Ian Monk: BBC must find its voice to survive

It is a potentially fatal irony that the BBC, as one of the globe's mightiest broadcasters, seems incapable of finding the voice to articulate reasons for its continued existence.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

The messages of director general Mark Thompson's Edinburgh speech were largely distorted by newspapers whose attitudes towards the BBC are wrought by their owners' vested interests in rival TV stations.

Richard Desmond has now joined Rupert Murdoch as a cross-media owner by buying Five. This means his Express and Star titles now join The Sun, Times, Sunday Times and News of the World as largely anti-BBC.

The Mail and Mirror titles, which do not own mainstream TV stations, also reserve some of their choicest editorial bile for the corporation.

Although there are often sound journalistic reasons for this, there are commercial interests at work too. Both groups fear profitability is being undermined by the BBC's massive news website and by its increasing dominance of the regional news media.

Undoubtedly the BBC has provided reams of material deserving of caricature. Its ludicrous self-indulgence in the areas of pay and pensions is a scandal, and elements of its relocation to the north a farce. Little, if any, of this has been expeditiously dealt with by its enormous comms department.

Many, and not just conspiracy theorists, believe the new Government has supped too deeply from the Murdoch cup to earn the endorsement of influential newspapers. They point to the presence of a former Murdoch editor, Andy Coulson, at the heart of the Government comms operation and speak darkly of a payback involving the emasculation of the licence fee, incapacitating the BBC's ability to compete with Sky.

Thompson's - scarcely reported - figures showed a very large majority of newspaper readers love the BBC and its output. Many might say that the 40p-a-day licence fee was better value than a daily newspaper.

It may be the BBC's greatest challenge is to find a way of cutting through the pincer movement of vested interests and getting its message to its audience.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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