#BBCrecipes row shows the Government how difficult change will be.
Trying to change a rightly popular public service like the BBC is always going to be a tricky business. Many people can broadly support the idea of Aunty slimming down, but get distinctly uncomfortable when you start talking about what specifically has to go.
The Conservative government is finding this out thanks to a row about a recipe website. More than 150,000 people signed a change.org petition, which demands that the 11,000 recipes on the BBC food website are saved.
Ignoring the fact the BBC has confirmed that everything is just being consolidated into its Good Food website, this shows what happens when individual services are publicly lined up for the chop — users call for that service, their service, to be saved. The demand as a standalone campaign seems so reasonable, the consequences of saving the individual service so small, that the thing, whatever it is, normally stays.
The big picture is messy, complex and hard to communicate, but it is easy to win support to keep something like a single website or radio station, as happened in the case of 6Music.
It means that either the the BBC stays exactly as it is, or everything it does has to get chipped away at and potentially weakened a little bit. It also means that you do not have to answer more fundamental questions such as “should the BBC be using the license fee to provide thousands of recipes online?”
Ultimately, it makes it very hard for any reform agenda to be put in place. Of course, this is what many of the protesters, (and I dare say some within the BBC,) would like. Again, that is fair enough, but let’s then not pretend that this is a debate about a recipe website. The BBC is an important public service, and we should debate its future openly and honestly, not via proxy wars.
The great recipe row of 2016 has underlined how tough a PR battle the Government will face if it wishes to implement its agenda for the BBC.