The BBC, Ofcom and the Sachsgate affair


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.