LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES
Gerald Kaufman (25 January) scorns the BBC's
"own ambitions (which) extend only to the retention of 30
per cent of the total TV audience . . ." and says it is essential
between now and 2006 to find a new structure and funding for the
Corporation. He is wrong to imply that a 30 per cent share defines
a minority role for the BBCwhose three goals should be
to reach more than nine in ten of the population each week (which
it already does) and to deliver them (us) the most diverse range
of programmes, at a level of quality that is second to none.
To validate the second two goals one needs broadly
understood measures of programme diversity and of appreciation.
Mr Kaufman's Select Committee, after its many years of deliberations,
should by now have urged that the results of the existing continuous
measurement of television programme appreciation be published,
along with measures of diversity which have been piloted (but
which are not yet regularly calculated) in the industry.
A more serious solecism that seems to have escaped
the scrutiny of the Select Committee is that the BBC has, on its
own, removed the collection of licence funds from the Post Office
and has hired Capita to do this. The problem is that the licence
is not the BBC's for it to make such decisions. It has been established
that if one's TV set does not transmit BBC programmes but only
commercial television one still has to pay a licence fee. Thus
the real function of the fee is to support an overarching system
of regulated broadcasting and this involves paying the cost of
programme making (by the BBC) and the costs of its regulation
(by the governors). Ideally, the licence revenue should also be
used for whatever governing body regulates commercial broadcasting,
whose competitive options must be set at a level at which overall
standards of quality are sustained rather than eroded.
27 January 2002