Political drama: BBC centenary celebrations marred by toxic debate over funding and license fees

Next month will mark the official centenary of the BBC. Created in October 1922, with its first broadcast on November 14, the “Beeb” is, like the royal family, the quintessential British institution that has a reach and influence far beyond its original mission.

With eight TV channels, over 50 radio stations, it also has a sprawling website that rivals the best media properties on the internet, a global service that broadcasts in over 40 languages ​​as well as a portfolio of apps,… educational and publishing companies.

Dorries also insisted on continuing the Tories’ plan to privatize Channel 4

With revenues of over £5.8bn (€6.65bn) in 2021 – of which £3.8bn came from the TV license – the BBC has also managed to generate a surplus of operating £206 million for the year.

When it comes to public service broadcasters, that’s quite unique.

While 100 years in business is a lot to celebrate, the anniversary has been somewhat overshadowed by events on the political scene which, much like one of its soap operas, could end in tears.

As with most things in public service broadcasting, all roads lead to money and in recent years many broadcasters have found themselves in the midst of a political storm over how they should be funded.

Earlier this year, the tone was set by former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who said she wanted to impose deep new cuts on the BBC and then abolish its funding model entirely.

In addition, it announced that the license fee would be frozen until 2024, which, taking into account inflation, would create a hole of more than £2billion in its finances.

After that, all bets would be off and a new funding model would have to be found by 2027.

Dorries also insisted on going ahead with the Tories’ plan to privatize Channel 4 – which also holds a public service broadcasting license – despite huge opposition from the broadcaster itself, staff and a cross section of businesses representing the arts, entertainment and production sectors.

His replacement, Michelle Donelan, like Dorries, favors scrapping the levy

While many in the UK’s media, arts and culture were delighted to see Dorries’ back when she stepped down and was replaced last week by Michelle Donelan, as part of a cabinet reshuffle , we can expect more of the same.

Donelan, like Dorries, is also in favor of scrapping the license fee and curbing the influence of the BBC. She will also oversee the publication of legislation which will pave the way for the sale of Channel 4 later this year.

This disdain and mistrust that many Tory politicians harbor towards the BBC – and to a lesser extent Channel 4 – goes back many years.

While the broadcaster may have defined Britain for many decades, it has also become a thorn in the side of the established political elite.

Often, talk of lowering the license fee masked a more sinister desire to stifle democratic debate.

If anyone personified the growing anti-BBC sentiment within the Conservative Party, it was Maggie Thatcher, who had a long-standing grudge against the broadcaster dating back to the late 1950s when she burst onto the political scene.

Even her husband Denis, best known as a shy golfer and whiskey drinker, called it the ‘British Bastard Corporation’ after he ridiculed his wife in a satirical BBC Radio 4 show.

Ironically, Thatcher thought the best way to stymie the BBC’s influence was to spark commercial competition in the form, what a surprise, of Channel 4 which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and has clearly become a victim of its own success.

Some of these license fee reform discussions sound very familiar.

With another review of Ireland’s television license fee regime underway following the recent release of the Future of Media Commission’s report in early summer, we still haven’t figured it out ourselves. .

One thing is clear though: we must avoid the toxicity and political malevolence that underlies similar debates in the UK. Otherwise, it will end in tears.

A global winner

Outdoor advertising specialist Global in Ireland has been voted Best Small Workplace in Europe 2022, making it the second Irish company to top the list of Best Workplaces in Europe. The ceremony took place in Venice last week.

Great Place to Work identifies the best places to work in Europe by analyzing and ranking companies’ work plans as well as talking to their staff.

Elave TV Amplifier

Irish skincare brand Elave has rolled out its first national television campaign. The brand is made by Gardiner Family Apothecary which employs 80 people at its Dundalk factory. Founded in 1934, the company is run by Joanna Gardiner, granddaughter of the founder.

The company also manufactures the Ovelle line of skincare products. Around 55% of the company’s production is exported to markets in the UK, Europe, Hong Kong and the Middle East.