The BBC must evolve or die



The BBC has lost its audience. Perhaps it was, once, considered the glue which bound our country together, the jewell in the crown of our cultural life. But those days are long gone. 

For a start, we no longer live in a world of two or three or four channels. In the 60s or 70s, the choice for viewers was either the BBC or ITV – and that was it. Now, people consume their entertainment content in a plethora of ways. Where once viewers would have tuned in for an evening’s programming, set by the channel they are are watching, now they can choose precisely what they watch and when they watch it. 

Netflix. Amazon Prime. Youtube. The choice is enormous and the BBC, with its clunky, old-fashioned approach to programme-making, is unable to properly compete. Even the lengths of our entertainment formats are changing. Whereas once we may have watched a 30 or 60 minute episode of a series once a week, now we have On Demand Boxsets offering a 10 hour binge, or 90 second Twitter-friendly chunks, perfect for the tube. The BBC – monolithic; expensive; Socialised – is increasingly unable to keep up. 

And then there is the issue of bias. The obvious problem lies with its news coverage, but the BBC’s cultural bias extends much further than that, infecting every aspect of what the Corporation does.

Identity politics is king. The predictable, Woke attitudes of producers (centre-left; pro-Remain; fiercely anti-Conservative) is reflected in everything from BBC One’s blockbuster dramas to Radio 4’s evening comedies. It is no surprise that the public has never felt so disconnected from Auntie. It is no surprise that more and more ordinary people – who will never enjoy the lavish pay-packets and lifestyles of BBC Executives, or its “stars” – are refusing to pay their license fee.

Conservatives are right to want change – indeed, our voters, sick to death of being preached at and resentful of funding tv programmes they no longer watch, demand it. But what form should that change take?

The IEA recently published a report suggesting the BBC should be reformed into a subscription service – modelled on the National Trust. People who want to pay for and access BBC programming will easily be able to, whilst the rest of us can save our money (and save our time).

This will create a BBC which is more responsive to its viewers, structured and funded in a way which is more appropriate for the modern world.

Last week, current Director General Tony Hall announced he’s stepping down. Rather than “more of the same”, the BBC should seize this opportunity to re-engage with the realities of the current media landscape. Viewers are switching off. The BBC is no longer our country’s most trusted news source. Linear TV, ultimately, is dead. 

As Conservatives, we should make the BBC a generous offer. Work with us – and let’s find a settlement which allows the brand to survive, whilst respecting the individual agency of viewers. But the writing is on the wall. No state institution has an intrinsic right to exist. It’s time to evolve – or die.

Rebecca Ryan is the Director of Stand Up 4 Brexit and Free Market Conservatives. Follow her on twitter: @beccyryan