 thoughts on “The statist, defeatest and biased BBC is on the wrong wavelength”

  1. I’m very disappointed in this; I hope this was flung off two minutes to deadline and doesn’t represent your considered opinion. I imagine you would have lost a few votes if this had come out before the election.

    The BBC was set up during the last major financial crisis by a political establishment concerned to neutralise extremist views in the media. They succeeded brilliantly. However it seems the modern Tory’s attitude to public service broadcasting is far closer to that of Goebbels and Stalin than it is to their forebears. Today’s Tories are clearly absolutely determined to create a Fox News in the UK – will all the consequent divisive coarsening of public debate that will ensue. It’s worth noting the BBC had its worst clash ever with the Blair Government over Iraq – and despite the Hutton enquiry the public still believed the BBC’s version over Tony Blair’s.

    Whether or not the pubic is interested in the Leveson enquiry, the apparent whole scale corruption of our political classes, the police, and the intimidation of celebrities and members of the public alike are clearly issues which go to the heart of our democracy.

    About the Orbit I tend to agree with you that it’s better close up – at least as far as I could see from the television pictures. However, you can’t have it both ways – it’s either a monument to the munificence of Mr Mittal and yourself or it’s a commercial fee-paying attraction. The London Eye was always a fairground ride – this is supposed to be public sculpture. And the £15 is on top of the fee you have to pay to get into the Olympic grounds – so it does work out as considerably more expensive than the Eye to go up a not very tall stationery tower. You should have insisted on slides!

  2. Thank goodness to hear some sensible comments about the Left bias of the BBC. About time someone had the guts to tell it as it is. During the recent elections the BBC acted as if they were the commiunication arm of the Labour party. Carry on Boris.

  3. BBC and especially radio 4 should be officially designated as the political broadcasting propaganda voice of the Labour Party.
    Radio 4 has lost half a million listeners over the last 6 month and likely to lose far more. I have not heard one sane person over 50 years old who does not see this ridiculous bias from a publicly funded national and seemingly omnipotent service.
    Changing the DG is not the full answer as the culture of the BBC needs to be changed to fully conform with its mandate and monitoring and evaluation systems firmly set in place to ensure it acts impartially and in a truly factual manner.
    We do not need a political animal in charge. We need a tried and trusted reformer, a Hercules who can effectively address this lousy Phrygian stables. We need someone of real stature that will issue P45’s to the left wing placements in senior management and bring in some really effective talent to cope with 21st century technology and news needs. Putting Patton in charge was also the wrong man for the job, as he has as much reform experience as Thompson – NIL.

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