The BBC empire

The Financial Times reports that the BBC is currently in talks to buy Woolworths' share of a joint venture the two organisations set up in order to publish BBC DVDs. This deal is a reminder of how far the BBC has come from its core objective of producing quality programmes that might otherwise not be made.  No longer even restricting itself to broadcast, the BBC has become a publisher instead of just selling the rights to make DVDs of its programmes on.

In every genre, from high-brow current affairs to dismal reality television, the corporation feels the need to try and beat its commercial rivals. Only occassionally does the corporation really try and use the incredible luxury of the licence fee to make important programmes that others might not.  Instead, it generally does all it can to use the unfair advantage of the licence fee to bludgeon private sector media into submission.  The BBC, through its commercial arm, even owns guidebook publisher Lonely Planet.  Stations like Radio 1 and BBC 3  contain some fine entertainment but are no different in style or content to private sector alternatives that don't depend on a monopoly on the licence fee.

There is good evidence that the BBC could be funded through a voluntary subsciption fee.  That would be fairer on viewers, those who don't watch the programmes wouldn't need to buy the service, fairer on private sector media and wouldn't give the BBC a blank cheque that it often abuses with overmanning and extravagant spending.

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