Broadcasters, actors and screenwriters have jumped to defend the BBC against the Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, who recently reportedly told Cambridge University's Conservative Association that closing the BBC was a tempting prospect. According to the comedy writer Armando Ianucci, writing in the Guardian, John Whittingdale has been assuring BBC bosses that its future is safe, that the TV Licence is safe and that it will preserve its editorial independence while also running down the BBC by releasing a White Paper calling for presenters wages to be made public, stopping the production of shows which compete with commercial channels (such as Strictly Come Dancing) and increasing the number of government representatives on the Board to a majority.
This followed an earlier gaffe in which a civil servant was photographed with documents about the privatisation of Channel 4, also a public service broadcaster, after Whittingdale had denied any plan to sell the service off. Ianucci rightly describes the proposed changes to the BBC as statist, centralised and authoritarian, and therefore far from the free market model the Tories say they emulate. This has led to a string of reactions from Wolf Hall director Peter Kominsky, who used his Bafta acceptance speech to attack the government's proposals; as well as criticism from Mark Rylance, Ian Hislop, Tom Hiddleston, Stewart Lee, David Attenborough, Gary Lineker, and even Craig Revel-Horwood.
They are right to be alarmed. As public service broadcasters, the BBC and Channel 4 are not a socialist institutions, but their existence is a good thing, not only for the quality of broadcasting in the UK (I can't remember the last time I used ITV or Channel 5's On Demand services, whereas iPlayer and 4OD are almost-constantly-open tabs on my PC), but also so we can receive news and information that is at least a bit less influenced by private commercial interests or the government. I hope that Kominsky's call to stand up and fight for the BBC will be acted upon so we can stop the attempted state takeover coming from the Tories.