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I put the I Believe in the BBC sign up last week, but didn't really know how to express why I think the BBC matters. Perhaps because there are too many reasons to neatly encapsulate them, and it's too tangled up in the whole ugly business of the ongoing wars. Yes, Gilligan was sloppy. Yes, his sloppy journalism was bad. Would it have led to the witch-hunt for his source, a witch-hunt which only ended when a man killed himself, if Alastair Campbell hadn't been on a long-running vitriolic campaign against the BBC news services? Would the BBC have been so defensive if Campbell hadn't been crying wolf at every single perceived anti-war bias he saw? And let's make it clear, it was perceived bias on Campbell's part: a Cardiff University report makes clear, the BBC was the most pro-war of the main broadcasters.

I'm finally posting the reason for the I Believe in the BBC logo today because there was an article in yesterday's Guardian which expressed why I will defend the corporation.

"Within that heartland at the BBC resides a faith that it is still possible to make a TV programme for no other reason than the shared belief that it is worth making for itself alone rather than as a commodity or a token in the ratings game."
I am a bit of a Reithian - I prefer Radio 4 and BBC4 to Radio 1 and BBC3, and I think BBC2 should show more arts programming earlier in the evening, rather than gardening/makeover shows. There is a slight tendency to assume that anyone after the obscure stuff will be more willing to set a video than anyone after Alan Titchmarsh. But, and this is the important thing, I still have some trust in the BBC.

Like pretty much anyone in this country, the BBC has always been there in the background. From my early memories of Radio 4 at Saturday lunchtime to my planning to put it on again as soon as I'm done writing this (it's almost time for Just a Minute, after all). Whatever has happened, whatever is going on, the BBC is there. Governments come and go. We either distrust them from the start or come to distrust them over the course of their governance. When Campbell tried to denigrate the BBC, he was asking the public to choose between something we may gripe about but have known our entire lives or government we no longer trust (in part because of Campbell and his ilk). There really can be no surprise that an awful lot of people prefer to believe in the BBC.

Posted @ 11:56 am on Sunday, February 15, 2004
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