The most serious issue (as the BBC keeps saying to little effect) is the threat “top-slicing” poses to BBC independence. It is worth remembering what a fragile flower this is. Independence is the BBC’s key editorial and creative asset and yet it is only sustained, in such a typically British way, by a series of individually flimsy conventions. That the BBC royal charters should be 10 years and each licence fee settlement a minimum of 5 years isn’t written down anywhere, but it protects the BBC from having to mix too frequently with politicians who just can’t help trying to exert influence. That the BBC exists by Royal Charter at all and is in that sense not really owned by the government is another protection. And so is the BBC’s monopoly on the licence fee: it prevents an open competition for this revenue in which politicians (or government appointees) would have the final say.
Reasons Not To Top-Slice #21July 22, 2009