While the red-top part of the Murdoch press is busy trying to pretend that it really cares about those its hacks demonise and otherwise monster to the point of there being a body count, the allegedly upmarket Sunday Times is today claiming that the BBC is about to see its licence fee scrapped. This is yet another story brought to us by political editor Tim Shipman. And Shippers has been shipping rather a lot of bull on this one.
“No 10 tells BBC licence fee will be scrapped … TV channels face axe in move to subscriptions” tells the headline, with the article claiming that the plan will “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 World Service”.
And then comes the first sign that someone, either Shipman or whoever briefed him, has not thought this through: “Ban BBC stars from cashing in with lucrative second jobs”. If the Beeb is going to be a subscription service - and therefore independent - then what hold does Government expect to exert upon it? Its stars could do what the heck they wanted.
Sounds like him ...
Worse is in store for Shippers when it comes to the all-too-clear identity of who fed him this shipment of bull. “A senior source said [that’s ‘senior Downing Street source’, remember, which means someone not unadjacent to chief polecat Dominic Cummings] ‘We are not bluffing on the licence fee. We are having a consultation and we will whack it’”. Oo-er!
But do go on. “It has to be a subscription model. They’ve got hundreds of radio stations [not according to the bloke you briefed, they haven’t - see above], they’ve got all these TV stations and a massive website [how massive is too massive?]. The whole thing needs massive pruning back”. Basically, folks, it’s pretty massive. And there is more.
... and shipped by him
“They should have a few TV stations, a couple of radio stations and a massively [!] curtailed online presence and put more money and effort into the World Service, which is part of its core job”. Micromanaging, much? If it talks like Cummings, it might just be Cummings. And guess what? “The attack on the BBC will be led by John Whittingdale … One source described Whittingdale’s instructions from No 10 as ‘Mission: attack’”. There are two further front page references to “A No 10 source”.
Now I hate to rain on Shipman’s parade, aided and abetted by someone whose ranting sounds rather like Polecat Dom, but there is a problem here. This Government, even if it lasts a full five years, cannot plan any further forward than December 2024. The BBC’s current settlement lasts until 2027. Is it being proposed that it bind its successor?
Worse, that ranting, which includes more on those stars who make money outside the Corporation, sounds less like coherent policy and more like the embittered wailings of someone who has an axe to grind. Whether that is Cummings, Whittingdale, Bozo The Clown, his partner Carrie Symonds or whoever is immaterial. It still ain’t policy
Once upon a time, the Sunday Times dealt in serious, heavyweight journalism. Now it is reduced to kite-flying for an unelected mouth artist in Downing Street. Sad, really.
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