'In an age where our government seeks to dodge scrutiny at all costs...we need a strong public service broadcaster.'Flickr, David Carroll

This year, according to the latest statistics, BBC services have reached a record 468 million people globally every week. That number continues to rise, with the corporation well on track to meet its target of half a billion viewers and listeners a week by 2022.

Given such staggering success, it seems strange that large parts of the British media are currently heaping criticism upon the BBC. It has always received condemnation for its reporting from both left and right in equal measure – indeed, such comments are usually a good indication that it has found middle ground. This time, however, something is different: from threats to effectively end the licence fee, to the termination of free TV licences for the elderly (a primarily governmental decision for which the corporation has been unfairly blamed), to recent government accusations of BBC elitism, there are growing signs that this autumn the BBC may face an assault on its very core.

This could be one of the most concerted attacks on the BBC in its history – and one driven primarily by those in positions of power. For Dominic Cummings, whose influence on the government has only seemed to grow in recent months, the BBC is a “mortal enemy”. Moreover, as reported in Private Eye, the not-so-“grassroots” campaign Defund the BBC is propelled by Brexiteer activists, one of whom raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the “Big Ben Must Bong for Brexit” campaign. Hints that Andrew Neil may become the next BBC chairman might be a sign of what is to come.

“...the broadcaster has proven time and again that it has the power to inspire people and to change lives.”

However, the truth is that we have never needed dependable and impartial reporting more than we do now, and the BBC must be supported in this aim. In an age where our government seeks to dodge scrutiny at all costs, large-scale misinformation campaigns allegedly win elections, and parts of our society are more divided than ever, we need a strong public service broadcaster.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this emphatically. In the first few weeks of the coronavirus crisis, almost a third of the population was tuning in to the evening BBC bulletins. Incredibly, the average adult in the UK spends 8 times more time using BBC services than watching Netflix. More young people than ever are accessing the online learning service BBC Bitesize and watching BBC programmes. This enormous success is British. It is owned by all of us who live here, and something of which we can all be proud.

What must be emphasised is that the BBC operates for the benefit of the public – not just providing quality journalism, sports coverage, entertainment and factual TV and radio but showcasing and even enhancing our culture in all its spirit and diversity. The BBC both gives a sense of community, particularly to elderly members of our society, and benefits democracy and healthy debate through firm party-political neutrality. All this and more for a daily contribution of 40p per household. The licence fee is necessary and it is worthwhile.

For years I have watched and listened to BBC programmes, and they have been the main reason why I now want to pursue a career in the industry. Some of my inspirations – John Simpson, Emily Maitlis, Andrew Marr, Laura Kuenssberg, Jeremy Bowen – are internationally recognised BBC journalists, and reams of other great names in the entertainment, documentary, or comedy worlds have also forged their careers at the BBC. In its news reporting, the BBC has amplified muffled voices and raised the profile of stories that might otherwise have been forgotten (getting acclaim in recent years, for example, for its reports on the migrant crisis and conflict in Ukraine). Whether in its journalism, award-winning TV dramas, or televising of the Olympic Games and World Cup, the broadcaster has proven time and again that it has the power to inspire people and to change lives.


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The BBC is not perfect, and some of the recent debate illuminates areas where it needs to take a firmer stance. It is imperative that it remain steadfast on political impartiality and preserve a culture of high standards at all cost – as expounded by Selwyn Master Roger Mosey, former Head of BBC News. It must address criticisms over high presenter pay and the gender wage gap. In the wake of the pandemic, it must continue to further itself, above all, as a unifying force.

The worry is that one of the broadcaster’s main strengths – neutrality – may not serve it so well when it comes under strain itself. I only hope that there is enough hidden strength of feeling in this country to defend the BBC if this government makes an attempt on it – it merely takes a look across the Atlantic to be reminded of what might become of our media landscape if we fail to speak up.

For almost a hundred years, the BBC has provided us with an invaluable public service. The time may soon come for us to repay that favour.

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