Defund the BBC – Q&A with James Yucel
I don’t think it’s hard to see why satisfaction with the BBC is not as high as it could be. The institution (as Ewell Gregoor recently made clear) has been wracked by a number of controversies, such as the problem of exorbitant pay (Chris Evans’ 2019 salary was £1,250,000), exacerbated by the gender discrepancies, and the backlash over increasingly ahistorical castings (Sophie Okonedo as Margaret of Anjou being the highlight) has made its public standing questionable.
There is also the problem of its competitors; Netflix ran the DVD rental business out of town, and it was only a matter of time until the online streaming service began to encroach on the BBC’s territory. The main limits to Netflix’s expansion has always been that the provision of daily broadcasts is almost impossible on their platform, but the reality is that Netflix are not the only competitors; Amazon Prime now provides live football, YouTube has news streams; of course, there is no need to mention Disney+.
Little surprise, then, that in just under a month, the new Defund the BBC campaign account on Twitter has amassed over 76,000 followers. The founder, James Yucel, was kind enough to answer a few brief questions on the purpose and aim of the campaign.
Question and Answer with Founder, James Yucel
Why do you personally want to defund the BBC?
There’s many reasons. Ultimately the BBC doesn’t make programmes that appeal to the whole country, despite trying to force everyone to pay for it. But also, there is a huge amount of waste on bloated salaries and low quality content. It also unfairly targets women and the poor for prosecution by hiding behind a veil of uncertainty around right to refuse entry and what can and can’t be watched. 20% of crime in this country is carried out by women but 70% of those prosecuted for tv licence fee evasion are women. That is clearly wrong and non-payment of the licence fee must be decriminalised.
How did the campaign come about?
I saw the hashtag trending that fateful night and was in deep agreement with some of the sentiments expressed about the BBC – so I checked to see if the handle was available and it took off from there. There is now a team of us working on it.
Did you think you’d be that successful this quickly?
Not really – it was obvious from the astronomic growth early on that the public is very angry about BBC waste and bias. This has been boiling up for years. We wouldn’t count this as success, we’re just at the stage of raising the flag for people to gather under.
Which prominent person are you happiest about taking notice of the campaign?
Laurence Fox – I’ve been watching him on television since I was a young boy, so it was a very surreal moment.
What’s the one argument you’d make against someone who is pro license fee?
I’d ask them, why should people be required to fund a biased broadcaster to watch any live television? Not just the BBC – it’s an utterly ludicrous concept.
What would you say is the key to a successful campaign?
The key success to any campaign is that it’s a cause people care strongly about.
Finally- what is your favourite show that the BBC has produced?
That is a tricky one – it would have to be between Blackadder and Whitechapel. I think Blackadder has to take the podium though as Whitechapel got cut short by the Beeb, leaving it on the cliffhanger of cliffhangers – all the more reason to defund it in my opinion.
How likely is it that the campaign succeeds? Completely removing funding of the BBC is almost impossible, and the services it provides are more than simply wrong-footed attempts at shoe-horning diversity – the ‘BBC’ as a monolithic institution is so enormous, including its Radio shows, that de-funding it is probably not even that desirable.
However, the campaign performs a very important check on the otherwise unquestioned power that the BBC holds, and channels the myriad, disparate voices that aim to do so into a single space. Co-ordinating opposition to the BBC’s agenda (and it would be wrong to deny it has one, regardless of your opinion on it) will be a difficult thing to do, as opposition ranges from the ambitious calls for abolition, to more moderate reformist attitudes; but we at the Mallard would like to wish Mr. Yucel and the campaign the best of luck in whichever direction it takes.