THE BBC likes to be known as ”Auntie” – a nickname that conjures up a middle-aged lady with twinkly eyes who chooses perfect gifts for her nephews and nieces and dispenses gentle moral guidance when they need it.
This week we learned that she doesn’t exist. Instead, the mask slipped and we saw the real Aunt Beeb — not so much an Enid Blyton character as a scheming spinster dreamt up by Roald Dahl.
3 Auntie Beeb’s mask has slipped, revealing a scheming spinster hoping to sponge off young people
Instead of a twinkle, there’s a cold gleam in her eyes. She sucks up to her young relatives in the hope of squeezing money out of them. Meanwhile, she’s planning a raid on her own elderly parents’ savings accounts.
You want evidence? The BBC yesterday announced it is ditching free television licences for the over-75s.
Too expensive, it says — meaning that up to 3.7million of them are simply not worth it.
At the same time, more than 2,700 BBC staff trousered pay rises of more than ten per cent last year.
That’s more than five times the annual rate of inflation for 2018.
PENSIONERS PROP PAY
How on Earth can the Corporation afford this largesse? You have the answer already.
If millions of pensioners in their Seventies and Eighties cough up £154.50 a year, starting from a few months time, then the BBC can carry on doing what it likes best — throwing money at its right-on executives in the hope that millennials will suddenly decide that Auntie is cool.
Note that the BBC sneaked out the news of its latest mean-spirited gesture on the busiest political day for ages, knowing full well that the papers will be dominated by coverage of the next Prime Minister.
As for its internal pay rises — which will cost licence fee-payers an extra £17.8million a year — the Beeb wasn’t planning on that news getting out at all.
We know about it only because The Times submitted a Freedom of Information request.
That says it all, doesn’t it? These days we have to use the law to discover the truth about our supposed guardian of free information.
Note that the BBC sneaked out the news of its latest mean-spirited gesture on the busiest political day for ages.
I wonder sometimes if the BBC knows the truth about itself. With every passing year, its broadcasting strategy becomes more self-deluding — and embarrassing.
Take the front page of yesterday’s BBC Three website, a pointless digital “presence” for a pointless channel.
At the top, lots of gushing about the Women’s World Cup — a football event that the Beeb pretends to find as thrilling as England v West Germany in 1966.
Underneath, a link to a show called Deadstock: Ultimate Resellers. “Millennials turn charity shop finds and pop culture possessions into cash at auction.”
Then — yawn — “Pride 2019: Seven people who changed LGBT+ history”.
And, just to make sure that particular base is well and truly covered, a piece headed: “I first came out as trans aged eight.”
How many LGBT+ people will be rushing home from Pride to catch up with these offerings on iPlayer? I could put in a Freedom of Information request to find out, but we already know the answer.
Virtually none. Yet very soon the over-75s will be required to help pay for this drivel.
Through its vast network of licence fee- funded news websites, the BBC has also contributed to wrecking the local and regional press, longstanding voices of real communities.
At least 136 local and regional titles have closed since 2012, as circulation halved from 63.4million weekly in 2007 to 31.4million in 2017. Since 2005, the number of regional journalists has also been halved, to around 6,500.
An estimated 58 per cent of the country now has no daily or weekly title.
But a BBC web page is no substitute for local press coverage of council meetings and court proceedings.
And yet the money pours in to fund this expansion way beyond its remit. The national and local Press are under siege as never before.
But this is about more than newspaper self-interest. For years, the BBC has been paddling happily in a reservoir of cash.
With £3.8billion a year coming in from the licence fee, it could allow its top presenters to write their own salary cheques and still have money left for grotesquely lavish coverage of Glastonbury, the only sacred festival in its calendar.
Now it has suddenly noticed something that the rest of us spotted ages ago. Millennials watch Netflix and YouTube for entertainment, and get their news from social media.
Cue panic at the BBC, whose senior executives — led by the jargon-spouting veterans of New Labour — have responded by flinging themselves on to the disco floor.
The BBC has suddenly noticed something that the rest of us spotted ages ago – millennials watch Netflix and YouTube for entertainment, and get their news from social media.
It’s a toe-curling spectacle watching Aunt Beeb making eyes at Mark Zuckerberg in the hope that her BBC Facebook “fanbase” will secure the Corporation’s future.
Here’s a fun fact that you won’t read anywhere on the BBC’s sprawling web pages.
Its Director-General, Lord Hall, is 33 years older than Zuckerberg — and even he is ten years older than the audience that the BBC is stupidly targeting.
Most millennials probably don’t even know that BBC Three exists. Lucky them.
To be sure, there are few things more annoying than young people’s posturing.
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But millennials aren’t entirely stupid. If they want to rant, they won’t choose the British Broadcasting Corporation as their platform.
And nor are they entirely heartless. When they read about this decision to force old (and often frail) viewers to pay the licence fee, they won’t hail it as a brave and necessary commercial decision.
They’ll recognise it for what it is: Sheer cynical meanness. And then they’ll renew their subscriptions to Netflix.
Damian Thompson is associate editor of The Spectator.
3 Young people won’t see the BBC’s move to force old people to pay the licence fee as necessaryCredit: Alamy
3 Instead they’ll see it as the cynical, mean move that it is and be driven further into the arms of NetflixCredit: Alamy
BBC chairman David Clementi confirms millions of over 75s to lose free TV licence as perk is axed by broadcaster