Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Well, Auntie Beeb, You Know The Answer …

Cue violins…

The BBC is struggling to hire senior managers because it can no longer offer the bumper pay packets of its commercial rivals, the corporation’s director-general complained yesterday.

My loyal reader may recall me mentioning before about how the BBC pay row was proving a diversion from the fundamental issue of how the Beeb is funded. However, this latest statement from Mark Thompson actually adds to the argument for freeing the BBC from the strait-jacket of state funding.

It is quite possible that the commercial world is offering higher pay than the public sector, as much in broadcasting (even where the market is dominated by the BBC) as any other sector. Though the gap in crude pay levels may have narrowed in the last decade or so, working in the public sector has always been regarded as having additional benefits such as pensions (even if the Hutton proposals go through) and job security (which is still greater than in the private sector).

If, though, the BBC behemoth is finding it harder to fill key positions then it rather gives the lie to the idea that, as Don Foster has said, “People looking for jobs in broadcasting should know that the BBC is the greatest broadcaster in the world and worth working for”. Much as the same claim of BBC superiority of output is undermined by the apparent need to force people to pay for it.

Imagine a BBC that, while having to justify its offer to its customers rather than politicians, will also be able to pay its people what it feels right without having to answer to the same politicians. That is just one freedom that making the BBC truly independent – though genuinely and rightly answerable to the subscription-paying audience (rather than licence fee-paying serfs) – would bring.

Wrenching the BBC free from the teat of the state – viz. the compulsory TV licence fee – would prove the best move the government could make for the long term good of this national icon.

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