Thursday, November 18, 2021 - 09:30
Part 2 of series:
What the old GBC lacked in infrastructure, investment and technical resources they made up with inventiveness and imagination. In many ways more money, resources and a larger physical footprint has just amplified negative traits, the complacency, and mistakes of the past, without any of the charm, personality and attractive features of what was a manageable, austere, truly local channel.
GBC then had a well-grounded sense of realism, self-consciousness of what it was and what it was not, something sorely missing today. Yes, there was compulsory payment of a licence fee which irritated many, but by comparison to the sums of money handled today, it was peanuts.
Clearly the passage of time, a pathological sense of entitlement and a seemingly bottomless pit of public funding does not guarantee forward motion or advancement. As far as value for money and even content, we are arguably worse off now than we used to be.
In terms of impact on the public purse, Mr Teuma’s figures fail to recognize the black hole that GBC is to the public purse, historically consuming dozens of millions of pounds, with a sharp increase in its dependence on handouts since 2007. At the beginning of the millennium people were shocked to learn that the broadcasting monopoly received an annual public subsidy of roughly £1m. The subvention gradually grew to £4.7m per annum while this year at the Budget Debate it was disclosed that the taxpayer subvention had reached a staggering £5.2m. How many millions has GBC cost since 2000?
GBC breast fed beyond the point of engorgement cannot expect to remain indefinitely in a publicly subsidised cocoon, living under the misapprehension that money grows on trees, shielded from the cross winds of competition, existing like a museum artefact in a protectionist utopia, producing sub-standard material that lacks any semblance of quality control, doped by a fantasy world of ‘national broadcaster’ status, waiting for the next Government cheque to drop in through the letter box.
Those days are gone. The model is unsustainable.
Not content with being in such privileged position, they further exploit their advantage by competing for a share of the advertising market as if they were just another normal player in a level playing field. While the current model of media subsidies remains intact, the resultant scorched earth of unfair competition that GBC perpetuates, creates an environment where no independent media outlet can ever hope to flourish.
GBC do some things well, there is no denying that. They cover big events to a satisfactory standard, but the day-to-day journalism leaves a lot to be desired. They are content to regurgitate press releases, to scratch the surface of domestic affairs, lounging in the commonplaces, without any in-depth analytical coverage of current affairs, that probably amounts to 90% of their news output.
Newswatch and Viewpoint are the only programmes people watch, but monopolies create tired, sclerotic formats and only come alive when the breaking news is dramatic or has direct, immediate repercussions on the community. The rest of the time it is a mechanical process, going through the motions of filling up airtime with bland fodder. Their reporting technique is mostly reduced to planting a microphone in front of someone and asking them the most anodyne questions, never challenging their subjects, rarely having enough knowledge of the subject matter to be able to press and cross-examine the interviewee.