Moves to set up rival channel fuelled by ‘distrust’ of broadcaster


By Amit Roy

ANOTHER phrase that has not yet joined my banned list, which includes “woke” and “oth­ering”, but is in danger of doing so is “the new normal” – as in, going to half-empty offices, finding deserted town centres, getting calls from GPs instead of being able to see doctors in person and universities holding lectures online all represent “the new normal”.

But use of “woke” is becoming the refuge of those unable to argue their case. The lead letters in one national newspaper on Monday (31), were grouped together under “The problem is that the BBC can’t recognise that it is being ‘woke’.”

The Guardian is one of several newspapers to report moves to set up a rival to the BBC: “Efforts are under way to launch a Fox News-style opin­ionated current affairs TV station in Britain to counter the BBC.

“One group is promising a news channel ‘dis­tinctly different from the out-of-touch incum­bents’ and has already been awarded a licence to broadcast by the media regulator, Ofcom, under the name ‘GB News’. Its founder has said the BBC is a ‘disgrace’ that ‘is bad for Britain on so many levels’ and ‘needs to be broken up’.

“A rival project is being devised in the head­quarters of Rupert Murdoch’s British media em­pire by former Fox News executive David Rho­des, although it is unclear whether it will result in a traditional TV channel or be online-only.

“Both are pitching to a perceived gap in the market for opinionated video output fuelled by growing distrust of the BBC among some parts of its audience, especially on the political right over culture war issues such as Brexit and whether Rule, Britannia! should be sung at the Last Night of the Proms.”

Rule, Britannia! does have the line that many Black Lives Matter supporters find offensive – “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves” – im­plying that it is perfectly acceptable for others to be slaves.

But it is impossible to rewrite history and, in any case, most people today do not subscribe to these sentiments. So the BBC should allow peo­ple to sing Rule, Britannia! if they really want to, though the conductor Sir Simon Rattle revealed he has never been keen on it.

On the more substantive point of setting up a rival network, the BBC need not worry. Despite all its shortcomings, it is still respected world­wide and is far too well established to be con­cerned about a British-style Fox News.

This is mere posturing by those who have personal grudges against the BBC. I speak in a sense as a child of the BBC because my father came to this country to work for the BBC’s Ben­gali service at Bush House before returning after five years to newspapers in India. In India, the BBC still counts for something.