Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Having declared the Iranian theocracy dead, bloggers have now moved on to premature eulogies for the BBC. "The battle to reform the BBC is now in full swing," writes Andrew Sullivan. "The BBC is in trouble," notes Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds, pointing to a London Times article that describes the network as "dangerously exposed".

Well, I'm hardly an expert on the BBC's political fortunes. But I'm a bit more familiar with the history of Canada's CBC, which has persevered through far, far greater ignominy than its British cousin. Its news and public affairs programming (heck, even its comedies and dramas) have long made the BBC's look politically neutral by comparison. It hasn't produced any content worth watching in decades, and consequently Canadians never, ever watch it. They never have to, because in addition to private Canadian Broadcasters, the overwhelming majority of Canadians have ready access the huge smorgasbord of American broadcasting, which does just about everything the CBC does, and much better. In fact, if it weren't for its excellent hockey broadcasts, most Canadians would simply have no clue what on earth the CBC portion of their tax bill is buying them.

Yet the CBC survives, and nobody believes it will disappear anytime soon. It has its own soapbox with which to defend itself, after all, and its passionate supporters on the outside tend also to be heavily microphone-equipped. Moreover, voters are hardly inclined to get all worked up about political bias on a network that nobody they know ever pays the slightest attention to.

If the BBC's opponents are smart, they will immediately stop griping about its alleged political transgressions, and make a case that the public can appreciate. What the anti-BBC forces need is a spate of artfully leaked stories about shocking profligacy in the BBC's corporate offices--the kind of rank irresponsibility in the handling of the license-holder's funds that calls for major cutbacks in license fees and a thorough, top-to-bottom audit of the network's finances.

The BBC being an old, bloated bureaucracy, it should be easy to find enough dirt to justify a massive budget squeeze, which will in turn reduce the number of jobs and contracts it can hand out, the quality and quantity of its output, and its overall prestige relative to private sector media organs. The resulting erosion in the effectiveness of its propaganda would be far greater than any amount of frustrated ranting about bias can ever hope to achieve.

One wonders--hasn't anyone in Tony Blair's office ever watched "Yes, Minister"?

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