How the Beeb blew it

Originally posted as A Different Hat, Dec 04 2009, 02:37 PM

Don’t any of these highly paid BBC executives or flipping MPs understand just how much £142.50 means to people in the real world out there?

Actually, I mean the real Britain, not the real world. In fact, that’s my point.

When CNN was launched in 1980, it had had almost zero content. Now it is a massive worldwide media powerhouse. And, in those far off days of 1980, do you know what content viewers were prepared to sign up to?

Well, I can tell you. In some parts of the world, such was CNN’s dearth of content, and so desperate was CNN to expand globally, that viewers in say, Asia, were prepared to sign up and pay for the CNN weather forecast for yesterday in Florida from the day before yesterday.

Get that? On a Wednesday in Asia, people would watch the weather forecast from the previous Monday for what the weather would be in Florida on Tuesday, the day before they were viewing this ‘forecast’. Why would people, sweating in Hong Kong or freezing on Mount Fuji, pay for that? But they did.

And, more importantly, how ON EARTH did the BBC ever allow this to happen? How did the BBC even allow CNN to take off at all, let alone for Ted Turner to laugh all the way to the bank and into Jane Fonda’s arms?

I’ll tell you why. It was because of the licence fee.

The BBC management never had to worry about revenue, never had to bother about the sheer hunger for news and entertainment from billions of people with billions of televisions and radios, never had to think about the explosion in world markets with worldwide corporations and worldwide brands and certainly never saw that, one day, there might be a worldwide web of people with a world vision.

They just sat their – myopically – in Regent Street or Shepherd’s Bush and ‘earned’ their fat salaries based on their entirely forecastable revenue that was being provided by taxing the relatively small number of Brits who were forced to pay for these short-sighted people.

And, all this time, which of the BBC and CNN had a worldwide reputation, largely through the World Service, for editorial integrity, expert journalism and TRUST?

And which of the BBC and CNN had a catalogue of content of such outstanding creative quality that they are still repeating it to this day?

The answer, of course, is the BBC.

Remember, we are talking about ALL of the programming EVER produced by the BBC up to 1980 versus CNN with virtually NO CONTENT at all.

Because of this, CNN’s very existence is a national disgrace to the British people. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

So what can we do about it?

Well, there is only one answer. Punish these BBC wasters by setting them a commercial challenge that – if they cannot fulfil – will force them to take their fat pensions and fast forward themselves off somewhere else. They should be ashamed to show their faces in the High Streets of Britain.

Right now, they have a strategy to save money and be more politically correct by moving a chunk of their business to Manchester. What do their potential audience in India and China and the whole wide world care about that? We are talking about an audience of BILLIONS here.

It gets worse.

According to Campaign Live last week, “The BBC is considering floating a portion of BBC Worldwide, its commercial arm, following increased pressure from the government and commercial rivals to reduce its media market power…….the company is reported to be holding talks with City advisers regarding the issue as part of a strategic review of its worldwide entity, which is estimated to have a total equity value of £2 billion.”

BILLIONS of people – and now BILLIONS of pounds?!

And, in all this, the BBC STILL wants a few million Brits, many of whom are struggling like never before, to cough up £142.50 a year to fund this madness. Get this – £142.50 is DOUBLE the dole of increasing numbers of our people – and, to some, over A MONTH of their disability allowance.

What ON EARTH is going on?

Here is one solution. The UK taxpayer should set the BBC a limit of five years to reduce the licence fee to nothing by that time. As a sop, they should be allowed to sell advertising on a commercial basis except on BBC 2, BBC Radio and BBC World Service. After that, they should be set a target of paying corporation tax on profits at competitive market levels so that some of this £2 billion can be returned to the hands that have fed this antiquated and myopic anachronism for so long.

I don’t care about the execution but it must be right that the strategic objective must be to force the BBC to face the commercial realities of the big, wide world out there and stop bleeding the poor people in the UK to enrich yet another bunch of ‘City advisers’ and entertain audiences around the globe.

It is the UK taxpayer who deserves – at last – to receive the BBC for free. It is the time for the rest of the world to pay us for that privilege. And it is the human responsibility of the BBC’s management to make this happen.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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