There’s a lot of bitching going on, in both Ireland and the UK, about the cost of state broadcasters. TV licence fees are high, and both RTE and the BBC can be their own worst enemies when it comes to how they spend their budgets.
Yet the reality is that whatever about the commercial side of RTE and the BBC, producing or buying in programmes pretty much indistinguishable from commercial broadcasters, balanced news and current affairs coverage needs to be subsidised by someone.
I trust RTE and the BBC. Do I see bias sometimes in their stories? Yes. But look at the US. Watch MSNBC or Fox News and tell me that they are less biased. The worst development in broadcasting is where people only seek news from sources that confirm their own ideological prejudices, even though it’s a commercially sound approach.
For all his many sins, Rupert Murdoch has rightly pointed out that professional news gathering is an expensive business. Someone has to pay for a professional journalist to be where news happens, and in today’s world, where Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy has to count as news to make many news operations commercially viable, where world class newspapers are struggling to stay open and maintain standards, I’ll accept that I have to pay my TV licence fee.
I won’t like it, but it’s the price of balanced news and current affairs.