So, we have finally received the findings of the Ofcom investigation into the whole BBC ‘Sachsgate’ affair. Unsurprisingly, the results are notably underwhelming.
The BBC has been fined £150,000 in total. £70,000 was for broadcasting offensive materials and £80,000 for invading the privacy of members of the public. This fine of £150,000 may sound adequate, but bare in mind that whilst Ross was publicly embarrassing us, he was earning £6m per year.
The Ofcom report into the debacle reveals a little of the extent of public waste at the BBC. For example, after a previous incident, Russell Brand’s broadcasting had already been classified as ‘high risk’ by senior management, yet he was still given a prime-time show on Radio 2.
Regulation acts as a cost to industries at the best of times – but there is something askew when a government regulator fines a public body. Essentially, the government has admitted it has failed in this instance, so has decided to fine itself at nobody’s cost but the taxpayer. We wouldn’t let a criminal decide their own sentence in court. The broadcasting regulatory system here smacks of double standards. The regulatory rules state that a private broadcasting company can be fined 5% of its revenue for breaches of the rules on any occasion. By contrast, the BBC can only be fined £250,000 for an identical failing. Why should the BBC be allowed so much more leniency and freedom than other private companies? If anything, as a national public institution they should be held under much greater scrutiny.
There is an ironic parody here – just like Ms Baillie, the taxpayer has been shafted by the BBC, and both of us have received comical apologies.