How upset should we be by news that the BBC has been forced to slash its online food recipe service – as part of a £15 million cost-cutting programme?
Fortunately, the faded Eighties pop star and left wing activist Billy Bragg has been offering his views on social media. It’s a disaster, apparently. Yet another devilish plot by the sinister forces of the free market.
And it’s not just Billy Bragg who thinks this way. Mx Jack Monroe agrees with him – and Mx Jack Monroe (the artist formerly known as Ms Jack Monroe), as you must surely know, is probably Britain’s leading transgender, anti-poverty food campaigner, famed for her legendary kale pesto recipe and her brief unlikely stint as the face of Sainsbury’s.
So that settles it then. If Billy and Ms Jack are against it, then it must be a good thing. Not because they’re nasty or evil, but just because they are classic examples of Nanny State Britain: the kind of well-meaning fools who sincerely believe that the only way to create a better society is for yet more handouts from the public sector elite.
To listen to campaigners’ bleatings you would think the only place anywhere on earth you can find a decent recipe is on the BBC Food website.
And they’re right, up to a point.
We’ve most of us tried BBC recipes at one point or another – delicious cake from Mary Berry, yummy curries from Jamie Oliver, decadent creamy dishes from the lovely Nigella – and they’re tried and tested and they work.
But so they ruddy well ought to work: it’s not as though we haven’t paid for it all, to the tune of millions of pounds a year, via our compulsory licence fee.
The idea that the BBC is providing some incredible free social service for which we all ought to grateful for is a nonsense.
If the BBC didn’t exist, it wouldn’t mean a sudden, terrible end to the presence of handy online tips on how to bake a lemon drizzle cake or dress a crab. All it would mean is that the internet traffic would go to cookery sites run by private enterprise rather than to a massive leftover from 1920s Big Brother Britain.
This is what Chancellor George Osborne was talking about last summer when he described the BBC as having become “imperial in its ambitions.”
What he meant was that the organisation which its founder Lord Reith devised to “inform, educate and explain” has become simply too big for its boots.
From Teletubbies to Radio One, from the Today Programme and Women’s Hour to Any Questions, from The Last Night of the Proms to its wall to wall Glastonbury coverage, the BBC doesn’t just reflect but seeks to dominate every aspect of Britain’s life – social, artistic, economic, political, sporting and, yes, even culinary.
We’re often told – by the BBC, mostly – that the service it offers is the “envy of the world”, that the licence fee offers huge value for money, and that the BBC’s charter obligations make it strictly impartial.
But in truth the BBC is – and has been for years – the propaganda arm of the metropolitan, politically correct elite whose trendy leftist obsessions are often of little interest to people in the country at large.
This bias – pro-EU, anti-business etc – matters because the BBC represents around 60 per cent of Britain’s total news output: that’s not far off the kind of domination you’d expect of a totalitarian state.
It’s not healthy for the economy either. Business thrives best when there’s competition – but what the BBC’s protected, heavily subsidised near-monopoly does is shut free enterprise out of the marketplace.
How are commercial newspapers expected to compete when the BBC – with its eye-watering online budget of £201 million – can afford to employ on its free website a full time football correspondent, Phil McNulty just to compose written match reports? Or with the BBC’s vast battery of political experts from Laura Kuenssberg and Kamal Ahmed to Nick Robinson – all of whom also provide written contributions to its website.
Since when was it the BBC’s job to have a website anyway? It’s supposed to be a broadcaster, not a publisher.
To his credit Culture Secretary John Whittingdale was trying to rein in some of this BBC excess with a new White Paper. Unfortunately he was overruled by his party leadership who – because their government has such a small majority – are terrified of upsetting the BBC and its attendant luvvie fan club. The very last thing they want is to give Benedict Cumberbatch and Judy Dench the excuse to march on 10 Downing Street, weeping and wailing about savage cuts to the nation’s beloved broadcaster.
So they caved in to most of the Beeb’s demands. Yes BBC Food Online will go – though not the actual recipes: that’s just a lie cooked up by campaigners – but most of the bloated, overmighty behemoth will stay intact, as it no doubt will for many centuries hence…