“The centenary BBC, which thrived on the decline of the print media, is now under attack from above and below”

Outside the BBC headquarters, in London (United Kingdom), on October 6, 2022.

HASAt first, it was mainly about selling radio sets. On October 18, 1922, electricians Marconi, GEC and a few others allied with the Post Office to create a radio channel covering the UK. As there was no question of competing with the all-powerful newspapers, no information; just culture and entertainment. It was the great press strike of 1926 that allowed the British Broadcasting Company to broadcast news bulletins all day.

In 1927, it became a public service, a “corporation”. The reign of the “Beeb” can begin, and its international influence is affirmed thanks to the Second World War. Today, “Auntie” (“Auntie”), as Her Majesty’s subjects colloquially call it, remains the most famous television in the world. She speaks in 42 languages, in front of nearly 500 million viewers.

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But the centennial, which thrived on the decline of the print media, is now under attack from above and below. At the top are the politicians, who have never appreciated his independence of opinion, too left for the Conservatives, Prime Minister Liz Truss in the lead, and too right for Labour, his public service role of the education, information and entertainment being deemed less essential, even suspect. The fee that funds it, since it does not broadcast advertising, is only secure until 2027. After that, it’s the unknown.

An infinite and immediate choice

But the primacy of the most prestigious media brand in the world is also attacked at the base. The irruption of social networks, then of online television (streaming), is gradually diverting the general public, especially the youngest, from its screens. As she had done to the press in her youth, the centenarian must now face urchins like Netflix, which promise the freedom of an infinite and immediate choice for a ridiculous price. The individual and his small communities of interest impose themselves on the collective and its great ideals.

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But the story is not over. The new kids are already exhausted in their mad race. Those who based their growth on the stock market have seen their prices plummet by more than 60% in less than two years, and their sustainability is in question. More importantly, they are far from having conquered an ounce of what makes the success of “Auntie Beeb” and allowed it to cross the decades without losing its aura: confidence. The BBC did not kill the press, the Internet will not kill the BBC.


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