LibLink: Christine Jardine MP: Coronavirus crisis shows why the BBC is so special

Our public service broadcaster is the focus of Christine Jardine MP’s Scotsman column this week. She highlights the corporation’s role in keeping the nation informed in a way that other broadcasters simply can’t:

In this crisis more than ever in my lifetime I am aware of those two words which set the BBC and to a less extent Channel 4, apart from the purely money-making platforms of the technological explosion: public service.
How many over 75s, or low-income households would have been able to afford pay per view services to keep up to date with health advice or social services?

Would those independent and international broadcasters have stepped into the educational breach as quickly – or as easily – as the Beeb?
Last week the corporation announced the biggest educational push in its history, with 14 weeks of programmes aimed at replacing classes and both informing and entertaining our children at home. That is not to diminish the role that those commercially driven organisations and channels play in our lives.

ITV, Sky, Netflix and others play just as significant a role in entertaining, informing and generally distracting us from the troubled times.

But they do not have that public service commitment which is central to everything that the BBC does.

There is also a really important role in helping tackle loneliness and isolation and comforting us:

The Rotary State of the Nation Loneliness Report 2019 found that turning to the television or radio is a vital to make us all feel less alone, although 27 per cent also speak to a pet and seven per cent speak to Alexa or Siri. Another 14 per cent of those surveyed said they went to the shop just to get out of the house and chat to someone, something we are all denied in the current crisis.
How many of us recognise the feeling when that low level, but growing, hum of anxiety fades as you turn up the volume on Ken Bruce or Women’s Hour to re-establish old and cherished connection? The shared experience.

In this climate, our entertainers have transcended the role of the court jester or cooking instructor they may have been merely a few months ago to become our company and our contact with the wider world.

You can read the whole article here.

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15 Comments

  • Sorry but the lack of hard news on BBC News usually sees me finding refuge in Sky News, which is free on Freeview and Freesat, the whole premise is largely nonsensical.

  • Frank
    Lack of hard domestic news maybe but BBC World has more news than Sky International.

  • You must be joking. Sky News is way superior.

  • The imprisonment of mostly women for not paying court related fines for the BBC licence is shocking and disgusts many many people.

  • The BBC has become bloated over the years trying to get into every nook & cranny & in many cases just duplicating existing media.

    It urgently needs to revert back to it’s public broadcasting remit with 2/3 TV channels + regional variations. Also in an era of supposedly consumer choice the license needs to be scrapped soonest & replaced by subscription & or a variation of subscription, sponsorship & product placement. I would happily subscribe.

    It’s quite frankly absurd in this day & age to force people, many of which simply don’t use the BBC to pay for it under threat of fine & imprisonment

  • All in all the BBC coverage has been OK upwards but then more is expected of them due to their position.However I do wish that our leadership would pull their finger out and fly our flag more. Ed Davey seems to have gone into virtual lockdown.Who is our health spokesperson?

  • The BBC should excel at everything. It has had guaranteed, risk free, gradually increasing funding for decades, something other broadcasters could only dream about.

    But during recent decades, the trend is that there are occasional gems, but generally, standards have fallen. Where are the great comedies of the Sixties and Seventies? Where are the programmes to challenge ITV favourites such as Midsomer Murders, Poirot, Miss Marple, Vera, Lewis, and Endeavour? Instead, the BBC re-writes excellent classics to produce third rate, politically correct woke versions that please only a minority.

    The BBC does present news well, but then it should, when it has the resources to send multiple news teams on behalf of multiple news shows to every news event.

    Unfortunately, the BBC has agendas, political bias and cannot resist conducting campaigns. The combination of its decline in providing quality entertainment and its inability to recognise its ingrained bias, means that it has enemies, those who wish to close it down and those who simply do not need it, watch it or wish to pay for it. Sadly, the BBC is stuffed full of highly paid executives who are unable to comprehend such criticisms and the whole Corporation will be overtaken by pay for view trends.

  • Can’t agre with this piece, I fear. Yes, we know television is valued by many old and lonely people and the BBC is free, well after you’ve paid your licence. But their output, even at this time, is egregious. Their latest ploy in the 100% coverage of the pandemic is to show harrowing interviews of people who have almost died. The effect on the morale of the public can be imagined, I’m off for a stiff whisky and a re write of my will, cos anyone who gets it is in huge trouble if the BBC is to be believed.
    Older relatives who lived through WWII tell me that the BBC had a duty in those days to lift the spirits of the nation and sometimes we were not told the absolute truth if things were going badly. On that basis the present BBC management would be locked up for aiding and abetting the enemy.

  • John Barrett 7th Apr '20 - 11:56pm

    As someone who has access to a wide range of news channels and usually gives them all some time. I would say the BBC falls short of a number of its rivals and does not give the quality of coverage it is often credited with. Like Frank West and theakes, I personally find Sky news coverage superior to that provided by the BBC.

    One way the BBC could improve its news coverage would be to reduce the number of members of the public it calls on for comment on the issues of the day. The view of the man in the street used to be on Points of view and other programmes, now it fills the national news, whether it is factual or ill informed. That is not news, it is something easy to fill the programme when real news is not available.

  • Nicholas Russell 8th Apr '20 - 9:04am

    Coronavirus demonstrates why so many people will never forgive the BBC for its handling of Brexit.

    Where in this pandemic is the presenter saying “we are now going to speak to X (inexpert politician with an axe to grind) who believes that the pandemic is a fabrication”, and inviting the population to choose equally between the medical experts and the ignorant but opinionated politician. We endured three years of that from the BBC over Brexit

  • The Scotsman has Christine as an MSP!

  • Denis Loretto 8th Apr '20 - 9:46am

    I am amazed to see the series of attacks on the BBC in this thread. Even in making comparisons with Sky News, which I also commend, do people not realise that it is the BBC which has established over many years the standard of impartial and forensic news programming which Sky and others realise that they must match in this country? Murdoch-owned channels elsewhere are in the main very different.
    Also in entertainment over the years the BBC has led the way. I completely agree with Christine Jardine. Of course the BBC must adapt and improve but we would live to regret it if we allowed it to be diminished.

  • It is noticeable from the above that to many “The BBC” is just a TV broadcaster; it isn’t, it also operates a large radio network – something Sky has avoided. It is also, as noted by Christine, stepping up by reallocating some of its spare channels to education – something (if memory is correct) it hasn’t done for decades.

    I think those that continue to gripe about “the BBC” should start to think what is it they actually want a UK public service broadcaster to deliver from their modest license/subscription/tax payment.

  • Roland
    And the BBC has a very good website.
    The radio broadcasts are also in foreign languages. Burmese broadcast coverage aims to reflect diverse opinions and offers in-depth analysis.

    .

  • I used to be very proud of the BBC, it was once the envy of the world. I am very sorry to say that over the last few decades it has lost the support and goodwill of many. It is biased, self important, it squanders taxpayers’ money and thinks of itself as being above criticism and reform.

    It is largely irrelevant as far as new generations are concerned. Loyal supporters will have the opportunity to subscribe in the future but a great many, who will never forgive the BBC for various reasons, will do without. It will not survive in its current form. I shall strongly regret this but I have been warning the Corporation about this for years and they are not interested in reform.

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