Its flagship shows are looking shaky, its branding is blurred and its payroll is bloated. But as Nadine Dorries and Boris Johnson close in on the BBC, there are ways the Corporation can emerge from this crisis stronger and freer
Debates on the future of the broadcaster that hits its 100th birthday this year always become Hamlet-like: BBC or not BBC? With centenary celebrations muted this week by the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, freezing the licence fee for two years and threatening to axe it completely by the next BBC royal charter in 2028, the familiar standoff resumes between those who argue for no state-dominant broadcaster (Conservative politicians and media) and those who advocate no change (broadcasting unions, liberal columnists).
Realistically, though, the BBC’s future lies in a third way the Prince of Denmark didn’t have – being very different. Trying to “save the licence fee” or “leave the BBC alone” (though understandable slogans, given its long and vast contribution to national culture and education) is like aiming for immortality; regardless of strategy, time will beat you. Licence fee purchases have fallen by around a million in the last year. With Dorries effectively promising to end prosecution of non-payers, this trend will only accelerate, and digital consumption makes compliance harder to police.