Days after the man formerly known as the Minister for Murdoch returned to the government, unelected leader Dominic Cummings has apparently declared war on the BBC.
It seems Cummings was just waiting to get the right man for the job – and the well-connected Whittingdale fitted the bill perfectly.
So it fell to The Sunday Times to herald the forthcoming assault on our national broadcaster:
“Downing Street turned on the BBC last night — vowing to scrap the television licence fee and make viewers pay a subscription. The national broadcaster could also be compelled to downsize and sell off most of its radio stations.
“In a plan that would change the face of British broadcasting, senior aides to the prime minister insisted that they are “not bluffing” about changing the BBC’s funding model and “pruning” its reach into people’s homes.
“The blueprint being drawn up in government will:
“● Scrap the licence fee and replace it with a subscription model
“● Force the BBC to sell off the vast majority of its 61 radio stations but safeguard Radio 3 and Radio 4
“● Reduce the number of the corporation’s national television channels from its current 10
- “Scale back the BBC website
- “Invest more in the BBC World Service”
It’s an interesting plan – especially, as Zelo Street points out, considering the fact that the BBC’s current agreement with the government runs until 2027, three years after the current Tory government’s term runs out.
Cummings is either incredibly confident of getting a new term with his puppet Boris Johnson, or he’s sure that Tory plants in the Labour Party will keep it riven by controversy and unable to mount a meaningful challenge.
That blog also points out that the plan has not been properly thought through: how can the government expect to dictate that BBC stars can’t have second jobs if they become part of a subscription service that is independent?
The BBC betrayed our democracy and enthusiastically became a tool of the far right. It brought this on itself
— oldcornishbloke (@mrkernow) February 16, 2020
I agree. My issue with the BBC is around their news coverage, the bias of some Journos, and the political discussion programmes.
— Clare Hepworth OBE (@Hepworthclare) February 16, 2020
Quite- not to mention the comedy! https://t.co/dofIawMP0W
— Lynne Jones (@lynnejones_exMP) February 17, 2020
Me: The BBC isn't perfect but we must protect it
Me, having just heard Tom Chivers get five unchallenged minutes on @BBCr4today to cast Sabisky as a harmless but interesting eccentric: Burn the BBC to the fucking ground and salt the fucking earth.
— Michael S (@ScanlanWithAnA) February 17, 2020
My question to new SoS @OliverDowden is this: will you let yourself be a tool in Cummings' anti-BBC agenda?
Or will you speak up for public sector broadcasting – as loyal Tory MPs such as @DamianGreen have done today – & work with Labour to ensure the BBC is fit for the future?
— Tracy Brabin MP 🌹 (@TracyBrabin) February 16, 2020
Only anti-British Tracy Brabin could have turned an ultra-safe Labour seat into a marginal one.
— Raj Ganesh 🇬🇧 (@RajGaneshHDL) February 16, 2020
(It’s worth pointing out that Raj Ganesh – above – considers the Conservative Party to be left wing and may therefore be considered a far-right extremist. That’s the kind of person who really hates the BBC. But expect also his phrase “telly tax” to catch on – Tories love that kind of thing.)
Anyone in Labour who thinks a post-BBC (or gutted BBC) UK media landscape would be *in any way* better for them is utterly deluded. https://t.co/qxKxctFs7b
— James Ball (@jamesrbuk) February 16, 2020
“I would man the barricades to defend it.”
— Steve Coogan is prepared to battle British PM Boris Johnson’s assault on the @BBC
This is not just a British fight. This is a battle to save an institution that is a source of independent news for the world.pic.twitter.com/Ld496RG21U
— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) February 16, 2020
But it seems the plan does not have wholehearted support – even within Conservative Party ranks. Sure, some have described it as “Tory vandalism”…
Comforting thought I'm sure. But this is good old-fashioned Tory vandalism. https://t.co/zgyNW4BHfy
— Tom Mills (@ta_mills) February 17, 2020
… and, sure, some Tories have helped undermine the BBC and are now using the results of their own actions as reasons to attack it again…
That was your decision, when you supported the government handing responsibility for the £700million free licences to the BBC without the money to pay for it.
— Chris Bryant (@RhonddaBryant) February 17, 2020
… but some are standing by it:
I hope the Sunday Times story about the BBC is kite-flying. Destroying the BBC wasn’t in our manifesto and would be cultural vandalism. “Vote Tory and close Radio 2”. Really?
— Damian Green MP (@DamianGreen) February 16, 2020
Before anybody jumps in and tries to rubbish Mr Green’s opinion because of his past connection with certain forms of online… entertainment… let’s just remember that Whittingdale had a relationship with a female sex worker that only ended when he discovered the story was likely to be sold to the tabloid press.
And Mr Green isn’t alone, anyway. The Independent reports:
“Huw Merriman, another Conservative MP who is also chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the BBC, also warned that the corporation should “not be a target”.
“Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said ‘it feels as if senior government aides are now ramping up an unedifying vendetta against this much-admired corporation’.
“A third Tory MP, Damian Collins, a former chair of the Commons culture committee, added: “No surprise that no-one has put their name to this destructive idea.
“’This would smash the BBC and turn it from being a universal broadcaster to one that would just work for its subscribers. The biggest losers would be the UK’s nations and regions.’”
The consensus among Tory opponents of the plan is that it will cost the party votes.
Personally, I don’t think that will stop Dominic Cummings.
He wants to smash everything of “cultural importance”, as Steve Coogan put it, to the UK. He’ll happily sell the lot to foreign investors and see all the money we earn dribble abroad, reducing the UK to Third World status. The NHS is set to be privatised, with the profit-making parts sold off to the US, remember.
Now why would a patriotic UK citizen want to do such a thing?
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