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Tuesday 14 September 2010

Defining The Beeb

The prospect of a strike by workers at the BBC next month – potentially coinciding with the Tory conference – has started the usual suspects off. Out of the traps with customary speed has been the well-coordinated why-oh-why machine that is the Daily Mail, under the command of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre.

The Mail leaves no stone unturned in putting the boot into the Beeb: part of the Dacre modus operandi is to paint the corporation as biased and unreliable, while trumpeting his own slanted agenda as the One True Way. Europhobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, demonisation of Government, obsession with slebs – it’s all in the Daily Mail.

And one way in which the Beeb gets its ritual kicking from Dacre’s finest is the idea that it is a public sector body. But is it? It’s certainly a public service broadcaster, but it is also autonomous – it’s not a branch of Government. This realisation was grasped recently by culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, who likened the BBC to Government departments which were having to draw up cuts.

Hunt was then asked if he defined the BBC as a Government department, and he used the phrases “arm’s length body” and “public body”. But not a public sector body. There is a difference, and that is why the Beeb has to sort its pension problem alone, as would a private sector business.

As for the Daily Mail assertion that those staff pensions – the cause of the potential industrial action – are “gold plated”, that is rather rich coming from a paper whose editor routinely trousers a remuneration package now well north of a million and a half notes a year. Whenever he retires, Paul Dacre won’t be without a few bob.

[UPDATE: My thanks to Chris Dillow for linking to this post from Stumbling and Mumbling. Much appreciated]

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