Jeremy Paxman, who presented the BBC’s flagship Newsnight programme for over two decades, has accused the organisation of being “partial” and “parastatal”, and called for the “antediluvian” licence fee to be scrapped.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Sunday Times in which he also described British politicians as “incredibly low grade”, the 67-year-old broadcaster said the BBC’s main problem is its “partiality”.
“There is a way of looking at the world if you are part of the BBC and a different way if you work for a commercial organisation,” he explained.
“Why is the story always about the disabled refugee from Syria, rather than the demands that the disabled refugee from Syria might make upon our taxpayers? That’s all too common. It’s a metropolitan elite problem, isn’t it?”
Local councils have indeed warned that they may have to increase residents’ council tax bills to pay for the costs of accommodating “child refugees” from Calais, which they estimated at around £50,000 per head.
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Paxman continued: “Of course there is political correctness at the BBC. I would have to say that the BBC is a parastatal organisation. They believe in the state. And not to recognise that there are those issues there is just silly.”
He said the world would not be a better place without the BBC in it, but suggested the TV Licence Fee – a £147 charge which Britons must pay every year if they watch or record live television programmes, or watch or download BBC programmes on the broadcaster’s iPlayer website – was past its sell-by date.
“I think it’s completely antediluvian, a tax on one piece of electronic equipment,” he said.
“There’s no tax on that camera over there, or on that computer! It’s antediluvian. So some other mechanism has to be found – and it seems to me that if Amazon and Netflix have the ability to do that, it’s not beyond the BBC to do the same thing.”
The veteran inquisitor has criticised the Licence Fee before, saying that “the idea of a tax on the ownership of a television belongs in the 1950s” whilst he still worked for the corporation in 2007.
“Why not tax people for owning a washing machine to fund the manufacture of Persil?”
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Paxman told The Sunday Times he now prefers rival broadcaster Channel 4, which is also publicly-owned but self-funds through commercial advertising.
“The great thing about Channel 4 is the clarity,” he claimed.
“The editorial structure is perfectly clear. Is it an economy of scale or a cultural thing? The BBC has a weakness for endless meetings with executives you’ve never heard of and don’t know what they do.”
Channel 4 is not without its own partiality issues, however, with main anchor Jon Snow frequently accused of left-liberal bias. He was recently reported as having chanted “Fuck the Tories!” at the Glastonbury Music Festival, where Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was a speaker.