Mark Thompson is the Director General of the BBC, who used also to be Editor of the London Times. Some critics believe he will be best remembered as the BBC’s most senior executive for largely failing to stand up for the corporation when it has come under attack, and for enjoying a ludicrously high salary, paid for, of course, by the general public. As Editor of The Times others remember him for an infamous incident, when in a rage, he painfully bit another member of staff. The bitten colleague has certainly never forgotten.
Thompson will now be remembered for something else. This week he told an audience of suits that Britain needed a channel “like Fox TV”, and that the idea of impartial news channels was somewhat dated. He did so in the naive belief that somehow the new ‘opinionated TV’ would reflect a broad range of views, and wouldn’t just be confined to a UK version of the Right wing Fox TV.
Perhaps we might ask what planet Thompson was on, when Rupert Murdoch did try to launch a UK version of Fox TV some years back, but which bombed spectacularly. Its replacement, Sky TV, is hardly impartial – indeed it acted as cheerleader for David Cameron and the Conservative Party at the last election – but Fox TV it is not.
The last political leader to act out the scenario that Thompson now advocates was Ronald Reagan, when he was President. The ending of any responsibility to attempt to prevent sometimes complex ideas and debates in a fair minded way was ended, and the result is there for all to see, although fewer and fewer Americans can be bothered to tune in.
In any event the idea that the television landscape would differ much from America, if Thompson’s ideas were put into action, must be a figment of his imagination, and his alone. Pray, who will fund a populist, liberal TV network that challenges the power and wealth of the large corporations – corporations such as News International? Mr. Thompson’s brave new World of ‘opinionated TV’, would consist largely of big mouthed, middle aged male ignoramuses, banging on about immigration or Europe, while shady financiers and tax avoiders, got on with writing the checks.
Or perhaps, Mr. Thompson is simply paving the way for his next job, once he has left the BBC?
Either way, surely we should be told?