The national broadcaster has delayed its reckoning but the time will come. When it does we should all remember what the BBC did in the time of Covid-19by Mark Damazer / April 15, 2020 / Leave a comment
The BBC has always been a less important feature of UK life than the NHS—and we didn’t need Covid-19 to grasp that. But it is a deeply embedded national institution, hugely so for anyone over 40. And, lo and behold, it now matters quite a lot too for the younger licence fee payers who we had been told had fallen happily into the welcoming embrace of Netflix, Amazon, Spotify et al.
But everyone is affected by Covid-19, and the overwhelming majority from all age groups want reliable news and information. Re-enter the BBC—not that it went away in the first place.
It was less than three months ago that Dominic Cummings was apparently briefing that the BBC needed to be “whacked,” with ministers forbidden to appear on some of its most weighty news programmes. He had previously written that the BBC was the Conservative Party’s mortal enemy, a turn of phrase that now looks a little on the inflationary side.
Of course the BBC is far from being the only media organisation that has gained from the lockdown. ITV News, Sky News, the story-breaking Channel 4 News are all up—along I dare say with Netflix and Amazon.
But the BBC’s performance is nevertheless striking. Audiences for each of the news bulletins at one , six and 10 o’clock—the warhorses of the enterprise—are up by between 50 and 75 per cent. And the BBC’s Global News Division had an average reach of about 430m a week in March.
The “trust” figures for the BBC in the UK have gone up too. Recent Ofcom figures suggest that people are more likely to turn to the BBC’s TV, radio and online services for the latest news on the pandemic than anywhere else and by a large margin.
It’s not all about news. With over 90 per cent of staff now working from home—something that normally might have taken five years for management consultants to work out—the BBC is piling creative, administrative and technical resources into entertaining and educating as well as informing. Large chunks of the population like the BBC’s provision of comfort, laughter and escapism as well as the news.
All of this may look like it’s game, set and match to the BBC. It isn’t. When this crisis abates the audience figures will…