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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Want to know what the BBC's real problem is? My son.

Went to the recording of the Media Show's debate on the future of the BBC, chaired in exemplary fashion by Steve Hewlett. It's here.

I came away thinking these things are a ritual dance.  James Purnell, the Corporation's director of strategy, makes exaggerated claims for the unique quality of BBC output; Trevor Kavanagh, leader writer for The Sun, makes equally exaggerated claims for the damage the BBC supposedly does to the rest of the media landscape. All the panellists are asked what will happen in twenty years time. None of them really know.

The people who will ultimately decide about the licence fee are not the people on stage or the politicians or the loyalists in the audience in the BBC Radio Theatre. They will be people like my son.

He's just moved into his own flat, has no intention of getting a TV and gets his TV pictures from Netflix, You Tube and various time-shift platforms, watching them on a laptop. If he has a preference it's for American drama and comedy, which the BBC seems to have cleansed from its output, and big sport, which has all gone to Sky or BT.

I'm sure he's not the only one. This is a different generation which has grown up in a radically different climate. (As Greg Dyke said in the debate, last time the BBC's Charter was discussed, back in 1990, there was not a single mention of the internet.) The BBC doesn't figure in the life of this generation as much as it likes to think it does.








8 comments:

  1. I'd guess the main influence the BBC has on the young is their use of the BBC news website.

    Which is one of the reasons that the press hate the BBC - who's going to pay to use the sun's website (or put up with ads) when there's one of the most trusted news sources on the planet available for free.

    I watch almost no TV in real time (other than football), and almost no BBC output at all. But I look at the BBC website for news first thing and whenever I want to know what's going on. I look at the sport and weather section as my first point of call for news on those things. It's worth the whole of the BBC just to find those things for me.

    I think the trusted nature of the BBC news output is the corporations most powerful resource - and, if governments would stop complaining about it being biased against whichever party happens to be in power for a second, they'd see it is hugely influential in maintaining the UKs position as a relevant nation in the world. If you're living anywhere in the world and you want to know what's going on, you use the BBC.

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  2. I was talking to a member of the BBC Trust recently and asked him the key issues facing the Corporation. To make sure the content is available on all platforms and and truly digitise the business, was his reply. Okay, and what about the fact that there is a generation coming up who are simply not going to pay the licence fee because they don't own a TV or consume any of your content on any platform? And therefore your revenues are only going one way for the foreseeable. He just stared at me. Look at the stats for the average age of listeners and viewers. I adore the BBC but any normal business would see the changes for what they are: an existential threat. It's really odd, don't they have teenage and twentysomething children? Can't they see what's going to happen?

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  3. “The BBC doesn't figure in the life of this generation as much as it likes to think it does”.

    The BBC doesn't figure in the life of ANY generation as much as it likes to think it does. This applies to telly and wireless. I’m not sure it ever has.

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  4. Well, you don't mention radio, where the BBC really has a national significance and influence, whether you listen to it or not. For that alone, the licence fee is worth it. The cultural output of the UK would be the poorer without it.

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  5. I agree with Rod. There are far too many good podcasts, ie 'radio', for free that I can listen to without the bias the BBC is saturated in. If bitten tongues can be heard then I sensed far to many of them as speakers self censored.

    There are now presenters on You Tube who are as familiar to me as any walkntalker from the telly. The other day I watched a great interview with Eek A Mouse and then of Niall Ferguson yakking about 'Kissinger' at an institute somewhere in the USA; always useful for finding a favourite author talking to someone somewhere. Later I learned how to dig a 'French drain'.I could learn how to do open heart surgery should the whim take me.

    So David's son and those (almost) his dad's age are part of the same revolution; the BBC is losing its gravity; everything is coming to us now.

    p.s. The World Tonight survives for now.

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  6. Andy Brim:

    "I could learn how to do open heart surgery should the whim take me."

    But can you change a plug?! (insert Smiley here)

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  7. Good points - though always beware drawing conclusions from a sample size of 1.

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  8. "I adore the BBC but any normal business would see the changes for what they are: an existential threat. It's really odd, don't they have teenage and twentysomething children? Can't they see what's going to happen?"

    Well, aside from publicly acknowledging the threat, what else do you think the BBC can do? (that they're not already doing) What do you think any traditional media organisation can do to futureproof itself?

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