At both the Guardian and the Daily Mail, readers are outraged by Mark Thompson’s plans to prune the BBC’s output. It might not feel like it, but this is excellent news for the Corporation.
Finally, the BBC has achieved its aim: it has moved ahead of the curve in terms of anticipating a Conservative government’s actions. In doing so, Thompson has incited satisfied viewers and listeners to come out and fight — on message boards, Facebook and Twitter.
In response, Vaizey’s conversion to the joys of 6Music feels significant. His admission that he ‘strongly suspects 6 Music will be saved’hints that an incoming Conservative administration might also bend in the face of protest.
Jeremy Hunt, the shadow culture secretary, seems to have adopted a low profile, cropping up merely to insist upon ‘actions, not words”. Hunt’s tone suggests that the Cameroons are distinctly unamused.
This wouldn’t be surprising. With the NHS off-limits, the BBC had started to look as if it would become a post-election punch bag for the right of the Conservative party. Yet Thompson’s proposed cuts have left a hardcore of anti-BBC ideologues looking isolated.
Late last week, the Times argued in a leader column that Thompson needed to do ‘much more than axe a few radio stations that no one has ever listened to and websites that few have ever visited”. No doubt the onslaught mounted by Twittering fans of 6Music caught the Times’s leader writer by surprise.
The confusion among the ranks of the BBC’s enemies will prove temporary. But this episode will have reminded them that a significant majority of the population likes the BBC. Last September, for example, 77% of respondents to an ICM poll agreed with the suggestion that that the BBC is “a national institution we should be proud of”. (As Andy Beckett points out at the Guardian, this compares with 68% in 2004).
So far, Mark Thompson has encouraged just a few tens of thousands of these voices out into the open. The effect has been remarkable. All of a sudden, the BBC’s ideological opponents risk being cast in the role of playground bullies — hardly the most desirable meme of the moment.
Weirdly, the BBC and its director-general are playing a blinder.