British Brain Conservancy (with added bunny-death)

Bunnies are being beheaded in Germany. I just thought you should know. German burgers are waking up to discover someone has taken a hatchet to their hutches, and nobody has any idea who is doing it or why. Not exactly earth-shaking news, but interesting, no? That is the joy of Radio 4.

On Radio 4, that story was followed last week by news of Iran’s nuclear missile capability, friendly fire (otherwise known as ‘the most dangerous euphemism in the world’) injuring British soldiers, and a US air-strike killing 47 civilians.

By covering all three of those stories, listeners to Radio 4 news analysis programmes could form opinions slightly more nuanced than “Aaaa! Iran’s got a bomb! We’re all going to die!” That’s not to say most listeners did. But when you realise that the UK (a nuclear power for some time now) shoots it’s own soldiers with conventional weapons and the US (greedily hoarding more nukes than it or any other country could use before the earth was wiped clean of all life) kills 47 wedding-guests by mistake, you’ve got to ask: how much less safe could Iran make the world? You may of course not agree with me. But the fact is, because I have the facts at my disposal, I can make up my own mind and political debate can thrive. And the reason I have those facts is because of the BBC.

The danger to journalistic independence (and therefore to the integrity of news and information we receive) is well documented. In fact, last week in the USA, 3,000 journalists, bloggers and media critics gathered in Minneapolis to discuss the threat that increasing corporate dominance of media outlets (among other things) poses to our understanding of the world and our ability to behave responsibly in it. But as the BBC last week released its annual report there were calls for it to be downsized, possibly scrapped, for the sake of ‘competition’.

That is something we must never allow to happen.

I’m not talking about the rubbish reality shows or silly quiz games. People who love Big Brother-style drivel or are obsessed with makeover shows cannot blame their social illiteracy on the BBC. But if that kind of rubbish serves to support quality programming, I say it has justified its existence.

But here’s the thing: people are complaining. They don’t want to pay the licence fee. So I say: abolish the licence fee. That’s right, get rid of it. And replace it with a tax, on everybody, that will go towards supporting public broadcasting.

We are not given the option of opting out of supporting other services in the public interest like roads, the police or our defence force. Surely in the ‘information age’ when we are more aware than ever of the importance of free, unbiased facts, everyone can see the benefit of a broadcaster that is not primarily concerned with producing popcorn plastic programming? Surely we can all agree that having news filtered through the political views of a few business interests with no independent alternative would be bad? Because private enterprise media naturally shoots low and wide to catch the most people. No BBC? Get ready for non-stop celebrity/reality sex-shows with Jesus in a diaper, not just the occasional one.

We are blessed in this country to have a quality public broadcaster. Yes we should call for higher quality. But as with most public services, shrinking it down, breaking it up and selling bits off to private enterprise will only make things worse, not better. And as Christians with a great deal of free access to the airwaves to broadcast our unpopular ideas, we should fight to keep it out of the hands of Mammon.


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