New UK PM should mean a new start for embattled BBC and Channel 4.

The new Tory leader and then prime minister – due to be unveiled on September 5 (leaving plenty of time for more mischief from Boris) will have a significant effect on British broadcasting and, by extension, world broadcasting.

Under Johnson culture secretary Nadine Dorries has run amok, freezing the Beeb’s licence fee (fair enough if it wasn’t just to hammer the corporation), threatening a subscription funded makeover to compete in the modern streaming world (which it will never have to resources to do) and generally threatening its independence. Installing Michael Grade at regulator Ofcom is hardly a friendly move as Grade, once a defender of both the Beeb and Channel 4 seems to have become more right wing since being elevated to the House of Lords (he’s Lord Grade of Yarmouth.)

Similarly she completely ignored the results of a “consultation” on C4, setting sail for privatisation even though that wouldn’t bring in much money in political terms (about £1bn) while C4 is now actually doing pretty well under Alex Mahon, turning a profit so it isn’t costing the hard-pressed taxpayer anything.

The BBC has just announced that its commercial arms (which flogs programmes abroad) turned over £1.63bn in its last financial year leaving a surplus of £206m. A drop in the ocean given its £3bn budget but a sign of commercial life and opportunity anyway.

The BBC is often infuriating: its lumpy attempts to get you sign up for an account (why?) when you look at the website and its clueless pursuit of Millennials and now Generation Z (which means that some radio programmes in particular just seem to consist of reading about emails and tedious bits of social media) lead you to believe it’s lost the plot. Younger people get older (and live longer) so their tastes change..

C4 is not the quite the enterprising programme maker it once was although it still has its moments. but the key point is that these are both still free at a time when much news from even (fairly) reliable producers is behind a paywall and both are bound to adhere to certain standards which are mostly sensible and certainly a cut above the free-for-all you get in the US where many people think Fox News is news.

We’ve seen what’s happening to Twitter where an insanely rich megalomaniac (Elon Musk) is trampling all over a major media outlet. And that’s before he’s even bought it. Some media are just too precious to consign to the market (even if they can be pretty precious themselves.)

Culture secretary Dorries will surely go under a new Tory leader/PM. Ripping up her supposed reforms would be a good start for her successor.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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