The BBC: My family’s business

I am asking for a national referendum on the licence fee. Let the people decide. It’s our family business, our money, our nation, and our future

The BBC has come a long way and not always for the better
Neil Turner
On 3 April 2013 14:29

Early 1920’s Blackpool, just a few years since the end of the Great War. Three young friends are washing cars to make ends meet, and discussing their future plans. Frank Taylor has borrowed some money from his parents and is going to build two houses. Bill Lyons has completed an engineering apprenticeship and plans to build a sidecar. George Hall, who ran away to war at 15, had recently been demobbed from the Royal Signals and is to become one of the pioneers of radio, and a founder member of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Taylor goes on to found Taylor-Woodrow and becomes Baron Taylor of Hadfield. Lyons founds Swallow Sidecars, which evolves into SS Jaguar, and receives a knighthood. You have almost certainly never heard of George Hall, but he was my granddad. 

He was an innovator who built one of the first working radios, an Athall Type SV2. It came with an ebonite front panel, two rheostats, three tuning knobs and a BBC stamp. He designed the world’s first radio valve tester, and the first wind-up torch. He also completely redesigned the candy floss machine, because the devices imported from the America to Blackpool’s Golden Mile wouldn’t work.

These were exciting, heady days, where necessity and austerity became the parents of invention. There was a small state, but the country was big on private enterprise. As the technology developed and audiences grew, the BBC’s private shareholders had to relinquish their holdings, the corporation was nationalised, and a licence fee of 10 shillings was introduced to cover ownership of a radio.

Now, some 90 years later, I wonder what George Hall would think of the organisation he helped to create ?

Last June, I set up an ePetition on the Government website to request a national referendum for the British public to express their views on the Licence Fee. Why did I do this? Probably because of the family connection, I was brought up to rightly regard the BBC’s output as the standard against which all other broadcasting was measured. During my youth in the 70s, this was true, and ITV was considered a little far-out. But time marched on, and the national broadcaster, shielded from competition, customer feedback, and any real accountability developed a sense of its own divinity, and with it, arrogance.

It became the perfect vehicle for the disaffected to hitch a ride on, knowing it would place them safely above any criticism. They could espouse their views on a range of subjects, be absolutely free from any comeback, and make a very good living from it.

It is beyond reasonable doubt today that the BBC is wholly of the Left, paying only a disdainful lip-service to those with opposing views. Don’t get me wrong, the BBC remains capable of the highest quality of broadcasting and production; I have greatly enjoyed its local radio output, getting involved with phone-ins, and had a genuinely fruitful relationship with my local station. Test Match Special too is my constant summertime companion.

But the pigeons are now coming home to roost at national level. As an educator in the management of projects, I know how vital it is for businesses to establish reliable feedback mechanisms. When these are ineffective, the system cannot adjust to reality, doesn’t learn, and the top brass lose touch. Recruitment of talent and management from those of similar political persuasion further concentrate the brew, and like the Emperor and his new clothes, senior management are told exactly what they want to hear. And so the hotbed warms, spawning the problems we see today, Savile included.

In any system, bias is insidious, and provides an unrelenting and steady pressure in a particular direction. With the BBC it is now a crusade, firmly written into its DNA, to change the world to its own image.

I began to take an amateurish interest in the BBC’s coverage of Israel around 15 years ago. It rapidly became clear it was neither impartial nor reliable, but based a particular world view. These days it is much easier to expose this bias, with the help of sites like the Commentator and the excellent BBCWatch.

Should any viewer attempt to complain, they would be opposed by a complex strategy of obfuscation, delay, and denial. And because the BBC knows it is accountable to no-one in reality, it goes on. And on. You can name your own personal gripe here: global warming, the EU, “Tory cuts”, ageism, the obsession with equality and diversity – the answer is always the same. The adage of “half the story all the time” is the BBC’s way of life, and should be written over its front door. Good news is buried. Bad news is fabricated or exaggerated.

Compare the BBC’s complaints process with, say, the work of the independent Press Complaints Commission, and one sees a wholly different approach. The PCC provides prompt and personal attention, and your complaint will be dealt with transparently, fairly and efficiently.

The Licence Fee was established at a time when there was no alternative to State-funded radio or television, but has now created a dumb, yet enormously fat and happy playground bully that pervades, influences and commands almost every aspect of the British way of life.

In an age of media “a la carte”, the BBC insists on dictating the menu, as well as fixing the price. The politicians won’t take the lead in muzzling this beast: the Tories had their opportunity but are running scared; Labour and the Lib Dems sycophantically suck-up to get their free shot of publicity (Vince Cable is almost a saint). Even UKIP is strangely silent on this issue.

So it is up to us, the great British public, to do something about it. As the Commentator has so succinctly stated, it is like having to pay Tesco’s supermarket £145 a year when you shop at Morrisons.

For this reason, and many others, I am asking for a national referendum on the licence fee. I am not only requesting that you sign up, but also that you tell your friends. My call goes out also to the countless bloggers, authors, and journalists out there to push the message. Your country needs you, and we need 100,000 signatures to provoke a Parliamentary debate.

Let the people decide. It’s our family business, our money, our nation, and our future.

Neil Turner is an educator who specialises in the management of projects. He loves cricket. Like his granddad before him, he is an inventor of immense talent. His device for opening the loft door is particularly worthy of note. Follow him on Twitter @NeilofWatford

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