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Wednesday 8 July 2009

Something About Auntie – 2

Those less than happy with the perceived mindset of the BBC, its approach to its audience (and their criticism), and its funding, are wont to voice some unconventional solutions, as I mentioned yesterday. But perhaps we should check out how this kind of thing is done elsewhere. How do other countries deal with public service broadcasting? Do they use the same model as the UK, with the BBC?

Looking across the English Channel, there seems to be some consistency in the approach: the use of a licence fee – as with the BBC – but with on-air advertising contributing to the budget. There is also, however, a more direct state control in some countries: the former French broadcaster ORTF was called “the Government in every Frenchman’s living room”, and the Italian Government is the major shareholder in national broadcaster RAI. And there’s the problem.

RAI is in competition with commercial broadcasters like Mediaset, which is owned by Silvio “Duce” Berlusconi, who is, er, the Italian Prime Minister. A proposed partial sell off of RAI in 2005 was shelved following suggestions that the share on offer could find its way into the hands of Mediaset. Perhaps we should be grateful that the BBC is not, despite some of the more wacky assertions of its critics, owned by the Government.

There are other models for public service broadcasting: Germany’s ZDF (the so called “Second German Television”) is also funded by a combination of licence fee and advertising, but is run as a not-for-profit company. However, the interest in ZDF is with the various Bundesländer, or federal states, of Germany. These are an example of seriously devolved Government, and in the UK our politicians talk of such things, but in reality can’t get their heads round it.

Of course, there’s an elephant in this particular room, and that beast is the purely commercial broadcaster. Or perhaps that should be beasts plural, as in addition to ITV, we now have the satellite and cable providers, which for the most part means the Murdoch owned Sky. So what if we left it to dear old Rupe?

Don’t go away – we’ll be back after this short break.

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