Public Television Eats Its Own
By Staff News & Analysis - June 14, 2013

Can you imagine life without the BBC? There's no escape from the BBC's influence – or the complacency that accompanies it … John Humphrys, the Today presenter, said life without the BBC would be 'unimaginable' … John Humphrys has invited Radio 4 listeners to imagine life without the BBC. They are to picture themselves sitting down to watch Countryfile or Holby City, only for the screen to go black. That's what happened to the Greek national broadcaster ERT, you see, the Hellenic equivalent of the BBC. On Tuesday night the good citizens of Greece were watching the news when… pfft. Apparently the money had run out. – UK Telegraph

Dominant Social Theme: Thank goodness for the endless gouts of Western fiat money that keep government networks on the air.

Free-Market Analysis: In both Britain and the US, public broadcasting is responsible for the cult of the politician. These programs regularly market the genius of Churchill, Lincoln and FDR. Other leaders are equivalently demonized. Bureaucracy is held up as absolutely necessary.

There are in fact a host of dominant social themes that public broadcasting generally adheres to. Bigger is better. Scarcity is ubiquitous. Only government can overcome our problems and crises. Self-interest is bad. Selfless poverty is good … etc.

These memes were unchallengeable in the 20th century. But not anymore. Greece has actually just pulled the proverbial plug on its public networks and thrown 30,000 priests and priestesses of the modern state out of work.

Here's hoping the private economy soon recovers and puts them back to work. Likely, they won't be missed on the public scene for long. John Humphrys is convinced that the British variant would be far more emphatically mourned. We are not so sure.

I closed my eyes, but before I had a chance to imagine a Britain without the BBC, Humphrys dismissed the idea as "unimaginable". You have to admire the complacency behind that "unimaginable". The Herculean smugness. The scale of the self-congratulation. And it's not just Humphrys. They're all at it … I think it's to do with the sense of entitlement that comes from being state-funded.

… Mention the licence fee and the comment thread goes nuts. It's great. The usual complaint is that the BBC has a Left-liberal bias. But I'm not sure this is fair. If anything, since the Hutton Inquiry, the BBC has become bland in its desperation to appear balanced. It tries. It really does. There was a time when news wouldn't be considered news to BBC staff unless it appeared in the Guardian. But now they read the Telegraph as well.

… The reason it is hard for us to imagine life without the BBC is that it is pumped into our lives 24 hours a day, through a myriad of channels, stations and websites. It's not a monopoly, but there's no escape.

This article makes a lot of good points, especially in light of the Greek financial apostasy. But in the end, the writer succumbs to sentimentality and decides that BBC radio is more to be missed than BBC TV. We don't see how this is the case. We're sure BBC radio provides listeners with the same predatory pap that the television does.

Like the US's Voice of America, Western public broadcasting is intended invariably to glorify the workings of the state and lull the listener or viewer into a sense that there are no alternatives to the current socio-political and economic scenarios.

But there are. Ironically, the system supported by Greek public TV has just collapsed, thus causing its own closure. It is our theory that sooner or later there will be more such collapses. The system, as Ludwig von Mises pointed out in his great book Socialism, is unsustainable.

After Thoughts

The nostrums peddled by such public broadcasting facilities will eventually undermine the financial supports necessary to keep them on air. Day and night they provide the messages that will eventually bankrupt them. Or at least cause them to lose ever more credibility.