It may come as a surprise to many people who live outside the UK that the BBC is not funded by the tax payer. The BBC has a unique funding mechanism which extracts money from those who own up to using a television set which receives broadcast material. It is a criminal offence to operate a TV without a licence and several people are hauled before the courts for non-payment. The last government in the UK started a process of top-slicing, where the licence fee has been used for digital switchover for TV and radio, the financing of the Welsh language service S4C in Wales, and possibly some broadband roll-out in remote parts of the country. The BBC World Service has in the past been funded by the Foreign Office; this is going to be reduced and the BBC is cutting staff and services. Several language services have been dropped in the Balkans, parts of Africa and the sub-continent. The BBC website is going to be cut back in an effort to save money and to appease some of the commercial web information providers.
Domestically, the BBC radio service is under pressure to cut costs, cut content and cut original production, while at the same time increase their 'talent pool'. Domestic radio services which are UK wide include Radios 1-7. Radio 1 is targeted for the under-20s; Radio 2 for the under-35s; Radio 3 is supposed to be intelligent; Radio 4 is middle-aged, mainly speech, comedy and 'balanced' politics; Radio 5 is news and sports; Radio 6 is music and was going to be axed, but is under reprieve; and Radio 7 is anything that can be dug up from the archives over the last 60 years. In addition, there are national services in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, each with Irish, Gaelic and Welsh inputs. English regions have some regional news, traffic, phone-in, request shows. Most of the output can be picked up on the internet, though at weekends the local services tend to disappear. It's well-worth going through the BBC local radio sites for a bit of real life outside the M25.
The World Service can be picked up in the UK on digital radios, as can most of the output of the BBC. Digital reception can vary on location, atmosphere, traffic and movement round the receiver. Digital radios cost around $50 at the low end and give access to virtually all the BBC output. At some point there are plans to shut much of the FM output, though this is still a hot topic.
Many British people like to moan about the BBC, which is usually referred to as The Beeb or Aunty. Some people view the BBC as being too liberal, too secular and too elitist. Others view it as the last stronghold of nepotism and cronyism, and with an agenda of its own. With the coalition government there has been some tension with future funding and the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt was introduced on the flagship programme as Jeremy Cunt. You can listen to this by clicking on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjH4arIn-80 Mr Hunt is also charged with deciding on the referral of Rupert Murdoch's complete takeover of BSkyB. This has run into all sorts of problems, with scandals over phone hacking from one of Murdoch's flagships the News of the World (affectionately known as the News of the Screws). It appears that Mr Murdoch and family do not like the BBC funding, but they are quite happy to poach talent and thus keep some of the BBC talent very well off, thank you very much.
In these blogs, I do not plan to reveal much about me, but I will tell you that I don't have a TV licence and I'm not breaking the law as I don't have a TV. I have 7 DAB radios tuned to a variety of stations around the house and 1 FM receiver. I tend to listen to Radio 3,4,5,7 and the World Service, and show little loyalty to any of the programmes. If they're boring and I don't like the presenter, I hit another button. In this blog I will try and give sound picture of the BBC radio services. The pictures are better in radio! I seldom get news from the BBC web and prefer dipping into other newspaper and radio stations from international publications. Some of the press in the UK is surrounded by a firewall of some description, but it is not difficult to look for news outside the lens of the BBC, The Guardian or the Murdoch Group.
The big question concerning the BBC is the question of 'balance'. Is the BBC guilty of obreption, and if it is what is the cure? Please send your answers ...