By Sam Ord
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2788

Tories attack the BBC—even though they depend on it

The broadcaster reflects the perspective of the establishment—but now it faces an assault from the right
Issue 2788
A collage in which a portrait of Tory culture secretary Nadine Dorries in black and white is imposed on a colour image of the BBC headquarters in London

Nadine Dorries wants rid of the BBC (Background picture: David Carroll)

Tory culture secretary Nadine Dorries has threatened an assault on the very existence of the BBC.

Dorries announced on Sunday a £2 billion BBC budget cut, a two‑year funding freeze and that licence fee funding would end in 2027.

She argued that Britain should “discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling” BBC television services and programmes.”

“The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors, are over,” she added.

Sections of the Tory right have long pushed for an assault on the BBC. Many are ideologically opposed to the idea of a state‑owned broadcaster.

For many of them, this is linked to the myth that the BBC has a left wing or liberal bias, and that its programming has become too “woke.”

They are motivated by business interests too. Destroying the BBC and replacing it with charged subscription based broadcasting services is on the agenda for big business and right wing media outlets.

The Tory vision of media is for it to be dominated by right wing tycoons such as Rupert Murdoch.

But not every Tory is as keen as Dorries to do away with the BBC. A spokesperson from 10 Downing Street tried to downplay some of Dorries’ more ambitious claims.

They said the matter of future funding for the BBC was “subject to ongoing negotiations”.

As the state owned broadcaster, governments—especially Tory ones—can rely on the BBC in moments of crisis.

That’s because, even if not directly influenced by any government or party, the BBC reflects the perspective of the British state.

BBC political coverage is largely confined to what happens in parliament, speculation about elections and gossip about individuals.

Its notion of “acceptable” views is a very narrow range of opinions centred on support for the system as it is, big business and British military strength. Left wing and working class voices rarely feature.

This implicit bias revealed itself in the BBC’s treatment of Jeremy Corbyn while he was Labour leader.

The BBC treated every move by Corbyn with cynicism, and at times portrayed him as a Stalinist-style communist or as the Harry Potter villain Voldemort.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson was treated to softball election interviews and a degree of sympathy based on a shared fundamental perspective.

That’s why substantial sections of the left, who might be expected to support a publicly-owned broadcaster, are unwilling to defend the BBC.

But the threatened attacks are an assault from the right designed to put even more of the media in the hands of big business.

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