The BBC, NHS and the Church of England share some common ground. They enjoy a status of near divinity in the British psyche.
Question their integrity or form and you might as well try arguing the case for child abuse.
The BBC in particular is almost universally regarded as a national treasure. Advert free telly from people you can trust. Only a philistine would threaten our Auntie … she’s part of what being British is all about.
As communicators we should be proud of the BBC – an icon for truth, balance and integrity in an otherwise cynical and troubled world.
A beacon for our profession.
But I put forward a different proposition: Auntie is evil.
While she exudes the aura of a virtuous and kindly relative, beneath the veil she is driven by an insatiable ego – lethally coupled with a sanctimonious conviction that she alone knows how the world should be run.
An autonomous monopoly, she enjoys rampant power unconstrained by the checks and balances of democratic or commercial life.
We can’t vote her out or take our custom elsewhere.
The BBC doesn’t represent the Government, the will of the people of Britain, or even a media mogul.
It represents the BBC.
And yet with no clear accountability, it asserts an influence on the emotions and opinions of 96.4 per cent of our population who engage with it every single week.
It claims to be “independent, impartial and honest”.
Yet editorially, through unchecked collaborative groupthink, the BBC has created its own agenda and it promotes it with a vengeance.
It has a vision of the way the world should be and is on a mission to influence everything from Government policy to business strategy.
It presents truths from its own perspective, selecting the stories it covers, the people it interviews, the questions it asks and the way it asks them, the quotes it edits in and out, and the angles it takes.
Its news programmes go beyond the remit of balanced reporting, to shape and influence opinions.
This is not “independent, impartial and honest” journalism.
It is overt messaging: Propaganda.
But it gets worse.
The BBC wields its influence for its own self-preservation – smearing its critics and covering its tracks.
It preaches respect and diversity yet it used pay-offs, gagging clauses and even censorship to cover up a culture of rampant sexual abuse in its studios.
In a particularly horrific example, the expose of Jimmy Savile was quietly quashed in the hope that the scandal would go away.
And it is still at it.
This year it emerged that the Government might review the BBC’s scale and spending as part of its charter considerations.
Rather than enter into constructive debate, the BBC rounded up 29 of its well-paid celebrities to sign an “independent” letter, which was actually crafted by one if its senior executives.
The letter demanded the Government keep its hands off the “very precious institution” and the “honest” BBC denied any involvement – until the same celebrities squealed.
And there’s more….
With eight national TV channels, 10 national, five regional and scores of local radio stations, websites, apps and magazines, the BBC has by far the biggest reach of any media organisation in the UK.
Funded by a mandatory 40p a week contribution from every TW-owning household, it has embarked on enormous, often irrational, expansion – offering free news and entertainment via every available medium.
Commercial alternatives cannot compete.
As a result we have seen the near death of local newspapers and with it a rapid decline in the number of journalists – 10 per cent in the last two years.
Scrutiny of councils, police and other bodies – so crucial for a healthy democracy – has all but ceased.
One impact on IC is that the supply of young, trained journalists is drying up as the traditional career entry point disappears.
Meanwhile, the BBC enjoys a bloated workforce of 20,000, including 8,000 journalists – one in every eight currently working in the UK.
This has bred a complacent approach to productivity.
It sent 300 staff to Glastonbury, 120 to Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
There are many examples of excess. Closer to home, while commercial media struggles to send a single reporter to events such as football matches, the BBC regularly turns out squads as big as the teams on the pitch.
Without pressure to be productive, there is bad practice.
The red tape, inflated salaries and antiquated agreements that persist at the BBC create a benchmark of crippling inefficiency, which ripples across the whole UK media industry and into IC – particularly in video.
Faced with the looming charter negotiations, the BBC fears for its future and is hurriedly trying to make amends. It recently offered to hire 100 journalists to share news with local media.
But my message is this: Don’t be fooled by a love of Strictly.
Yes, the BBC does do some very good stuff.
And it is nice not to have adverts.
But the institution is flawed.
It is too big, too powerful and far too unaccountable.
And that is bad for democracy, bad for media – and ultimately bad for internal communication.
There will be squeals of horror and indignation – but the time has come for change.