John Simpson 'very pessimistic' over future of the BBC

It’s a day of veteran BBC correspondents sticking their heads above the parapet to dispense little ‘Hell-in-a-handcart’style missives about the state of the news media.

Kate Adie has already sounded off about ‘fluffy’female newsreaders and ‘showbizzy’24-hour news channels. Now, it’s BBC World Affairs editor John Simpson’s turn to sling it about.

And what’s John’s beef? The future of the BBC and Rupert Murdoch primarily, although he does extend a few nice words the way of the News Corp chairman and chief executive.

Simpson told the Guardian’s Stephen Moss that Murdoch had been responsible for turning aspects of British Journalism and Public Life ‘ugly”, coarsening discourse with his Sun newspaper and then exporting it to the US in the form of Fox News.

He said: ‘He’s [Murdoch] not totally a bad thing.

‘If it weren’t for him I think we would probably have three newspapers left – the Times would have vanished and I’m not sure about the Sunday Times…

‘And I don’t want to beat him around the head for everything. But I do think that he and the newspapers he’s run have introduced an uglier side, an abusive side, into journalism and life in general in this country.”

Clan Murdoch, which is likely to have the most to gain from the diminution of the BBC, has been waging its own personal war with the BBC for some time.

Figures from across the political spectrum have questioned the sanctity of the licence fee. Labour is looking to pay for regional broadcast news with part of the money previously ear-marked for digital switchover, while the Tories, amongst other ideas, have suggested that part of the fee it could be used to pay for ‘super-fast broadband’.

Simpson said political figures – those very people he believed should be protecting the BBC – could be the BBC’s worst enemies, leading him to fear for the corporation’s future.

He told the Guardian: “I’m very pessimistic about the future of the BBC…I think it’s an anomaly in today’s world and the licence fee is under such an intense amount of pressure.

“I don’t think British people understand what a huge voice the BBC now gives this country in the world. That lays it open to endless attacks, usually on this ideological basis that it’s a tax, plus all the usual nonsense about how it’s leftwing, or indeed rightwing if you listen to other voices.

‘It all seems quite childish to me, but nevertheless those voices are louder than they’ve ever been in my life, and I’ve watched these things for 44 years.”

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