Two new books about the BBC, its contribution to society and the attacks against it, are a reminder about the crucial role of public broadcasting in a healthy democracy.
The BBC: A People’s History by David Hendy and This is the BBC: Entertaining the Nation, Speaking for Britain? by Simon J. Potter have been published at the same time as a new study that shows how much the BBC would be missed if it was axed.
Historian David Hendy’s book traces the BBC from its beginnings through war, the creation of television, changing public taste, austerity and massive cultural change.
And he looks at why it is being threatened by the British government.
According to the Guardian:
[The book does] much to demonstrate the strength of the forces ranged against the BBC – and to show what an incredibly fragile position this much loved, much criticised organisation occupies in Britain’s divided polity.
Simon J. Potter’s book spends several chapters looking at how the BBC managed to preserve its reputation of independence during times of extreme government pressure.
Just like the ABC, the BBC has faced multiple challenges from those who question whether the public sector has a legitimate role to play in the media, and from governments seeking to control and influence what gets broadcast.
According to the London Review of Books:
David Hendy’s book has the strengths of an insider’s account, packed with detail and anecdotes, shrewd in its assessment of personalities, light on socioeconomic change. Simon Potter’s is more academic and astringent. Potter tends to be critical where Hendy is indulgent, but Hendy’s volume is more fun, while Potter’s occasionally dips into right-minded solemnity. They both more than earn their place on the ever lengthening shelf of Beebology.
Simon J. Potter ends his book with a statement often echoed here in Australia about the ABC:
Anyone who cares about what we read, watch, and listen to, on television, radio, or online, should think about what life would be like without the BBC.
And that’s an idea that has been tested by a new study.
The BBC commissioned a survey company to test the convictions of citizens who want the British television licence — the BBC’s funding model — axed.
In an existential threat to the public broadcaster, the British government recently announced it would abolish the licence fee over the next five years.
But the study found that 70% of the survey households changed their mind about the TV licence fee (wanting it to be kept) after just 9 days of being deprived of any BBC content, even on social media.