Tory MPs, along with Rupurt Murdoch, want to castrate — or destroy entirely — the BBC’s news website. Here’s John Redwood:
First, the magazine industry lobbied MPs hard about the way the BBC moved into their business, using its own free ads for its own products to gain entry to their market. Next, the local and regional papers lobbied MPs about the impact the free BBC web and media service was having on their sales. Now James Murdoch points out the obvious main concern – the stronger the BBC brand and web offer is, the less private sector competitors can charge for news and views and the less plurality and choice there will be. The BBC web offer is paid for by a poll tax which others cannot share or levy.
There needs to be a new settlement, to promote a vigorous and diverse media. We want the digital revolution to open up and sustain more choice.
It’s obvious why Murdoch wants to castrate the BBC: he wants to charge people money for reading the Times online, which is harder to do if there is a free alternative. And the Tories persumably want to go along with this because Murdoch has promised that in return his media will push a pro-Tory line; possibly a bribe donation was also involved. Which just goes to show the Tories are just as bad as Labour when it comes to doing what their rich chums want.
But that’s not important. The important question is: do these proposals make sense? Redwood is concerned that the BBC, by virtue of being popular, is unfair competition to private sector news websites. To a certain extent, that’s a valid concern. But the economy doesn’t exist to make private sector entrepreneurs rich, it exists to make things people need and want. And people clearly do want the BBC — according to Alexa the BBC have the number 2 and number 4 news websites worldwide, and by far the most popular UK-based one.
Making entrepreneurs rich is a means goal not an end goal; it’s only good if it furthers the end goal of the economy making things that people need and want. The BBC news website is clearly something people want, because it is very popular, and sacrificing it just so Rupert Murdoch can make more profits would harm the overall welfare of the people of Britain. But maybe the Tories care less about the British people than they do about their rich friends.