The BBC is Ours, Yes?

The BBC belongs to all of us, by virtue of the licence fee that we all pay to turn a television on; it's the supposed quintessence of public service broadcasting. So, why is it that, at almost every turn, it behaves like every other media outlet, seemingly unable to rise above the sometimes cut-throat ethics of the marketplace?

Tedious though it is, there is a business logic to one newspaper declining to name another within its pages. Loathsome though it is, it comes as no surprise when a commercial media outlet tries to pass off quotes as its own when the reality is they were hard-won by someone else. 

But the BBC should be above all that money thing. Such as tonight, when, like previous nights before, it had the chance to say that a vital football match, involving a local club, was being shown live on television, albeit by another channel.

Yet, no. ITV4 was, later in the evening, broadcasting Rangers' home tie against PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League and all viewers of BBC Scotland's Reporting Scotland were being told was that live commentary would be taking place on BBC Radio Scotland.

It might not seem much, but it speaks volumes.

The same BBC that does not have to compete for its revenue is happy to compete for US imports that could otherwise be screened by commercial broadcasters (and if none come forward, then it's not for the BBC to step in, out of kindness).

The BBC that has its budget handed to it on a plate does not have to buy anything from anyone if it's just about filling hours (as opposed to, say, more laudable aims of assisting the UK's independent production sector to develop). Hours for commercial broadcasters are vehicles to carry advertising; a burden the Beeb is, many would say, mercifully relieved of.

Last week, the BBC was accused of losing – in so many words –  its 'moral compass', by none other than the outgoing chair of its governing body, the BBC Trust. In the way that it so frequently behaves likes a company competing for advertising and subscriptions, it also stands accused of losing sight of what is meant to make it so special.

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