Will the dinosaur howl or whimper?


It's a strange time for the BBC. As its Annual Report comes out, it faces attack on all sides; sometimes for editorial reasons, often for reasons of quality and decency, and endlessly for being so damn big and intrusive.

But if a dinosaur stands up and says over and over again that it's the biggest and best player in the steamy swamp what else should it expect?

The oddity about the Beeb is that it always plays with one very old bat - that as the incumbent at the wicket of British culture it has a mission to reflect our culture across its entire diversity and that without it, we would all be worse off. The trouble is that, like politicians, it has been found out. By being part of the establishment, ossified in its position, it has adopted the stance of a typical nationalised entity, with highly paid executives, multiple layers of administration and a self-opinionated belief in its own value.

Seen from outside by viewers who are discovering the delights of many new ways of taking in information, entertainment and education from other source channels, the BBC is in serious risk of becoming - er - quaint. Where a howling vibrant kick-ass BBC would be out there creating waves in drama and documentary, stirring up stupid politicians, and pushing back new frontiers of content delivery, it has become more self-conscious about its position as owner of half our broadcast industry and much more besides. It knows it has to look inward to protect itself against waves of anger by viewers and listeners measuring its offerings against their licence tax. Is that any way to run a vibrant business? Whimpering about good value, compliance standards and splendid achievements does not move it forward.

The BBC desperately needs to be privatised, to move us further towards a universal subscription model, to allow consumers decide what they want from its considerable creative talent. Only then will we get the real diversity we want, the incisive journalism we want, and the ferment in new media that will emerge with true competition between creative players. The Dinosaur can then take its place among other scary raptors, novel mammals and yet stranger fish. Plurality will out, and we can enjoy the tussle for our attention.