Sunday, 11 November 2012

The BBC debacle is just part of a much wider malaise

Another week passes by and another debacle for the BBC to deal with. Now, the BBC Director General, George Entwistle, has resigned after Newsnight alleged that a 'top Tory' was involved in child abuse in a children's home in North Wales. The allegation, made on Newsnight by Steve Messham, who was abused whilst in care, wasn't properly researched, and it turned out that Messham hadn't even been shown a photo of the man he thought was his abuser. He was wrong, and he apologised. So far so bad, a sloppy piece of journalism which should never have been aired, and coming on top of the Saville affair it has rocked the BBC from top to bottom.

The BBC has an enduring and important role in our society - Plaque at Alexandra Palace
No doubt the enemies of the BBC, including Rupert Murdoch. will be rubbing their hands at the pickle the BBC is in. There are plenty of people who would like to see the end of public broadcasting in the UK. These people are essentially asset-strippers, who seek the privatisation of public services such as the NHS, so that private sector vultures can grab hold of public sector infrastructure and assets, and make easy money from delivering services on long term contracts without any competition - see here. The end of the BBC would mean a bonanza for private sector broadcasters like Rupert Murdoch's Sky.

What has happened at the BBC looks like part of a much wider malaise which includes the Parliamentary expenses scandal, the Libor banking scandal, widespread tax avoidance and tax evasion, and the economic crisis we are in itself. In all these cases people in positions of power, either by virtue of high position or wealth have either failed to maintain expected standards or abused the system for their own benefit. What this indicates is a widespread failure in the system brought about by a toxic mixture of incompetence, corruption, and sheer criminality. What is the cause of this? Well, there will always be people who try to get their fingers in the till, but I believe the main cause is the corrosive and malign influence of neoliberal 'free' market capitalism. This is a get rich quick, devil take the hindmost, beggar my neighbour ideology, which puts profit before people and seeks to destroy collective provision for private gain. We had a wonderful example of this recently when it transpired that a group of GPs had made millions by hiving off NHS services to the private sector. 

If you are wondering what this ideology has to do with institutions that are still wholly in the public domain I can assure you that marketisation and 'free' market ideology is all pervasive in the public sector, thanks to the 'influence' of New Labour and the Coalition. But we need our BBC, and  for all its faults and failures, it still provides far better value for money than its private sector rivals, and acts as a bulwark against the rabid and poisonous propaganda pumped out by private 'news'  stations like Fox - its well worth watching this attack on Owen Jones What we need to to do is understand the dangers of this insidious 'free' market political project and work to protect our public services. We also need to re-discover that old fashioned and oft forgotten concept of public service, which some of us still remember, and value.

Footnote: the day after I posted this, an interesting article by Simon Caulkin appeared in the Observer. What Caulkin, who is an award winning commentator on management issues, is arguing is that management has been taken over by 'free' market ideology - worth a read.

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