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Sharpshooter: The BBC

I see that the Beeb, that mass-media icon of the Guardian-reading minority, has been in the news again. It has emerged that a whopping 180,000 people a year are being prosecuted for not having a valid TV licence. This means that the BBC’s pursuit of its licence fee accounts for an incredible 12 per cent of all cases in magistrates’ courts.

What has this got to do with shooting or fieldsports? Well, I’ll tell you. But first, the reason our state broadcasting corporation is allowed to pursue folk through the courts like this is because it is funded by a tax. This tax — the licence fee — enables the BBC to spend vast amounts of public money, supposedly for our benefit. And if you don’t pay your BBC tax, you can be fined or even imprisoned. The BBC is merciless in pursuit of our money.

Yet there is a safeguard. (Or, at least, there is supposed to be.) In return for draconian tax-raising powers and the ability to impose criminal sanctions on dissenters, the mighty Beeb has a duty, set out in its charter, to report news and current affairs with due impartiality. With power comes responsibility, one could say.

So, is the BBC impartial? Well, it tries. All too frequently, however, Auntie lets her slip show. There have been so many examples that I won’t bore you with them; suffice to say that some of the corporation’s own reports into the issue have conceded that it tends to assume that a soft-left, liberal viewpoint is the norm. And when it comes to rural issues, we all know where the BBC’s sympathies lie. The only variable factor is the degree to which it can cover them up.

And that’s where I would like to mention Chris Packham, the Springwatch presenter. Springwatch, as we all know, is one of the BBC’s flagship natural history programmes. It reaches millions of viewers. Yet, according to a recent report in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Packham recently denounced the badger cull on a social networking site. He allegedly characterised those taking part in the cull as “brutalist thugs”, acting on behalf of “liars and frauds”. Another Springwatch presenter, Simon King, reportedly also attacked the cull on social media.

Now, The Daily Telegraph is, in general terms, rather anti-BBC. Of that, I have little doubt. But then, it is perfectly entitled to select news items and comment on facts as it chooses. It is a private concern, paid for by its readers and advertisers. Nobody is forced to buy The Daily Telegraph, nor is it funded out of the public purse. It is not regulated by a charter, and it most certainly has no obligations about due impartiality. Within the limits of taste and decency, it can say what it wants.

The BBC, on the other hand, cannot. It is bound by its charter obligations to be impartial on matters of political controversy. So how do two Springwatch presenters get away with slagging-off the folk involved in legal, Government-approved badger-culling?

The BBC has not denied that the two presenters in question made the outrageous and offensive comments. It simply says that they were making their opinions known in a private capacity, so were not caught by the corporation’s obligation to impartiality.

This strikes me as complete gonads. Would anybody have heard of Packham or King if they had not been given a BBC platform? How many followers would their social media witterings have if they were not the presenters of a flagship BBC natural history programme? They are creatures of the BBC, funded by taxpayers at large.

This is the same corporation that ruthlessly demands a licence fee of £145.50, and will send you threatening letters if you don’t pay up. How much longer will we allow the BBC to treat us, its paying customers, like this? BBC bosses should heed the slogan of revolution: “No taxation without representation.”

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