Steerpike Steerpike

Why should the licence fee payer fund the BBC’s cultural imperialism?

Picture the scene. BBC executives convene in a glass think pod in Salford to consider the latest expensive external report commissioned by Director of News James Harding. The report states that Auntie, despite its vast budget and massive staff, is ‘punching well below its weight in the digital world.’

That was what Sir Howard Stringer’s report, published today, found. The fact that Buzzfeed gets 10 million more pageviews than the Beeb every month seems to be a particularly sore point:

Given Buzzfeed, for example, was only founded in 2006, this raises the question of why the BBC’s global digital reach is not more significant. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the BBC is punching well below its weight in the digital world.

Stringer’s report was flooded with ‘bold’ and ‘innovative’ plans so that the BBC can ‘reach’ an online audience online of half a billion people around the world.

What Mr S can’t work out is why the licence fee payer should fund this cultural imperialism? Aren’t there improvements to be made closer to home that, you know, might benefit the licence fee payer? And why does the BBC feel compelled to compete with Buzzfeed? An organisation, which, I might add, has won global success by using nothing more than private money and popular support; no levies and court threats for them.

These questions never even enter the minds of executives at the BBC. To them Mr S says this: the clue’s in the corporation’s name.

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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