There is very much a sense in the “welcome” extended to Holyrood’s broadcasting reform proposals of the BBC very grudgingly bowing to what it now recognises is inevitable. The pressure for reform from across Scottish society was simply irresistible.
But there is also a distinct possibility – correct that to probability – that the little power cliques within BBC Scotland may choose to put on a show of grinning and bearing it while assuming that they can ‘manage’ these reforms so as to preserve their own influence. This would be disastrous.
I have always maintained that the institution of the BBC, along with its independent funding model, represents the best hope for public service broadcasting (PSB). The issues with the BBC are entirely a matter of bad management. Appallingly bad management.
While resisting the dumbly simplistic demands of those who would throw out the PSB baby with the BBC bathwater, I strenuously maintain that any reform which fails to address the ingrained management structures and practices is doomed to fail.
We don’t just want a mini-BBC for Scotland. We need a comprehensively refreshed and transformed public broadcasting service.
This may well be the last chance to rescue genuine PSB from the destructive forces of commercialism and casual incompetence. Drastic action will be required. The starting assumption must be that everything must go. Only a ruthless pruning of the layers of old management will leave space for fresh ideas.
Nobody should get comfortable with the notion that any reform acceptable to the existing BBC hierarchy can possibly be the end of the story. The simple measure of how effective reforms are likely to be is the extent to which they are resisted by vested interests. We’ll know we’re getting it right when we hear them squeal.